I’m a big believer in self-improvement, and in my mind, if you do one thing a day that’s good or is something new, then it is a day well spent. Whether it’s through working out, trying new things professionally, or simply getting through a tough day, you may be surprised at how helpful the Apple Watch can be for just about anything.
This is part of a series of articles exploring all the ways we're using tech to thrive in 2024. Read them all here.
Whether you’re rocking the latest Apple Watch Series 9, Ultra 2, or one of the older models (I use the original Ultra), there’s just so much the Apple Watch and watchOS can do to make life a little easier and help you better yourself.
Here are just a few ways I’m using my Apple Watch to improve my life in 2024.
Focus modes aren’t new, but they’re something I’ve never truly experimented with outside of some specific examples like ‘Sleep’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’.
In 2024, I’m planning on changing that, and setting a variety of schedules. For example, one Focus mode is ‘Work’, which will automatically kick in at 9 am and run through to 5:30pm with a gap for a workout in the middle (its own Focus mode).
‘Work’ will mute social notifications and open up my most commonly used work apps on my Mac. As a freelancer, though, my hours aren’t always regular, so while my day job may finish at half past five, having the Apple Watch to quickly slip into a ‘Freelance’ Focus mode where I get notifications from an alternate email address and open a variety of other apps is crucial.
Being able to switch these on the fly, as well as revert back to default settings or phone-free family time without needing to open the phone itself and get distracted, is likely to be a huge boon for my productivity.
Taking care of myself
The Apple Watch is packed with features for both health and exercise, but I’m definitely not using the former enough.
In 2024, I’m going to re-enable hand-washing notifications again (I know, I know), and properly set up a sleep schedule that works for me rather than winging it every night.
I’ve already started using the medication reminders, too, ensuring I’m taking my tablets consistently.
I’m also using a standing desk, which has been a game-changer for regular meetings, and it ties in nicely with Apple Watch nudging me to stand for a minute every hour.
A healthy sidekick
2023 was a fairly rough one for me, health-wise, and that means I have some catching up to do in 2024 – particularly when it comes to cardio.
My exercise app of choice for cardio is Strava, but with a newly-diagnosed heart condition I have concerns about running alone, so I am thankful for the Apple Watch Ultra’s built-in siren to call for help should I need it – especially because I prefer to leave my phone at home.
I stream downloaded podcasts and playlists from Pocket Casts and Spotify respectively, letting me stay focused without carrying a bulky iPhone 15 Pro Max in my pocket (I also smashed a phone a while back when stumbling over on a run, and I’m not looking to go through that again).
When I’m at the gym, I regularly use Fitbod. I’ve been using it for around a year and a half now, and I love the way it offers measurements to show how far I’ve come in that time.
Better yet, the Apple Watch version of the app lets me tick off my sets and exercises like a to-do list that perfectly scratches an itch in my brain that just loves checking things off.
Taking a shortcut
Apple’s Shortcuts ecosystem has grown to add a whole host of actions and apps, and the company has started adding buttons to help access them, too.
The iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max Action Button is great, but if you have an Apple Watch Ultra, you can trigger them right from your wrist.
That can let you open a certain array of apps on your Mac and trigger your Focus mode while you’re grabbing your morning coffee, or set your lights just how you want them through HomeKit, or quickly produce a custom percentage when calculating a tip.
Shortcuts do require a little setup, but the system is well worth persevering with, and you can set multiple-choice actions, too. For example, a press of my action button lets me start a workout, kickstart Fitbod, or take me to my to-do list.
Little life helper
There’s plenty more that your Apple Watch can do that you may not have considered. I travel a fair amount for work and prefer using the Maps app on my watch for directions rather than needing to pull out my phone, for example.
Similarly, your Apple Watch can unlock your Mac to save you from entering your password. To set this up, you first need to make sure your Mac and Watch have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth turned on, are locked to the same Apple ID using two-factor authentication, and that your Apple Watch is using passcode security.
Ticked all of those boxes? It's then just a case of going to the Apple menu on your Mac, going to System Preferences > Security & Privacy > General and then checking the 'Use your Apple Watch to unlock apps and your Mac' box (below).
All of this really only scratches the surface of the little life-enhancing tricks that the Apple Watch is capable of.
Left your phone in the car when buying milk? You can use Apple Pay to pay for it. Phone fallen behind the seat? You can ping your phone using the watch – to do this, just tap the side button (or swipe upwards) to go into Control Center, then tap the phone icon to trigger a loud alert sound.
All of these little features add up to make the Apple Watch hard to live without at times – and I’m looking forward to it directing my life in lots more small, new ways in 2024.
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Lloyd Coombes is a freelance tech and fitness writer for TechRadar. He's an expert in all things Apple as well as Computer and Gaming tech, with previous works published on TopTenReviews, Space.com, and Live Science. You'll find him regularly testing the latest MacBook or iPhone, but he spends most of his time writing about video games at Dexerto.