Smart Watch Review: The Vector Luna

Vector Smartwatch synced to iPhone app

Vector Smartwatch synced to iPhone app

As far as smartwatches go the Vector excels in both design and technical prowess.

It does exactly what ones assumes a smartwatch would do. It notifies the wearer of the info he or she wishes to receive. It also serves as an elegant and reliable timepiece — nothing more, nothing less.

People tend to converse about smartwatches in the same way they do about Google Glass. What’s a smartwatch other than another digital device stealing our time and attention? Do we really want another barrier to real human connection, especially one that from the very beginning appears to be somewhat gauche?

In our information-crazed society where FOMO is a real thing, aren’t we distracted enough?

I’ve written about why I’d prefer not to wear one. I even went so far as to wear a sweater with an 8-bit Tamagotchi across the chest that pays homage to William Gibson’s Tamagotchi gesture.

In a 1999 essay from Wired describing his obsession with buying traditional timepieces on eBay, Gibson says:

Mechanical watches partake of the Tamagotchi Gesture: They’re pointless yet needful, comforting precisely because they require tending.

I don’t disagree that a timepiece requires tending. Sure, the Vector needs tending – it needs to be charged. And maybe at some point I’ll swap out a wristband or two.

From a moral perspective, isn’t the watch disturbing with all its notifications? Doesn’t it add to the level of digital noise instead of help reduce it, given that we’re already trying to turn down the noise (be it mental or digital) to begin with?

Let’s back up for a second. If digital distraction is the topic here, the iPhone is a lost cause. Think about it: it’s basically a computer we keep in our back pocket and program to go off all the time.

The smartwatch enables one to filter out everything except for the absolutely necessary.

And the phone can be put away.

The only notifications I have set up are incoming calls, text messages, Facebook messenger (the only reason outside of groups I still use Facebook), and Uber. Those are enough. All of the messages filtered to come through are from those I actually know.

I can also put the device in silent mode. That way I can move along with the activities and tasks that are truly important without worrying that no one can reach me. (Yes, a luxury problem that didn’t exist thirty years ago.)

The watch doesn’t interfere the way phones do, as long as we set them up to act that way. 

It’s also helpful to simply, well, glance down. For example, I can look down at my wrist and learn that the friend I’m meeting for brunch is five minutes away. There’s no need to dig out the iPhone, unlock it, and swipe. This literally eliminates at least two, three, possibly more actions taken depending on your setup and use.

I got the Vector Watch for several reasons but mostly, because I wanted to attach myself to something beautiful.

And the Vector is just that. The hardware is sleek and fully customizable from both an interface and hardware perspective. You can choose from several faces, bands and sizes.

You can essentially design a timepiece that looks like a classic mechanical watch. From a distance one barely notices that it’s a smartwatch – it’s that discreet.

When I got my Vector in late 2015 there were only a limited number of digital watch faces available. The file sizes must’ve been larger then, too — I was only able to download a handful. They must be iterating quickly, or maybe it’s because they’ve opened up their platform to developers because many more have rolled out since then ranging from classic to abstract. They even offered a heart-themed face on Valentine’s Day.

While it’s stream features are somewhat limited at present (and this may be intentional) the smartwatch offers basic functional features like a timer, alarm, weather info and news. For those who like to dabble in quantified self one has the ability to measure steps, calories burned, and hours of sleep, although there is no Fitbit-like interface for digging more deeply into the data.

The battery life also falls short of expectation (it’s closer to three weeks versus four). Other more nuanced personal grievances revolve around display resolution and storage.

The vector is cross platform, meaning that it’s compatible with both Android and iPhone devices. I tried it out on both and it worked just fine.

All in all, the Vector is a beautiful marriage between form and function; a high quality product that hasn’t glitched on me yet in the five months I’ve had it.  Sleek, intuitive design meets helpful technology – this is where the Vector truly shines.

Will it last five years though, as a traditional timepiece would? Probably not. It’s certain to say that in five years there will be a more sophisticated device taking its place. It will be interesting to see if there will be long-term debate about mechanical versus digital, or if they will simply be treated as separate species.

Within the former the mechanical watch will almost certainly win every time. Within the latter, the traditional watch will take home the categories of reliability and tradition as the smartwatch continues to dazzle on.

Getting To Inbox Zero In 3 Hours Or Less

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

Photo Credit: Liane Metzler via Unsplash

I always thought “inbox zero” was an urban myth. How is it possible that one’s inbox could have literally no emails in it whatsoever?

