The Bottom Line: Writing Output Improved

Screenshot 2016-01-26 15.33.55My last few posts have all related to productivity in various aspects of my life — quantifying it and improving it. How’s that working for me?

So far, in January, I’ve written 21,465 words. That’s as opposed to my total word count for NaNoWriMo in November, which was 18,771 words. On the 25th of November, I had only written 14,327 words. That’s a 31% increase. I’m doing something right.

One thing I’ve found, is that when I have material consequences, such as having to pay Beeminder, I’m more motivated to find some way to continue writing even when I’ve “hit a wall.” I’ll find some other portion of the story to work on, or write on another story, or even stop and do some story structure work and then go back to typing out words.

Not that I’ve transformed into a writing machine! No, you can see that I derailed on January 19, and I’ve had a tough couple of days. I may not make my 30K in January goal. But — not only will I have written more in a month than I have in a long time, but I will also have learned a lot about what I need in order to be productive.

Days when I’m in pain from arthritis — well, it’s hard to want to sit at a keyboard when my neck and shoulders feel like they’re being squeezed in a vise. It’s a steady dull ache that gets worse until I’m in tears. The same applies to my knees. Days when the pain is out of control — they lead to derailment.

Equally devastating are days when I have too many other things to do scheduled, and put them as a priority over writing. If I don’t get out of the house to write before about four in the afternoon, my word count for the day is probably zero.

So. Keeping my pain in control, means keeping my food and exercise in control. It’s no accident that my derailment on the 19th happened when it did. I had a re-injury of an old knee problem on about the 12th. I stayed in denial until I was in agony. I admitted my problem on the 16th, got some mercy from the good folks at Beeminder on a goal (Misfit points) that had become unrealistic, but the knee responded to rest slowly for a while. I note that I had a superbly bad sleep week between the 12th and the 19th. Small wonder; it’s hard to sleep with that kind of pain. I’m pleased to see that I didn’t overeat or make poor food choices that week — it would have been easy to use the pain as an excuse.

I don’t yet have this kind of insight into why I don’t get out the door to go writing, other than if I haven’t gotten to bed at a decent hour, why then I don’t wake up until later, and by the time I’m ready to depart — it’s easy to use the excuse that the schoolkids will have mobbed Starbucks, it will be loud and I won’t be able to find a comfortable chair, so why bother?

Not a good enough excuse. I’ll have to see what improvements I can make here.


The Beeminder and the Misfit

Screenshot 2016-01-07 13.52.35 Now that I’ve set up my Beeminder goals, I’m looking for ways to simplify data entry. There are a lot of automatic data sources listed on the Beeminder website, but many of them won’t work for me. For example, I could track words automatically if I only wrote via Draft, but I’m not about to give up Scrivener.

On the other hand, there was the tempting possibility of purchasing a fitness tracker. Beeminder supports several. After much digging on Amazon, I settled on Misfit’s Flash Link, for its — let’s face it — astonishingly low entry price of $15 for the tracker sensor, and $8 for a third-party wristband, as purchased on Amazon.

The Misfit Flash Link
The Misfit Flash Link

Not that cheapness is without its costs. The reviews on Amazon universally excoriate the durability of Misfit’s wristbands and shoe clips — basically, they have no durability. (Hence the third-party wristband.) And if the tracker goes wonky, Misfit support is reputed to be remarkably unhelpful.

The tracker arrived Monday, January 4. I looked carefully through the minimal manual and the packaging. The word “warranty” never appeared. Eventually I found a warranty page on their website, but the weaseling language and user comments on Amazon made me realize that my only allies in this purchase are those on Amazon and the Apple App Store who bother to publish their reviews.

With those review pages open, I started connecting my Misfit to my iPhone and to Beeminder. Since I use IFTTT heavily and it supports Misfit, I wanted maximum connectivity — and the Flash Link in particular is advertised as being able to connect to many wonderful things, as well as being a wizard fitness tracker.

Well, I got it working. Yes, I now have two Beeminder goals being automatically tracked from my Misfit — Misfit points (Misfit to IFTTT to Beeminder) and bedtime (Misfit to IFTTT to Beeminder.) I’ve convinced the little devil to send signals to IFTTT when I double-click or triple-click it. That’s covering a third goal, my range-of-motion exercise sets. I can set up a direct Beeminder goal for sleep hours or steps, if I want, and yet more data automation is possible via IFTTT. The tracker itself is set up to automatically flick on when I raise my wrist (like the thirty-times more expensive Apple Watch!) and show me its little LED clock and progress display.

This did not come easily. Below is my review for the App Store and for Amazon, republished below for anyone who wants a cheap tracker to do marvelous things.

Now to see if it actually lasts so long that I need to change the battery.

MISFIT FLASH LINK AND LINK APP (**** ) (four of five stars)

I bought this for a fraction of the cost of other fitness trackers, and my expectations are in proportion to price. Nonetheless, I have deducted one star for the challenge level of setting it up correctly.

Firstly, if you only want an activity tracker, the simplest thing is to just use it with the Misfit app, and forget about the Link app. If, however, you’d like to double-click or triple-click the tracker to control some function while still using it as a tracker, read on.

Any one Flash can ONLY be used as an activity tracker OR a music remote OR a selfie button OR a Preso clicker OR a Bolt switch OR a “custom button” at a time. It can’t do them all at once, despite advertising implication. If you set up your activity tracker via Link you can have extra functions, but it’s not going to do them all at the same time. First, disconnect your Flash from the Misfit app if you’ve already connected it (disconnect it from within the app.) After that, go to your phone’s Bluetooth settings and disconnect the Flash there, too.

Be sure you’ve downloaded both the Misfit app and the Misfit Link app. Now open the Link app. Go ahead and connect your Flash to it, and select Activity Tracker. The Link app will automatically connect your Flash to the Misfit app as well as to itself. Yay! You now have the function you probably bought the Flash Link for. Now you can set up the double-press or triple-press functions to a) send a “Yo;” b) connect to for a recipe you can program; c) Connect to a Harmony home control system; or d) ring your phone. I use IFTTT extensively — so I have IFTTT recipes connected both to double-press and to triple-press.

Finally, you will get the opportunity to set up your Flash to automatically turn on and show you your progress and the time when you raise your wrist (like an Apple Watch.) Think carefully before you turn this on; you can’t turn it off, and it will run down your battery a bit faster.

Now you can edit the tracker in Link to do one of those other functions (selfie button, etc.). It will still track your activity, and you can still sync it with the Misfit app, but you won’t be able to see your progress or the time on the tracker itself (unless you turned on the wrist flick thing) until you edit the tracker back to the Activity Tracker function in the Link App. Also, you won’t be able to tag activities unless your Flash is in Activity Tracker mode in the Link app.

All this is horribly confusing, and not well explained in the apps as you’re doing what you’re doing. Worse, the Misfit app offers you an opportunity to set up your tracker with the Link app from the Device page within the Misfit app itself. Don’t believe it! It lies! Disconnect your Flash from the Misfit app before you start in with the Link app, as I described above.

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