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Living social trends: Automating your life, another 10 days in…

After my initial enthusiasm and all the benefits I gained from using Swiftkey or IFTTT (read my first blog post here), I must conclude that not every robot works to make my life easier.

Two weeks into the ‘automating my life’ experiment I’d describe my experience as follows: I love the work productivity hacks and my new automated workout or dietary plan, but it is also quite annoying when your phone notifications just tripled, your Facebook messenger talks to you 5 times a day, or your Google Drive just crashed because every e-mail attachment got saved in the past 10 days…  And yeah… there’s also those everyday whims, which sometimes just aren’t to eat peanut butter with celery because the app told me to.

But let’s start with a few follow-ups from last week:

Quick update on my Swiftkey progress.  typos on my phone (~800 per week) aren’t getting any less, but I got much more productive and the robot much better in predicting my words: 14% more productive (last week I was on 12%), 54% more strokes saved, and 52% more words predicted than in week 1.

Just two more amazing IFTTT hacks I learned about this week:

  1. Useful one (doesn’t matter if you’re a to-do list person or not) when having the pleasure of managing projects… Put all your completed Todoist tasks in a Google Spreadsheet.

  2. Becoming a little bigger on Twitter and want to personalise a message to your new followers? Just activate the applet that posts a “thank you” tweet back, when someone mentions me on twitter.

As mentioned in last week’s blog, this week I focused on sport and food:

I’d describe myself as a regular gym-goer, mainly classes, a bit of freestyle in the gym area, and, if I really feel it, an occasional run along Regent’s Canal before work. But let’s be honest, I don’t really have a PT-like, proper workout plan. My strategy involves watching other people during my warm-up and basically copying what they do.

Luckily, I now found a robot to help me stop being a creepy spy in the gym: The Nike Training Club. The profile is super easy to set up and I even found some old friends from uni who I can compete with again now. I just had to select my fitness goal (Lean Fit Benchmark) and off we go… A 6-week based workout with 3 workout picks for me to choose from every week (you can easily change the session based on a library of 160 workouts, but then there’s a real time-saving benefit in letting the algorithm decide this for me).

Week 1 recap is: 3 completed workouts, 180 minutes of being less creepy, 440 calories burned, and a reminder notification not to forget my session today. The only thing I still need to learn is how to take better gym selfies with my newly earned Nike filters…

Great benefits in automating my physical activity, but I am not so convinced about automating my food choices. I signed up for Eat This Much and a friend suggested to try Lysa, my personal nutrition assistant – a Facebook chatbot (currently in beta phase).

With Lysa I just type what I ate into Facebook messenger and it logs it automatically for me. There are about 500 questions the chatbot has already learned to answer. I like the idea of the chatbot as it feel quite natural to use Fb messenger, but it’s quite a basic log at the moment rather than a nutrition assistant yet (which is due to the beta test phase so we’ll keep you updated on further progress).

Eat This Much is quite easy to use and, based on the calorie intake I select, it generates 3-9  meals/recipes per day. If you don’t like a meal you can just hit the refresh button and it suggests something else. I am quite happy with the food suggestions most days, only sometimes it suggests i have peanut butter with celery??

What I am struggling more with is when you just feel like eating pizza or meeting friends at a restaurant.

Besides me being obsessed with supermarkets, loving to pick random food items as I stroll through the aisles, and trying new recipes all the time, my food is a very personal decision that I love to think about every day and it just feels a little less tasty when I don’t have the power to decide on it anymore. Maybe it’s the diet curse, but maybe it’s also the crux of automating human preferences. I care a lot about my food and having done a lot of reading into the food tech/automation scene, I just think it’s not quite there yet, but a lot to watch out for.

Lastly, as I said in the beginning not everything in automating your life really works the way I was hoping for.

Probably the two things I struggled most with are information overflow and my daily habits. Actually, there’s a considerable number of times my phone, slack or any of the new apps send me notifications and require me to stop, read, process, act. Surely, I could switch off some notifications, but then what’s the point of having, for instance, a weather reminder? This one is actually a good example.

My London weather reminder kicks in every night before I go to bed. So far so good, but then I also start thinking about what to wear, whether to take the tube or still cycle and so on. Not that useful when you’re trying to fall asleep…

Most of the apps and functionalities need tweaking and quite some time to get used to. Rather than saving down every file that comes into my inbox, I changed this to certain senders only; or instead of deleting every word that the new keyboard autocorrects, I now trained my thumb and eye to use more of the word predictions.

Overall, I’d say once you invest the time there are some really cool automation hacks out there, but it’s also not always an instant fix to productivity.

What I’ll do next is looking a bit more into chatbots (as Lysa fascinates me) and the science of personalised recommendations, like Nike’s ‘Picks for you’, Netflix’s suggested movies, or Spotify’s Discovery. And we also have Alex supporting me in automating his daddy life…


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