The last time I checked there were around twenty-thousand messages. Incoming ones starred for later, bookmarked newsletters going back to the beginning of time begging for acknowledgement — the dutiful read, watch, response, purchase or listen that may or may not make our lives slightly more whole.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a hoarder of information. I’m pretty much obsessed with emailing myself several times daily — links to recipes, lengthy thought pieces, cute shoes — never to be opened at the fabled moment for where there’s actually time. Let’s face it, emails generate more work than pleasure. And if the case was in fact pleasure, my pocketbook surely wouldn’t be pleased.

I also have a terrible habit of staring at my inbox for moments on end. I sit unblinking and motionless, eyeballs glossing over the never ending list. Whether starred, marked as “important and unread,” or falling within the categorical everything else, without moving a muscle the meter on my forehead goes from full to hovering near bone dry.

One Friday evening I decided to take matters into my own hands. It was time to part with these missives from the past. They were slogging things down, preventing crystal-clear clarity in order to have a more fulfilling, energized, and productive day.

Here’s how I finally reached the ever-so-elusive Inbox Zero in less than three hours.

1. I took to e-mail management tools.

Basically, if there’s a way to cheat through technology I’m going to do it. In this case the enablers were Sanebox and Boomerang.

I implemented Sanebox to filter out everything that wasn’t urgent. Most emails were automatically delivered to a new inbox called “SaneLater.” Urgent e-mails, as defined in this case, arrive directly in my main inbox from the fingertips of human beings I actually know. Anything and everything else goes to SaneLater.

I made use of Boomerang, which I’ve had installed for years and never actually noticed. I scheduled starred emails to return on the day an action item was due. The original message was then archived.

2. I took the plunge.

The great thing about Gmail is that all your archived emails are still searchable (via the nav bar at the top). They live in a far-off place you don’t need to visit unless absolutely necessary, far away from your actual inbox.

Sanebox offers a simple and useful methodology for e-mail management: Delegate, Defer, Delete, Respond, and Do.

After responding to, rescheduling, or filing away everything timely I could find, I did the unimaginable. I selected everything in my inbox — I mean everything — and *gulp* clicked Archive.

Sanebox has a tiny learning curve when it comes to additional features. Part of the fun is leveraging them for specific needs.

For example, I don’t always need a message to return if I don’t hear back from the recipient. I do, however, need constant reminders in order to follow up with people within a reasonably courteous timeframe and/or get things done by a specific date. Having the message go away then reappear when the timing is relevant is a hack that’s been working massively well for me so far.

After it was all said and done, my inbox looked like this!

IMG_4517

Day one went flawlessly. By removing the clutter I felt immeasurably energized and ready to do the deep work instead of staring at the screen in an overwhelmed stupor. I didn’t miss anything about the old e-mail workspace. I found myself attacking the “to dos” — the major bullseyes of the day that mattered most.

Email became secondary to workflow. Actual work came first. By using chunks of time specifically set aside for e-mail I now manage inbound communications tactically (while attempting to avoid becoming obsessed with the notion of persistent zero!). This week was noticeably more productive — my headspace has been clearer and I found that my mood was actually better.

All in all, the tedious effort was worth it in the end.  Inbox Zero for the win!

Now, does anyone have any tips for keeping it this way?!

8 Ways Minimalism Can Increase Your Productivity

I’ve moved a handful of times in the past few years. In order to make each transition go smoother than silk all efforts were made to donate or sell as much as humanly possible. (The word I used on repeat was “…catharsis!”)

In the end, it felt great to donate all those clothes I’d never wear again. I was initially sad to part with all the books I secretly knew I’d never read, knowing they’d find a better use in the end. The cooking supplies I’d barely use and stacks of house records I was holding onto for reasons only the vinyl gods know why — all of those things I simply didn’t need any more. They were a nice to have, but didn’t define or help me grow in any significant way within the present tense.

Change can be tough, but it has its silver linings. In the end, when I moved from New York to San Francisco my things were narrowed down to two suitcases and ten medium-to-large boxes. I could’ve pared it down even further but for some reason felt inclined to retain a shred of comfort found in the semblance of “stuff.”

After landing in San Francisco I moved into a studio apartment with only those two suitcases. I’d live there for two weeks as the boxes were in transit. On day 2, I realized that I’d packed a (mostly fabulous) wardrobe in those two suitcases but nothing more. So, I went to the store and purchased basic silverware, a cup, two plates and a french press. I then realized that if the boxes never arrived I’d be okay with that — there was something freeing about living with just the basics.

It was then I made the decision to bring new things into the apartment only when absolutely necessary. If something new was acquired, something old had to go. A year later, I’ve managed to keep my studio apartment fairly clean and relatively clutter free even after the boxes finally did arrive. This approach has done wonders for my head space too.

Here are eight ways that living a minimalist lifestyle has helped me to become better organized, slightly more focused and increasingly productive. I hope it helps you in some ways, too!

