First a shout out to the many new joiners! We’ve had double-digit percent growth in the mail list over the last few weeks, so thank you for reading. We may not be posting things five times a day, but when we do post, it’s quality stuff! Please forward it on! We can co-discover how to make life more fulfilling no matter where you are. Here’s the Facebook group, and we still have some LifeSparcs pocket journals left here. In this episode, I’m going to talk about two of my favorite new devices – the
I consider feedback, and what we do with it, a foundational life skill. Without feedback we become a run-away system, darting off in a direction laid by our own stories and an all-too-willing echo chamber of friends and social media. Without other voices, the narrative we weave can become dangerously detached from reality. I wrote in a previous article that a lack of feedback, and the necessary response to it, can kill companies or destroy relationships. In this article, I present solutions (well, very promising tools, at least), in providing feedback.
Getting stuff done is not the key to a happy life, but it helps us feel that have autonomy. According to Dan Pink, Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose are the keys to motivation. Indeed, moving forward on any gritty task will require a person to stay focused before they get to that distant finish line.
I’m a fiction writer in addition to blogging. Writing a novel is a long, heart-wrenching slog. I love it, but it requires all the tools at my disposal. I also have some side hustles, a somewhat normal family life, and a career that I enjoy, so I need to keep all of these balls in the air. What feedback works? I mean, if I neglect any one of them someone complains. But that sort of feedback is less valuable because the negative consequences are already underway. If I do not do my part in the home, I hear about it rightfully from my wife, and I’ll correct my ways (usually). However, that’s too late – the cost of a dirty sink was already borne by my wife. Have you ever had this conversation with your mate?
MATE: You need to clean up this place. You never do anything around here.
YOU: I clean all the time! I was just putting away dishes yesterday!
MATE: You want a reward!?
It’s not a pretty picture, and frankly, my wife doesn’t attack like that, but the point is that I rarely actually count how much cleaning I do. Now, what about writing? Well, that’s easy. You count words. Set a target for X amount of words a day and hit them. Easy, right?
For some, this glorious theory might be a reality, but for me and many others, writing is far from a linear process. Ideas come and go. They connect, or they don’t. I find a good chunk of my writing time is spent staring into space or at my keyboard, playing out the scenes in my head. Getting the words on the page is really an after-effect of a lot of thought and internal hashing out.
Perhaps I could log my time? You know, get one of the 50,000 apps that are out there for this and when I stop writing, merely register it.
Well, this would be easy for those disciplined enough to remember. But usually when I’m interrupted I lose my concentration on what I was thinking or doing, and there’s no way I’ll have the presence of mind to log the end time or the start time for that matter.
The challenge of time management is tough for absent-minded professor types like me, so I’ve found a new love – Timeular. Haven’t heard of it? Well, check it out.
Timeular is an octahedron timekeeping device, or for my fellow D&D players, it’s a giant eight-sided dice. But we’re not gonna role this one to see who hits the hobgoblin, no, this one we rotate very cautiously when we change tasks. Once a straightforward set up is complete you have eight different items you can track. As you can see in my chicken-scratch handwriting, the Timeular comes with a pen, eraser, and stickers to adorn the device to your liking.
So, say your blogging, and then your son comes in the room and tells you it’s your move on chess.com (true story). Well, flip the device to where the appropriate face says “family time” and do that, and then flip it back when you’re ready to write again. The syncing with my Mac is fast and the whole thing feels slick. When you’re done with tracking yourself, you place it in its special holder thing that keeps the internal accelerometer at neutral, aka rest state. So elegant!
This sort of feedback will be SUPER useful to me. How many hours did I actually spend writing? How many did I spend writing this article? 32 minutes so far says a helpful little timer on the top toolbar. Instant feedback made easy. I’ve only had Timeular for a few days, but I’m loving it so far and will come back soon let everyone know how it’s going.
The second device, one
Yes, it is known that bacon and coffee are allowed in this diet, more than enough reason to give it a try. But when I discovered that ketosis was something you could measure, I was hooked. While in ketosis you’re burning fat and one of the outcomes is a release of ketones into your body. Those are released through your pee, breath, and blood, and they can be measured in various ways. This is the type of feedback I was missing, and I noticed when I got tired peeing on strips, I fell off the diet. The Keto diet is NOT easy to maintain since our world is apparently made of carbs (even ketchup, pancakes, and….oh don’t get me started), so knowing when you’ve really messed up is helpful.
Anyway, here it is:
Pretty cool, eh? It’s like a little vape device – you breathe into it, and it counts your ketones, giving you a score from 1-10. Anything under a four and you’re sucking – no ketosis ergo no skinny jeans for you. But score four and over and you’re in the club. It’s a whole lot better than peeing on a strip and seeing what color it is (gross and inaccurate).
This feedback is solid gold. Counting calories is a no go for me. I suck at it for all the reasons. But I’m good at breathing, and this thing keeps me honest. Ketosis takes days to get back into. I’m currently hovering amid 4 and 6, so I don’t want to blow it (pun intended). It charts your weight next to your keto level, which I will publish when the news is better 😐
Now I’m betting that there are combinatorial benefits to these devices. With my smartwatch (which I’ll discuss on a different post), I get a trifecta of feedback – diet, time, and motion (and sleep too! A quadfecta!)
With this sort of feedback, I can triangulate my habits and validate the story I’m telling myself (or not). Instead “I’m old, or my genes suck so I don’t lose weight” it’s “I ate four-hundred carbs and got twelve steps today – I need to question my life choices!”
All of this is in harmony with the
Yet, so much of what we try to do is hard to count. For example, writing – how do you know your book is actually good? Or your song? That sneaker you want to buy? Objective feedback is no joke. Even the keto diet has a ton of folks who think its a terrible idea. Qualified people that I should listen to. So what to do?
The key here for me is to know yourself. I know that I cannot count calories. I know that I do not have the will power to be hungry. I can side with the Keto people because of my experience with it ( I definitely feel better on it than other diets). SPARCs are one week long – try whatever you think might help for a few weeks, and journal the results.
Honestly, feedback might be the secret pill that we’re all looking for to make us healthy, wealthy, and wise, but only if we’re willing to change.