How did I do with my Summer Goals?

Here are the results for my Summer OKR’s.

Objective: Maintain strong academic achievement (0.875)

Key Results:

  • 9X% in CPSC 213 (1)

  • 9X% in CPSC 221 (1)

  • 9X% in CPSC 310 (0.5)

  • 8X% in CPSC 320 (1)

Part way through most of these courses I was sure I wasn’t going to make any of these goals. Luckily for me, summer classes seem to be marked a little more leniently and I ended up doing very well.

Objective: Personal enrichment and learning (0.58)

Key Results:

  • Make major improvements to my Android app: SS Log (0)

  • Create a MEAN (MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, node.js) stack web application (0.5)

  • Read 5 books (not for a class) (1)

  • Average one blog post a week (0.5)

  • Apply for an average of 5 jobs a week until I get one (1)

  • Do something “interesting” once a week (0.5)

My score for this category was a little low, and that’s even with my slightly charitable 0.5 score for creating a MEAN stack application. I did absolutely nothing for my Android app, largely because an injury pushed me towards other forms of exercise so I had no personal reasons to improve an app I wasn’t using. This may change in the future if I get back to lifting. I never made an entire MEAN stack application but I’ve done enough on various projects that I gave myself 0.5.

I finished reading two books, Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid and The Pragmatic Programmerthe first of which I highly recommend. I then read almost all of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series which may be my favourite science fiction series. I wrote a bit less than half as many blog posts as my goal, so I rounded that up to 0.5.

I applied to exactly 15 jobs over the 3 weeks before I got my job. My last key result was poorly designed (which I knew from the beginning) but I wanted something to push me towards enjoying summer a little more. I did okay on that front, with something I would categorize as “interesting” on about half of the weeks.

Objective: Improve health and fitness (0.56)

Key Results:

  • Average four 20+ minute fitness sessions a week (1)

  • Walk 8,000 steps at least 5 days per week (0.9)

  • Bike 30 minutes a week (0.1)

  • Average 7:45 of sleep a night (0.25)

While injuries from earlier in the year changed the type of exercise I did, I was quite good at exercising frequently. There was only on week that I didn’t walk 8,000 steps 5 days of the week. I barely used my bike though. Only 4 times the entire summer. Basically, the reason is that it never made sense to bike over other options. Almost everything I did was either on campus, which is too close to warrant biking in my opinion, or far from campus, where the distance to bike is too much in my opinion.

I wasn’t really sure what to give myself for the sleeping score. My basis fitness watch gives me automatic weekly sleep reports. The problem is that I just don’t think it works probably every night. Once a week or so it records phantom “wake-ups” where it insists that I was awake for an hour or two in the middle of the night when I have zero memory of that. The sleep reports put my average around 7 hours. They are probably a little on the low end but I am still going to give myself a fairly low score.

Overall (0.66)

I probably won’t be doing new OKRs for this term. I am doing a co-op work term where I will be setting some work specific OKRs, and for personal goals I need to rethink how I set the key results.

Summer Goals

For last term’s goals click here.

My goals last term went pretty well so I am going to aim high again.

Objective: Maintain strong academic achievement

Key Results:

  • 9X% in CPSC 213

  • 9X% in CPSC 221

  • 9X% in CPSC 310

  • 8X% in CPSC 320

 

Objective: Personal enrichment and learning

Key Results:

  • Make major improvements to my Android app: SS Log

  • Create a MEAN (MongoDB, Express, AngularJS, node.js) stack web application

  • Read 5 books (not for a class)

  • Average one blog post a week

  • Apply for an average of 5 jobs a week until I get on

  • Do something “interesting” once a week

The last one requires a bit of an explanation. It is very easy to want to spend any free time watching Netflix, but there are so many things to see and do in Vancouver during the summer that I really want to try to make sure I am not constantly doing that. Examples of what would count is a challenging hike, or visiting somewhere I have never been before.

 

Objective: Improve health and fitness

Key Results:

  • Average four 20+ minute fitness sessions a week

  • Walk 8,000 steps at least 5 days per week

  • Bike 30 minutes a week

  • Average 7:45 of sleep a night

Scoring my 2014 Winter/Spring Goals

About 4 months ago I posted a bunch of goals for the term on my blog. I wanted these goals to be public to keep me accountable. So, now that the term is over I am going to score how well I achieved them.

Objective: Maintain strong academic achievement   ( 0.875 )

Key Results:

  • 8X% in STAT 302     ( 1.0 )

  • 9X% in MATH 221    ( 1.0 )

  • 9X% in CPSC 210   ( 1.0 )

  • 8X% in COMM 486a   ( 0.5 )

So, not all my marks are actually in yet, so I will have to update this when I get the last but I will provide scores based off my pre-final mark and my estimate for how well I did on the final. In this case, I am giving myself a 1 if I reached my goal, and 0.5 if I am within 5%.