1. Your priorities are in clearer view.

When my space is very simple I am better able to focus on what needs to be accomplished in the present moment. Focusing on only the essential in the physical realm has helped me do the same in business. I pick two to three targets and use them as “bullseyes” to hit for the day. Like “stuff,” the challenge then becomes re-prioritizing the rest of the incoming noise trying to get in.

2. Less physical clutter = less mental cutter.

This sounds like a no-brainer but is truly revelatory when put into regular practice. You’ll be able to focus more when there’s less around you to visually and mentally take in.

3. You’ll spend less energy decision-making.

My diet is mostly vegan — on busier weeks I’ll order from a service like Hungry Root and other weeks cook simple dishes with slight variations at home. My closet consists of a  basic color palette of all neutral colors (black, white, gray, navy blue). I have go-to outfits for board meetings and other events for when it’s necessary to step it up a notch. Having quality pieces ready to go removes my mind from the details of getting ready, and instead puts me in the mindset of whatever it is I’m preparing for for the day.

4. Quality becomes a priority.

Back when I was buying things to satisfy a temporary need it was perfectly fine to buy cheap, throw-away items. Clothing that would fall apart in the wash, poorly made furniture, rickety kitchen appliances. I look at things now as more of an investment to buy only once.

5.  You’ll save tons of time.

I’ve been able to dedicate more time to the important things like investing in personal projects or in meaningful relationships with others. You’ll save time on housekeeping to-dos like cleaning and maintenance. Not to mention, the urge to “shop” or “run errands” completely goes away. All kinds of extra time opens up for the things that matter most to you.

6. Your pocketbook will thank you.

‘Nuff said!

7. There is literally nothing holding you back.

I have a home but don’t feel tied to it. I can comfortably travel, spend the weekend at my S/O’s, and feel happy and content knowing that if I need to move again at a moment’s notice — or have the opportunity to travel the world! —  I can easily do so. A tie no longer exists to  physical things that restrict me from moving around the world with ease.

8You will find yourself living a simpler, more conscious lifestyle with more intention and clarity than ever before. That’s the goal, at least! : )

Why Digital Marketing Is The Future (And The Future Is Now)

Is building a product actually easier than marketing the thing? Some would answer yes. Perhaps it depends on what you’ve set out to build. (Yo, anyone?) On one hand, while marketing has become easier due to more methods at our disposal and advanced tools for measuring impact, the holistic idea of “marketing” as a whole does have its challenges.

For one, marketing departments don’t have a template to follow. There are no feature sets, no assigned tasks in Jira, no testing build to see if the features actually work.

That’s not to say that building a quality product isn’t challenging — it’s been reported that  less than 0.01 percent of consumer mobile apps actually find financial success. The argument is then reversed. Is marketing to blame for this unfortunate rate of success?  Perhaps.

Marketing has it’s own set of uniquely complex problems. In some ways the old adage still rings true – “marketing is throwing things against the wall to see what sticks.” But things have gotten drastically better.

In recent years marketing strategy has evolved considerably and the old paradigm is much less relevant. Consider advertising. This year the BBC reported that for the first time ever teens are spending more time online than they are watching television. This leaves the advertising world scrambling to reach them in other places like YouTube, in-games, or within narrowcast messaging apps like Snapchat. (by the way, they no longer use Facebook.)

The good news is that these new marketing opportunities are long tail and highly quantifiable through qualitative data. In other words, we can now measure our marketing dollars much more clearly.

Take the following example. Rather than buying a Superbowl spot on television an advertiser runs a video campaign tied to a timely topic using celebrity influencers as bait. The distribution channels? Social media. Along the same lines, relevant ad units can purchased within games, and badges or funny filters are great offerings we’re starting to see presented within narrowcast environments.

With the exception of the television spot, all of the above is measureable. What’s more, it can be broken down by demographic and  user persona. It becomes easier than ever to understand who engages with your product.

By the way, this is exactly what the new’ish methodology of “growth hacking” employs.

[To be clear, growth hacking isn’t actually hacking. It is the process of deliberately employing small, measurable action items in order to see what actually works. After you get an idea of what consumers respond the best to, you can then double down in the areas with noticeable (measurable) success.]

Examples of these small and measurable action items include:  running an incremental batch of ad buys on AdWords or Facebook, A/B testing content on your website, low level influencer marketing, strategically posting to social media. Marketing dollars don’t need to be spent in chunks, rather in small increments — think subscriptions and incremental ad buys.

This approach is vastly different from the old days when simply doing things like issuing a press release, having a presence at trade shows, or buying billboard space were the norm.

The key in the digital economy is to focus on things that are measurable.  

Not only can you market your product in a highly strategic way,  you’ll gain valuable user feedback as you go.

