How many times have all of us decided to break a bad habit or form a good one and failed utterly at doing so? At the beginning of every year, we solemnly make New Year Resolutions – to get fitter, quit smoking, or even wake up earlier. But it’s rare that any of these resolutions are actually carried through. Resolutions, life goals – whatever you want to call them – are difficult to form and break, such as the case may be. Enter Habit21, an app that helps you stick to your guns when setting goals for yourself.
From swear jars to apps
Named so because it gives you 21 days in which to achieve your targets, Habit21 is an Android app developed as part of the AngelCube incubator program in Melbourne by Zakaria Bouguettaya and Andrew Clapham, the people behind MySmock Pty Ltd. They hit upon the idea after setting up a swear jar at work where they saw that most people had plenty of habits which weren’t doing them any good, and other habits that they wanted to form. They realized that the best way to get them to do either of this was the traditional carrot and stick method.
Actionability makes it easier for you to achieve your goal
With Habit21, users set themselves targets or join existing ones, and commit to achieving them in 21 days. Two people nominated by the user act as trustees – their job is to confirm that the goal has been met. You speak with your hard earned cash; not achieving your target means that you lose $5. If, however, you do meet your goal, you get money from users who didn’t. It’s a simple mechanism which Bouguettaya and Clapham feel will motivate people to stick to their resolutions. The app asks the user everyday if they have adhered to their weekly milestone and provides a motivational quote to help them along the way as well. It also sends periodic emails to the trustees to check in on the user and find out how they are progressing towards their goal. The emphasis, unlike other goal formation apps, is on providing a clear pathway towards achieving the target. The weekly milestones are actionable, which makes it likelier for an user to follow through.
The psychology within
The psychological mechanism behind the app relies on a couple of factors. First, most people respond best to having an incentive as well as a disincentive. The 21 day limit is also the optimum amount of time required to change most habits, although it obviously varies from person to person and how deep the habit is ingrained (or how difficult it is to ingrain). Habit21 is designed to get people over the initial hump and provide them with the motivation to succeed, especially in something they have failed at previously. Bouguettaya and Clapham are working on an iterative approach with the app, but are exploring ways to vary the amount of time required for certain specific habits.
Jump starting the process of a long term change
Extensive research also revealed that having too many trustees made it harder for someone to start on the journey towards a different lifestyle. Picking out 2 trustees makes them think carefully about the people they want involved, and so it is likelier that the trustees will be people close to the user, and thus personally invested in helping them. Habit21 is not geared towards long term goals such as losing weight or quitting smoking, as those require long term investments from the person concerned. But what it does is jump start the process and provide you with that early surge of motivation and willpower. However, several users have already suggested creative ideas around longer term lifestyle changing goals. The founders’ own goals concerning the app include an iOS port and a web version, better social network integration and a different payment system. So if there is anything about yourself you have always wanted to change, give Habit21 a spin – achieving your targets has never been easier!
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