Genuine Curiosity

Author Dwayne Melancon is always on the lookout for new things to learn. An ecclectic collection of postings on personal productivity, travel, good books, gadgets, leadership & management, and many other things.


How Tracking Your Health and Fitness Improves Your Life

Over the years, I've gotten into the 'quantified self' world through fitness trackers. I used to go overboard with this stuff, but have settled into a zone where I use it to help motivate me, but don't obsess over it. I find that wearables and tracking help me to stay in better shape, but also help when it comes to focus at work. Seems like I'm not alone.

Over 75 percent of wearable technology users have seen improved business performance, according to a study by Salesforce. Additionally, a survey by the weight loss app Lose It! found that 60 percent of people on a weight loss program lose more weight if they pair their efforts with activity trackers.

Tracking what you do can boost your happiness and productivity by monitoring your actions. Becoming aware of your daily habits and how you do things gives you the opportunity to come up with new solutions to streamline and improve your life. Fortunately, wearable technology and monitoring apps can help the process. Here are some ways you can get started:

Hold Yourself Accountable

Regular physical activity helps release endorphins that interact with receptors in your brain to reduce pain. Endorphins are also responsible for flooding your brain with a positive feeling that's similar to morphine. However, the Center for Disease Control reports that only 49.2 percent of adults meet the physical activity guidelines for aerobic physical activity.

Hold yourself accountable by keeping track of your daily weight loss, health regimen and exercise routine with wearable technology and apps. Choose an option like the Moto 360 Black, so you can sync it to your smartphone and monitor your heart rate and how many steps you take each day. In addition to keeping track of your health stats, the Moto 360 offers coaching advice with spontaneous notifications throughout the day to keep you motivated to reach your fitness goals.

If you’re surprised by how little you move on a daily basis, work in a long walk on your lunch break or get up a half hour earlier for a morning jog. Next, turn your digital monitoring into an active goal to complete 10,000 steps a day and 30-minutes of active, heart-pumping exercise.

Stay Connected

Connect with your friends and family by creating a friendly competition that keeps you all on track for your health, happiness and productivity goals. Create weekly challenges to get moving with a prize in mind. PBS reports that belonging to a community gives people a sense of identity and connection to others. For your competition, set a goal to walk 12,000 steps or complete four hours of physical activity over the weekend. Use a fitness tracker like a Fitbit to see who reaches the goal first. Then, take the winner out for a healthy lunch.

Improve Performance

Wearable technology has already proven to increase productivity in the workforce. For example, Tesco grocery stores found the number of full-time employees needed to run a 40,000 square foot store dropped by 18 percent after introducing wearables. Workers could unload products and fulfill orders that were tracked and documented with a wearable device instead of relying on papers and clipboards. Wearables can help you be more productive both at work and at home. By getting your work done more efficiently, the need for you to work overtime decreases, giving you more time to be at home or to do the things you love.

Lately, my gadget habit has crept into cycling - I've got a couple of posts coming on some gear I've found to be very useful for cyclists. Stay tuned.

Book Review: Grit In Your Craw


Robert Luckadoo's book, "Grit In Your Craw" talks about "Eight Strengths You Can't Succeed Without" and it is a pretty good list:

  1. Diligence
  2. Tenacity
  3. Optimism
  4. Flexibility
  5. Discipline
  6. Resilience
  7. Confidence
  8. Purpose

Luckadoo makes the 8 topics "real" by sharing personal stories about what he's learned in each of these areas. His style is very readable, and he talks about things like his father's death when he was 12 years old and what he learned from his mother through the struggle to keep the family on track.

If you read a lot, like I do, many of the themes will sound familiar (the same is true of a lot of business-oriented books - different ways of articulating common subjects). In Luckadoo's case, I was surprised at how much his content resonated with me - his life has been filled with experiences very different from my own. For example, he was a NASCAR driver, a sports coach, and runs his own insurance agency - definitely not a stranger to trying different paths to success.

Each of the chapters does a nice job of explaining the concept through one or more entertaining stories, generally about things that Luckadoo's experienced. That makes a different to me, since it takes things out of the theoretical and gets the ideas into your head in a very visual way.

Luckadoo gives some practical advice along the way, which was very thought provoking. However, this isn't really a "how to" book - it is more of a set of stories to get you think about the things that contribute to (or detract from) your success.

This book is very well-suited for business leaders, entrepreneurs, or people who want to move to the next level with regard to their impact in business. It will help you think about - and be more deliberate about - how you lead, how you follow, and why you do what you do every day.