The new marketing paradigm involves more channels than ever. These channels include but are not limited to: content optimization, community building, e-mail marketing, and business development. With so many options it’s important to be strategic and find the channels that work best for you.

There are countless combinations of levers to pull in order to find success, which are found through experimentation. Some approaches may work for one company and fail for yours. You must choose your channels wisely, and you’ll be reaching your goals in no time.

“Let Me Photograph You In This Light” – Adele’s 25

adele25

Adele’s “25” is the third full-length album from the singer/songwriter in four years following the understated international success of “21.”

One cold, rainy Sunday afternoon, I trudged home after spending the night (and two months) with someone (I loved, but) who wasn’t ready to commit.

Emotions were burnt, feelings were felt.

It was time.

I took a hot shower, cooked a single person’s omelette, and turned the volume way, way, up.**

Surely, there’s a therapist somewhere who’d agree that there’s comfort to be found in confronting the moroseness of life. (perhaps I’m quoting Morrissey there, or perhaps that’s just Morrissey 101.)

“25” isn’t a story based on a singular theme. Instead, many themes are woven together across the course of the album that in theory, if you’ve been dating long enough can be connected to at least one person within each.

The instant classic is “Hello.” It’s hauntingly beautiful and resolute, seemingly arriving on a night train from the past. It’s a voice that seeks to reconnect, to resolve — to validate from within the weighty fog of what once was.

The bouncing and swaying of “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” cheekily bids adieu to a former partner with whom the timing didn’t work out. Adele delivers her words with integrity and self-awareness, steadying the message while somehow reassuring us that it’s okay to reluctantly move on from someone without fully understanding every reason why. Emotively, the listener can sense her personal phoenix rising.

I was too strong you were trembling
You couldn’t handle the hot heat rising (rising)
Baby I’m so rising

“I Miss You” speaks to a physical craving gone adrift. It’s about a different type of longing — the one for human touch and sensuality. The caress of their fingertips, the way they ran their hands through your hair or down the back of your naked spine.

At this point I was typing fast but my fingers froze after the first verse of “When We Were Young.”

Everybody loves the things you do
From the way you talk
To the way you move…
Everybody here is watching you
‘Cause you feel like home
You’re like a dream come true

This song, assuredly a standout, is about the first person who truly knocked you on your ass. It’s about the sheer perfection of first love — the way you remember how that person looked at you, the beauty of youth and the flawless connection made before we grew to form our crusty outer shells.

It begs the question — when you go home for the holidays, will you see him or her again? Will everything freeze around them the way it used to, and if the two of you speak, will the words sound the same? Or will everything be different because, well, we’re grown ups now?

The sheer recognition of it all whisked me away. The song ended, I blinked a couple of times, and the distance between fifteen years ago and today was nothing but a tiny drop in the bucket.

Oh, Adele.

The album’s key themes are of youth, regret, forgiveness, self-acceptance, and the passage of time.

Adele finds a way to tie these back to the inquisitively beautiful and sometimes dark side of the mind — the one we catch glimpses of in moments of true clarity. As a lyricist this is where she excels. She finds a way to identify and voice our deeply-rooted insecurities, pushing them from the murky shadows into the light.

“All I Ask” is striking in eloquence, describing the last night spent with the love of one’s life. It ends with the question we commonly ask ourselves after doing everything we can to make a relationship work in order to avoid the inevitable — “what if I never love again?”

The finest pieces of art lend themselves to the human experience. Lyrically strong — and while not entirely gripping from a musical perspective — “25” is solid in conveying the themes it set out to support.

At occasional points the music seems decoupled from the voice almost in a timeshifting way. It’s as though the music was written for an older generation while the lyrics remain persistently modern.

I know I’m not the only one
Who regrets the things they’ve done
Sometimes I just feel it’s only me
Who never became who they thought they’d be

-Million Years Ago

Finally on “Love In The Dark,” Adele is the one initiating the break up. This is the song for the person whose heart you broke and ends with the line “I don’t think you can save me.”

Secretly, in your heart of hearts, you still wonder if that person could have done some saving after all.

“25” is a journey that is truly lovely and fully alive. It’s no surprise that, coming from Adele, the entire body of work finds a way to define and expose our most vulnerable truths in an exceptionally rare and elegant way.

This album heals and transcends. It also helps us to better comprehend.

After all, maybe that’s the artist’s intent. The desire to connect, and, after it’s all said and done quietly wonder: “Will anyone else understand?”

Yes Adele, we do.

“25” is out now. Buy the album from iTunes here

*Was this partly due to the fact that the album wasn’t available on Spotify? Probably.

**After re-learning how to buy an album on iTunes (did you know you have to navigate to “Music” separately after?)