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Johannes Holmberg

UI developer & designer

Last month I got this activity tracker ‘UP’ from Jawbone. It’s this pretty geeky thing you strap around your wrist and it’ll count the steps you make throughout the day.

I laughed the first time I laid my eyes on one, “I would never pay money to put this stupid thing on me”. “It doesn’t add anything to my life that my smartphone couldn’t do.”

Then I realized that the value for this thing laid in the reverse of that last statement. It doesn’t add anything, but it takes away some. Wait, what?

Up Bracelet

The worst thing I know about my smartphone is that it is the single biggest distraction machine in my life. That’s why I tried ridding myself of it for a year to see what it was like living without it. That experience changed the way I handle my phone today and unlike many others, I usually never have it on me. Too close and it increases the risk that I will pick it up and unlock that screen. And 99% of the times, for no reason at all. It robs me several minutes before my brain picks up why I did it in the first place.

I do use it to set an alarm clock in the morning. One great thing about the iPhone in particular (probably true for other brands as well) is that you can schedule the “Do not disturb” feature, so every night at 10 PM nobody can reach me anymore (Sorry about that mom.)

So the phone can’t reach me. But I can still reach for the phone.

I still ended up scrolling away at the blinding light of that screen, hunting down the instant gratification rush. Well, doing that just before bedtime is the perfect recipe for a disaster night. Instead of emptying my head, I fill it up with a lot of nonsense.

I hate this.

The greatest benefit of the UP bracelet is that it features no screen. You can activate reminders on it and it will feed back a gentle vibration. So, instead of the traditional alarm sound in the morning, I now wake up when I feel this slight vibration on my wrist. It’s a really pleasant feeling.

Thanks to this, my iPhone has found its way off the nightstand and out of the bedroom. It has to kindly wait for me in the office until I start my working day.

Every evening at 10.30, I get feedback on my wrist reminding me that I have half an hour to prepare for bed. If I go through with that, I get those 7 ½ hours that I figured out is the perfect duration for my sleep pattern.

This thing, that I scorned at in the beginning as one more in the row of geeky nerd things, actually helped me to design better evenings. More unobtrusive, distraction free evenings. It has really been a game changer.

(And yeah, it counts steps too.)