I'd love to see Luckadoo come out with a second edition with exercises to take readers through some deeper thinking about these 8 areas, as I think that kind of approach would be very helpful - especially for people who feel stuck in their current situation.

In any case, I enjoyed "Grit In Your Craw," and found it well worth the read.

Understand Jargon to Be a Smarter Consumer


Every community has its jargon, but when you are entering into a new world of products and services, it is important that you understand the lingo so that you don't end up purchasing something you don't want or need. Many consumers are prone to making impulse purchases without thinking. In fact, 75 percent of Americans have made impulse purchases and 16 percent said these purchases were over $500, according to a survey by Being knowledgeable about what you are dealing with makes you a smarter consumer. Here's a look at some jargon you need to know:

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing and data storage isn't just for businesses — it helps you preserve and save precious photos, videos, and other data from being lost. However, much of the terminology is new and confusing. For example, you probably want to look for a “consumer cloud” service, which includes popular services like Dropbox. If you want to save as much money as possible, advertising-based pricing models tend to be cheaper. But if the idea of having to look at ads to run your apps turns you off, don't use this type of discounted plan. Consumption-based pricing models refer to services that charge you based on the amount of data you use, rather than a subscription that has set limits and prices per month. Now that you understand some of the technical terms, decide which type of service is best for you.

Surround Sound

If you've ever been wowed by the dynamics of surround-sound systems in movie theaters or home theater stereo systems, you may want to have a system of your own installed. Understanding how surround-sound systems are labeled is essential if you want to get the right one for your home. For example, what does 5.1 surround sound refer to? Well, the five refers to the number of channels: two in the front, two in the back and one in the center. The one refers to whether or not the system has a subwoofer; a one means it does, a zero means it does not. The Dig points out that surround sound comes in a variety of set ups, such as 7.1 and 5.1.2 (which means there are two height variable stereos that add depth to the front soundfield). There are countless variations on this formula, but when you understand what the decimals stand for, you have a better chance of getting what you want and not spending more than you need to.


Biking is a popular way for people to get around in urban areas or add some exercise to the daily routine. Some biking terms can be counter intuitive, though, so make sure you understand them before you buy one. For example, clipless pedals refer to a style of pedal that actually has clips that attach to your shoes to hold your feet in place. The type of pedal with a strap is referred to as a “toe-clip,” so clipless is a reference to them not being this style of pedal. This is the sort of thing that confuses many new bikers (I know that first-hand, since I started cycling a couple of months ago), so it helps to know the jargon before you go into the store. For more of this sort of jargon, Road Bike Rider has an extensive glossary.

One other comment on jargon - don't be shy about asking what these things mean. Sure, you run the risk of some body trying to make you feel dumb, but most of the time I've found that people are willing to help you understand their jargon. For example, bike shop employees should be willing to explain the differences between a Schrader valve and a Presta valve - if they give you a hard time, find another bike shop.

eBike technology from Bosch - hands-on

A couple of weeks ago, Bosch eBike Systems brought an eBike out to me so I could try it out. What's an eBike, you ask? In technical terms, an eBike is a bicycle that has been augmented with an electrical assist that provides supplemental power while you pedal. In practical terms, it is an impressive tool to help you simplify your commuting or road cycling jaunts.

Bosch doesn't make the bikes - they make the "mid-drive" systems that are built into the bikes, so you can find different types, sizes and styles of bikes to fit your needs and preferences. You can find out more and locate a dealer near you at the Bosch eBike site. [Note: I receive no compensation or other consideration for this - just a free ride on an eBike].

Mount up...

I was riding a Haibike XDuro Trekking RX bike with Bosch Mid-Drive technology (provided by Cynergy E-Bikes, a local Portland company), and it was my first time riding an eBike. 

The bike looks a lot like a typical hybrid bike (built for road cycling, and off-road friendly), and I immediately noticed the weight - it was noticeably heavier than the bike I typically ride. That extra weight is because it has batteries on board, and the frame has been reinforced to handle the forces of the electrical assistance mechanism - the Bosch system is built in during the design of the bike, not bolted on afterward, so it is quite sturdy.  

Once on the bike, it rode and handled very well - it felt like a normal commuting bike, and it took no time at all to get acclimated (and it didn't feel very heavy from a rider's perspective). 

Becoming Superhuman

I rode for a couple of miles near downtown Portland, in a big loop along the Willamette River promenade, which gave me a chance to experiment on flat, straight sections as well as some good inclines, congested areas, and curves. The bike was a lot of fun to ride and I found myself thinking about what it would be like to own.

