Michael ledford.net

365 Days

One year ago my Apple Watch had thrown out a New Year challenge. Fill all activity rings in a week to earn an achievement. A few weeks before this I went to my annual physical. My doctor pointed out how my cholesterol was OK but not great. My HDL, also known as “good cholesterol”, was lower than they would like to see. HDL helps remove cholesterol deposits on blood vessels. Given that my father and grandfather have a history of heart disease it is in my interest to make sure all these numbers stay in check. I needed the LDL to come down and the HDL to come up.

Even before this time for many months I knew I needed to start exercising. I kept telling myself I’ll do it soon. I just didn’t want to give the effort. “I can’t exercise,” I joked to my doctor, “I have a treadmill but it has Amazon boxes stacked from items ordered for Christmas.” My doctor encouraged me to clean it off and use it for its real purpose. So when the Apple Watch New Year challenge came along I decided this was a good a time as any.

The first week didn’t start out well for this challenge. My physical activity up to this point was so low my Apple Watch’s move ring was set at 250 and I almost never hit it. The second week I was determined to meet the challenge. So I met with my treadmill each evening and I decided I was just going to walk. Walk until the day’s goal was met. At the end of the second week of 2017 I received my Ring in the New Year challenge achievement. With that achievement completed I wondered just how far I could go. How far could I keep my streak alive?

The very next day I missed my stand goal so my perfect three ring streak was out the window but I still had my exercise and move ring going. Each week my Apple Watch would suggest a higher move goal and I accepted each one. February 1, 2017, saw me not complete a workout and therefore did not fill my exercise ring. However, I still managed to get my move ring. So at this point I focused on seeing how far I could keep my move ring streak alive.

Nicely, this is something that Apple’s software actually records. I wanted to see if I could actually complete my move goal for a whole year. Early on in the process I would sigh and not want to do my daily workout. I was tired and I didn’t want to do it. I just kept saying to myself how I wanted to go a year. And then after two months I weighed myself. After starting the year at 188 pounds I was now at 180. This was motivation as I was seeing the results of my everyday exercise.

In March my move goal had reached 550 a day. This was a bit much and I ended up moving back to 500 and that’s where my move goal stayed for the rest of the year. My routine each evening was to set my treadmill to somewhere between 3.0-3.5 mph. I would set the treadmill to its highest incline and walk until I filled my move ring.

Later when I had to use other treadmills I would discover that other treadmills go much higher which was too much or too difficult. So I would find the setting on that treadmill that approximated mine at home. For each workout I generally walked about 25-30 minutes. During my workout my heart rate usually ranged from 135-150 beats per minute. Out of the whole year there were only 13 days that I did not start a workout and get a green dot as shown in the Apple Activity app.

The best part is a few weeks ago I again had my annual physical. It’s clear that this consistent exercise has been of benefit. This is great as I didn’t even greatly change my diet. My doctor was inspired that I took their advice and followed through and that there was a dramatic difference a year later.

So with that here are some statistics of my 365 day move streak.

  Starting Ending
Weight 188 lbs. 164 lbs.
Total Cholesterol 167 mg/dL 131 mg/dL
LDL 110 mg/dL 68 mg/dL
HDL 38 mg/dL 48 mg/dL
Non-HDL Cholesterol 129 mg/dL 83 mg/dL
Triglycerides 95 mg/dL 66 mg/dL

I haven’t yet decided how long I’ll keep my streak alive but it’s clear the benefits my goal has made on me. I feel better about my future health and I’m sure future me will be grateful for starting this process and getting healthier.

Follow-through

Five years ago I set out to make a product. Five years later I don’t have a product.

Four years ago I decided I wanted to start writing. I wrote one piece that nobody saw.

I look around at friends, peers, colleagues and admire their ability to start a project and then see it through. There are many reason and excuses I can give as to why I haven’t followed through with my projects. Some of those reasons are valid. Most of them are not valid. Bottom line is I should have been able to start and finish something in a five year time span.

Earlier this year I went to a fantastic conference called Release Notes. I heard a lot of informative and inspiring talks there. One in particular stood out to me. Rachel Andrew’s talk called Make Time for Your Project gave me hope and some tips to take to heart.

The first thing I took away from her talk was to start with something small. I am guilty of this in a big way. I have big ideas that have hard problems associated with them. The trouble with this is I’m not shipping. It would be much better to start small and build up over time then try to have it exactly the way I want it to be day one.

The second thing I took away from her talk was to set a timeline. If I don’t have a timeline it will be easy to never finish. I need to set a target date. Then take high level objectives and break them down into smaller and smaller pieces estimating the time they will take. Schedule out the work and then do it. I know how to do this from my work on other projects but have never translated it to my projects.

Which brings me to the last thing I took away from her talk. Treat my project as a first class citizen. I should give the same care and attention to my own projects that I would a client’s projects. That means setting a regular time slot to work on my projects and following the same processes I do for others.

With these items in mind this is exactly what I’m going to do this year:

  1. Start small
  2. Set small progress goals
  3. Give time and attention

This post is my commitment to follow-through on my projects starting now.