Essays on Technology and Culture

Workflow: Data to Day One

I won’t take back some of the awful things about the Health app in iOS. It’s a clunky, poorly designed app that either needs a UI overhaul, or be hidden so that other apps can use its storage and synchronization APIs without taunting users into opening it. Still, with Apple Watch and apps that take full advantage of HealthKit, fitness tracking on iOS has improved a lot in the last year. The only place it falls down is that it’s easy to get data into Health, but very hard to get it out for whatever you want to accomplish with it.

I’d love a way to get a quick glance at my personal health data, especially historically. Health app sucks for this, and the individual apps that feed data into HealthKit are all fractured. MyFitnessPal is a great food tracker, and a miserable experience for exercise tracking. The Apple Activity app is great, but doesn’t sync with anything but Health. My preferred fitness dashboard, Fitport is good for a picture of your day so far, but does nothing for historical data. Piping all my hot, fresh fitness data into another service, like, say, Jawbone, is a world of hurt. I need another solution.

Many moons ago, I used Brett Terpstra’s Slogger to pipe my FitBit data into the awesome Day One journaling app. When I gave up on / lost my second FitBit, I gave up on saving that data. Slogger is cool, but it’s also a pain in the ass to set up, and won’t get data out of Health, anyway. That lives on my iPhone, not anywhere Slogger can get at it. So, my fitness data languished.

Then I had an epiphany. Workflow.

Workflow recently added support for HealthKit, both to save data to it, and pull data from it. What if I used Workflow to pull relevant data from Health, format it nicely, and stick it in a Day One entry with a hashtag to sort it out? It took some finagling, but I finally got something that works. Here’s what it looks like when it’s done:

Day One on iPhone

Okay, not fancy. No charts or graphs, but it’s a succinct picture of my day, with all the metrics I’m tracking as I try and drop about thirty pounds or so. I could get way more detailed, and track macronutrients, but I don’t care about that. I’m just making sure I burn more than I consume, and making sure the big number trends downward.

If you want to use this yourself, or tweak it for your needs, you can find the workflow here. I have the Workflow saved as an action in Launch Center Pro, with a push notification scheduled for 9:30 PM each day, which is also when I get reminded to do my daily journaling.

Hopefully, future versions of Workflow add support for getting the amount of time spent working out, and maybe access to sleep data, so I can get a bigger picture. Either way, what I have is a good, simple start for taking control of my data and seeing what I’ve been doing. Or, I suppose, not doing, if I ever fall off the wagon.