Using Technology for Habit Hacking


It’s december. The new year is right around the corner.

Millions of people will make tens of millions of so called new year’s resolutions. The start of a grand plan to change their life for the better. Think of all the “I’ll get fit” and “I’ll quit smoking” ‘s you hear around this time of the year. One might even aim to read more books..

Too bad most people hardly ever get past the resolution-stage. Why is that?
One simple reason is that people are creatures of habit.

In this article we’ll help you conquer these giant new year’s resolution mountains through the use of technology and habit hacking.

We’ll talk about three things in this article:

  1. How a habit works
  2. How to create or change a habit
  3. How to use technology in the process.

To finish up the article we have some practical examples from our own lives.

Sidenote: If you’ve already read a lot about habits, skip to Habit hacking 2.0

Disclaimer: we use a lot of stuff from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit in this article. Check out our book page on this book if you haven’t yet.

 

How habits work

In the simplest terms, habits work like this:
A cue triggers a routine in the hope of getting a reward.

  • Cue: We enter the kitchen and see the fridge
  • Routine: We open the fridge or cupboard and stuff our faces
  • Reward: Sweet sweet sugary hapiness

Optional guilty feelings after.

habit-loop

That’s it. Easy as that. Can you think of a habit from your daily life and figure out the cues and routines?
This short explanation is all we need to know for this article. If you want to know more, check out our book page on The Power of Habit or read the book yourself. 😉

 

Creating or changing habits

Creating a new habit
If you want to create a new habit, the easiest way to do it is to pair it to an existing habit or cue/trigger. We’re in the habit of not reinventing the wheel, so check the following infographic. It’s not ours, but it explains it all.

Flowchart-How-to-Create-a-Habit

BTW: keep in mind you want to avoid using rewards that might turn into “bad habits” in the long term.

 

Changing a habit
We can use the same principles to change a habit. This time however, we want to change the rewards from negative to positive. For example, taking a walk instead of smoking a cigarette. The following infographic from Charles Duhigg’s website explains it in more detail:

How-to-Change-a-Habit

 

Habit hacking 2.0

2017.05.10 UPDATE:

We recently stumbled upon the app ‘Productivity’ which basically does all of the below but with less of a hassle. Check it out here.

Most of us have a smartphone that has basic location awareness & a clock and/or alarm. These 2 basic functions can be used to vastly increase our success rate in creating or changing habits.

Create a location or time based daily reminder that you can use as a cue. After a while you can delete them because the habit will be ingrained in your daily life. iPhone users can use the Reminders app or any other task manager with basic functionality:

iPhone Reminders Habit Hacking

You can also use your smartphone calendar. For example, plan your week on Sunday and make sure the time slots for your workouts are blocked/filled including travel time and time you need to prepare or shower afterwards.

Figure out for yourself what works best for your life. Everyone is different so what works for one person might not for the other.

Examples from our own lives

I take supplements like vitamin D, magnesium and fish oil. I used to forget this every day. I set a daily reminder “when I arrive home” to take them. Now I don’t need the reminder because arriving home became the cue to trigger this habit.

 

My favorite example is how I got to read more books. It’s actually twofold: read more books & listen to more audiobooks. I’ve read/listened to over a hundred books this year alone, so apparently it worked. 🙂

 

I put a book next to my toilet, sofa and bed. Every time I took a seat or got in bed I read 1 page.
Just 1. Easy Peasy. Even when I’m suuuuuper tired (or even drunk), 1 page before going to sleep is easy. Now I probably read around 10 or more pages every night. Multiply by (almost) 365 and you actually read a lot on a yearly basis!

 

Audiobooks. We love them because they are sooooo easy. I started listening in the car, doing housework and cooking. I listen to around 3 every week. Now when I’m not listening to one in my car or when vacuüming it feels weird!

 

So, give it a shot! BTW don’t wait for the new year to start with your project 😉 Start now!
If you want some further reading on habit hacking, check out this article by FastForwardAmy on Willpower hacking or our own, previously referenced book review on The Power of Habit (it has some youtube video’s for the lazy).

 

What habits will you try to create or change and how did this article help? Let us know 😉

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