Habit Design And The New Year

My close friend Devon from out of town visited New York in early December. At dinner, when suggesting we begin with the crispy cheddar curds with spicy pimento sauce (mmm…), she dropped the bomb: “I gave up fried foods as my 2012 New Year’s resolution.”

As a midwestern girl who enjoys her deep fried fare, I was initially shocked, but we quickly moved on to find healthier alternatives. The next day, though, I found myself thinking about Devon’s successful resolution. What really surprised me isn’t that she gave up something so ubiquitous and delicious (though that’s a feat in and of itself), but that she maintained her New Year’s resolution all year long. I haven’t ever kept a resolution for longer than a few weeks — let alone 11 months — but she inspired me.

Habit design has been a hot topic this year, and for good reason; a host of new technologies have been introduced to help us make new habits and stick to them.

First, there are a wide range of mobile apps to help you incorporate new habits into your life. Lift is a habit tracking and self improvement app, in which the user identifies good habits and checks in each day. The app is social, so your friends on the platform can award you “props” for sticking to your goals. DailyFeats is another habit tracking app, that breaks down your goals into simple daily actions called feats. Each time you accomplish a feat, you earn points that can be redeemed for tangible DailyFeats rewards, like gift cards or magazine subscriptions.

Second, a growing range of wearable devices bring habit creation into the realm of the quantified self. Platforms like FitbitNikeFuel and the Jawbone Up enable you to seamlessly track your adherence to wellness goals, while the Lark and Zeo help you improve your sleep quality and stick to a consistent schedule.

Last, habit design technology is being built into a variety of everyday products. The Beam Toothbrush connects via Bluetooth to a mobile app to ensure you’re spending enough time brushing your teeth. The Floss Trainer is a toothbrush holder that detects when you’ve finished brushing, and prompts you to floss both visually and audibly.

So will I keep my 2013 resolutions? I feel like I have a better shot than ever before. It’s nice to know that when sheer willpower isn’t enough, I can turn to these applications and devices to help me take the first step toward lasting, positive change.