The real fun started when I turned on the eDrive -- I felt superhuman! It is hard to describe the feeling you get when you turn on the eDrive and the bike begins to surge forward, accelerate, and climb up challenging hills under the assistance of the eDrive.

The way Bosch's eDrive system works is by multiplying your power so every pound of pressure you exert on the pedals is amplified when it reaches the wheels. There are 5 modes:

  • Off:     no assistance from drive unit
  • Eco:    50% assistance from drive unit
  • Tour:    120% assistance from drive unit
  • Sport:    190% assistance from drive unit
  • Turbo:    275% assistance from drive unit

You can change modes on the fly, smoothly and without interrupting the ride. That means you can spend most of your time in Eco, but kick things into Turbo for a killer hill or to make up some time on the road when you're in a hurry.

When choosing modes, keep in mind that the more assistance you get from the eDrive, the faster you use up the battery's charge. For example, depending on conditions, the range in Turbo mode (highest assistance) is 20-40 miles. In Eco mode (least assistance) the range is 50-100 miles. The on-board control panel tells you how you're doing and estimates remaining range based on how you're using the bike.

These bikes do need to be recharged, as they don't recharge while you are riding. That said, they last quite a while - you should only have to charge the bike once or twice a week if you use it for commuting, and the recharge time is about 3 hours (you just plug the bike's charger into a normal household outlet). If you run out of power on the road, you won't be stranded - you can simply pedal it as you would a normal bike (though the additional weight may make pedaling a bit more difficult on hills without the power assist).

Who are eBikes suited for?

While anyone would enjoy this bike, it is ideally suited for commuters, as well as people who are less physically adept but want to ride in hilly terrain (or more easily keep up with more accomplished riders). Bosch says these systems are very popular with the 50 years and up crowd, since they like the physical assistance the bikes provide and typically have more disposable income to justify the extra cost (eBikes typically cost about $1500-2000 more than comparable, conventional bicycles).

Commuters will likely appreciate these bikes most - imagine riding 10 miles to work on an eBike and arriving at work without feeling like you need to take a shower; that is possible with the assistance of the eBike power drive. If you get the chance, stop by a local bike dealer who stocks eBikes, and give it a try - I think you'll be impressed.

Revamp Your Home Office to Improve Productivity

Working from home may seem ideal for some, while others consider it an anti-social nightmare. Regardless of how you feel about your new work-from-home situation, there are undoubtedly some pros and cons. Sure, you now have time to throw in a load of laundry while "at work," and you're definitely saving money on gas. But there are also a lot of distractions that come with your new work environment, from barking dogs, to the lure of the television.

A simple room revamp may be the answer.

A New Look

You may already have an old desk that still has all of its legs, and hey, maybe that lamp from college will come back in style someday. However, you're an adult with a home office of your own—why not spruce it up a little? Buy a new desk, office chair, and a lamp. These purchases may seem minor, but they can do a lot to create the energy you're going for in your office.

Decide on a look for your new home office that differs from the look in your home, and one that inspires productivity. From there, browse the standards, like Ikea and West Elm, to find the perfect furniture to inspire your new work space. When selecting your office chair, remember that comfort matters.

A New Sound

It can be tempting while working from home to turn on the TV, keep your cell phone in arm's reach, or even go for a quick run with the dogs. Because distractions will be inevitable, make sure the time you dedicate to working is maximized. Consider accessorizing your office space with an air purifier, which will pull double duty by cleaning the air around your office and producing white noise that cancels out distractions.

While you're at it, consider purchasing a new door for your home office that helps block additional distracting noises. Noise-reducing door systemscome in all shapes and sizes, and can be a great aesthetic element to add to your space.

A New Organization Method

If you worked in an office, your personal space would be fully accessorized with the tools, organization, and inspiration necessary to make you feeling inspired and comfortable. Why would you settle for anything less at home? Make sure your home office has a large desktop, rather than a laptop to give you more screen space to get work done. From there, invest in a file cabinet, a cable turtle to hide unsightly wires, a keyboard organizer, and book shelves.

These all help to create that ambiance of work, not relaxation time, and are sure to keep you focused. Don't forget a large clock on the wall, so you'll know when the workday is done!

A New View

The last step in completing your new home office is to change out those windows. Opt for new windows like those available at Champion Home Exteriors, which offer additional benefits such as energy-efficiency and a modern, sleek look. Installment is guaranteed and better yet, the new windows will make your home office feel completely different than every other room in your house—giving you a new view and plenty of natural light, with which you can align with work, rather than play.

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