Objective: Gain experience through personal projects and self-direct learning ( 0.5375 )

Key Results:

  • Complete two non-trivial Android apps   ( 0.5 )

  • Successfully complete two hackathon events ( 0.4 )

  • Complete one Udacity data science course   ( 1 )

  • Average one blog post a week  ( 0.25 )

I developed, and published, one Android app. I ended up switching my focus after that to learning more about web development, an area I wasn’t as familiar with so I never made a second app. One of the hackathons I wanted to complete never happened, and the other had a topic I wasn’t super interested in. I did end up organizing my own little hackathon with some friends, which somewhat fell apart but I still spent three solid days working hard on web development so I am going to mostly count that.

Objective: Improve health and fitness    ( 0.57 )

Key Results:

  • Average four 20+ minute fitness sessions a week   ( 0.8 )

  • Walk 5km+ every day    ( 0.9 )

  • Deadlift 220lbs, Squat 190lbs, Benchpress 180lbs   0 )

I average four sessions a week for about the first half of the term, but certain bio-mechanical issues got in the way of continued success. However, over the last month or so I have been working really hard on physio to hopefully overcome some of those issues so I am still giving myself a decent rating. I only missed my 5km target 8 times over the 4 months, about half of the times was due to intense rain or snow, and most of the others were health related if I remember correctly. Because of my health issues I basically stopped doing all of those lifts so I have to give myself 0. I don’t know what I am currently capable of but it is probably less than that.

My overall score: 0.67

While that score is in the “sweet spot” for OKR’s, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that I didn’t do better. Hopefully better health will help me with health and fitness goals for my next set of goals.

I’ll post my goals for the summer term in the next few days.

Basis Band B1 Fitness Tracker Review

The Basis Band is a watch that is full of sensors designed to give you a continuous read-out of your activity throughout the day. An accelerometer tracks steps, a heart-rate sensor tracks heart-rate and there are sensors that record perspiration and skin temperature. This gives the device the most comprehensive array of sensors of any activity monitor. It also combines input from all the sensors to estimate calories and to track sleep.

I bought the Basis hoping that it would give me the information to make quantitative health and fitness goals. Instead of telling myself to “be more active” I could quantify it by number of hours, estimated calories or number of steps.

If I had to sum up my thoughts on the Basis Band, I would say that it is a bit disappointing. Disappointing because it shows a lot of promise, but a number of little things combine to make the experience not what it should be.

The Good:

There are a lot of great things about the Basis. It tracks steps accurately giving you the number of steps and the time spent walking and running each day. It is very accurate at separating walking from running. When I did interval running where I alternated between running and walking, the basis was only a few seconds off the total time spent running, which was impressively accurate. Moves, which I reviewed a few months back, was completely confused and randomly marked some of it as running and some as walking.

The Basis tracks heart-rate quite well when I am inactive. When I am in the range of 50 – 80 bpm and my arms aren’t actively moving I get accurate and frequently updated heart-rate readings. With the data I can see some interesting things, like my heart-rate increasing about 10 bpm a little before writing an exam and then decreasing back to its normal rate over the first 30 or so minutes as I focus and relax. However, it falters as the heart-rate rises above this range which I’ll cover in “the bad” section.

Sleep tracking showing the various stages of sleep

Sleep tracking showing the various stages of sleep

The sleep-tracking feature is probably the best part of the Basis, although mediocre software hampers how useful it is. Using the array of sensors the Basis fairly accurately determines when you fall asleep, not simply when you get into bed or when you press a sleep button like most alternatives, and when you wake up. You can check the web or mobile app to see a graph of how your sleep breaks up into the various stages and they give you a percentage score based on total time sleeping as well as the percentage of time in each stage. Basis says that they calibrated this with sleep researchers at a number of universities and sleep centres, but it is difficult for me to comment on accuracy other than to say that it somewhat matches with my subjective feelings of how well I slept. It is at the very least good for tracking total hours of sleep.

The Mediocre:

The Basis Band on my wrist. It is a little clunky, but at most angles people will see it it looks decent.

The Basis Band on my wrist. It is a little clunky, but at most angles it looks decent.

Given that the device is a watch, which is more noticeable than other forms of activity trackers, aesthetics are important. The good news is that the chrome version is inconspicuous. The bad news is that it doesn’t look great. Personally for me, I am not looking for a fashion statement, but I don’t want something that is ugly. In the few months I have worn it only one person has asked about it, and I’ve never seen anyone stare at it. That is good enough for me, but if you are someone who is fashionable and cares more about their appearance this may not be for you.

Since getting the Basis I have worn it almost 24/7 and I have found it mostly comfortable. If I tighten up the band in an attempt to improve accuracy while I workout it can start to feel like it is digging in, but normally I barely feel it.

The Basis was unable to get heart-rate measurements while I cycled, and categorized me as cycling for only about half of the time I was actually cycling

The Basis was unable to get heart-rate measurements while I cycled, and categorized me as cycling for only about half of the time I was actually cycling

The band is supposed to also be able to track cycling but my experience with that is quite mixed. It completely missed a 20 minute bike-ride one time, and another time it considerably under-counted my time biking. Given my limited data points for cycling though I am not quite ready to say it is bad yet, although it is so far disappointing.

A few of my habits at the end of the week

A few of my habits at the end of the week

Basis uses a system of “habits” which allows you to set goals for a variety of metrics and then have your completion of those habits automatically tracked. Options are metrics like number of steps, sleep and wake times, length of sleep, minutes of activity, and some interesting options like getting up and moving at least once an hour between 9 and 5. There are quite a few of them and Basis makes you unlock them over time by completing your current ones. Most of the habits work well, and habits like the step count certainly help motivate me to walk more frequently, but a slow and poorly designed app makes checking on your progress painful, so ultimately I usually end the day not really knowing how I did on any of them. This severely limits how motivational they are.

The Bad:

I was working out almost the entire time between the  two greyed out walking sections and Basis managed only a few sporadic heart-rate measurements at low points, didn't classify me as active, and barely raised my calories burnt above baseline. At least it measured higher perspiration

I was working out almost the entire time between the two grayed out walking sections and Basis managed only a few sporadic heart-rate measurements at low points, didn’t classify me as active, and barely raised my calories burnt above baseline. At least it measured higher perspiration

The heart-rate sensor is terrible during any kind of activity. In Basis’ defense, they don’t advertise the band as a fitness monitor, but instead sell it as a device for the “rest of your day”. However, when Basis completely misses my hour sweating at the gym and doesn’t count it as active time or raises my estimated calories burnt, you lose a lot of the motivational benefit of a product like this. The majority of the time I workout, regardless of what I am doing, I get at most one or maybe two heart-rate readings when I am resting and my heart-rate is at the low-end of where it will be for my workout.

Because of this, many habits are close to useless for actually tracking what I am doing. A day where I walk a little extra compared to one where I go to the gym for 2 hours is going to show up as both higher in calories burnt, and more active despite that being completely rubbish.

The battery life could also be improved. You get maybe 4 or 5 days, from full charge to dead, or you can charge it for roughly 20 minutes a day to keep the battery steady. The biggest issue is that if you wake up with the notification that you have less than 20% battery left and you don’t have time to charge it before you leave for the morning, there is a good chance it will die on you before you get back home to charge. I lost a day worth of data once because of this and came close a few other times.

 

Conclusion:

The Basis Band is probably the best activity tracker there is, but by having so many more sensors than its competition it makes you want a lot more out of it. For simply tracking steps, both walking and running, as well as sleep it is a great device. If you workout any other way though, it no longer provides consistent or accurate readings and quickly becomes frustrating. Given that  I have it, it is worth keeping on and charging, but I would definitely not buy it again. Basis was just bought by Intel, so with the financial and engineering backing of Intel, a new version with significantly improved heart-rate monitoring and battery life could be a really great device for fitness/health geeks like me.

Personal Goals

I have never found New Year’s resolutions particularly useful. The “standard” ones like “go to the gym” and “eat healthy” are worthy goals but lack specificity and clear quantifiable sub-goals. But all the talk of setting personal goals around this time of the year usually pushes me towards setting a few of my own, even if I am a few weeks late to the resolution game.

I came upon a video of a workshop by Google’s Rick Klau, How Google sets goals: OKRs, and immediately started to like the idea of using something similar to Google’s internal goal system, OKRs, as my own personal system for setting goals. Basically the system breaks down to having a small number of objectives that can be broad like the “standard” resolutions. Each of these objectives then has roughly four key results that are quantifiable. You set a period of time for the goals, in my case this academic term, and then at the end of that period you give a score between 0 and 1 for each key result and then average the score.

What I really like about this system is that it is designed so that you set goals such that it will be very difficult to attain 1 on each. You want to aim high and then hopefully attain roughly 70% of those lofty goals. Another important aspect for Google is that everyone’s OKRs are public (within the company) so that anyone can see what their co-workers are focusing on.

To give readers an idea what this looks like, and to make myself publicly accountable for my goals, below is a draft version of my OKR with a few omissions. I made the grade goals slightly less specific for posting on here but otherwise everything is exactly as written. I’ll make another post at the end of the term tallying up my score.

Objective: Maintain strong academic achievement

Key Results:

  • 8X% in STAT 302

  • 9X% in MATH 221

  • 9X% in CPSC 210

  • 8X% in COMM 486a

 

Objective: Gain experience through personal projects and self-direct learning

Key Results:

  • Complete two non-trivial Android apps

  • Successfully complete two hackathon events

  • Complete one Udacity data science course

  • Average one blog post a week

 

Objective: Improve health and fitness

Key Results:

  • Average four 20+ minute fitness sessions a week

  • Walk 5km+ every day

  • Deadlift 220lbs, Squat 190lbs, Benchpress 180lbs

  • Placeholder (waiting to figure out a baseline for another measurable health goal)