Already abandoned your New Year resolutions?
We have a hard time changing our behavior. By now, approximately 60 percent of us have already abandoned our New Year resolutions. One study shows that 35 percent of those who made resolutions, never even started them.
Not surprisingly, the most popular resolutions are health related — for weight loss, exercise and quitting smoking. With the number of health apps soaring, are we better equipped to stick to our resolutions? Are mobile health apps helping people change their behavior?
Chances are you also abandoned the health apps you downloaded.
According to Flurry, a research firm that collects big data on mobile applications, 38 percent of mobile apps are not used after the first day, and 90 percent are abandoned after 6 months. Coincidentally, the 90 percent abandonment after 6 months also correlates to New Year’s resolutions!
Pew Research reports that for downloaded health apps, 26 percent are only used once. With so much failure, how can mHealth design better for success?
Tiny habits for big change
If you’ve been on Twitter lately, you may have noticed a growing wave of people signing up for BJ Fogg’s one week experiment, 3 Tiny Habits. BJ Fogg is Stanford innovator and psychologist focused on behavior change. Hundreds have succeeded to change their behavior using Fogg’s Tiny Habits, including many people in the health community as well as tech stars, e.g., VC Bryce Roberts, “Big Change from Tiny Habits.”
I participated in 3 Tiny Habits the week of December 11th, and can also testify that the simple system does work!
According to BJ Fogg, when you know how to create tiny habits, you can change your life forever: “I’ve explored human behavior for 18 years, mostly at Stanford University. I’ve learned that many assumptions about habits are wrong.”
He says you have to forget about motivation. Forget about 21 days. Forget “one habit at a time.” Nothing matters as much as taking baby steps repeatedly over time, just like a baby learns to walk. You commit to 30 minutes for only one week.
A typical session:
–Saturday or Sunday (12 min): You learn about habits and you select 3 new habits you want to start.
–Monday – Friday (3 min): You do your 3 habits, and you respond to a daily message from BJ.
The formula for success: After I do “X,” I will do “Y”
Fogg’s program focuses on tiny new habits linked to existing behaviors or habits you already do throughout a normal day. For example, “AFTER I brush my teeth, I WILL floss one tooth.”
A big success for me was: “After I get out of bed, I will put on my running shoes.” Notice I didn’t commit to running or even walking, just putting on my running shoes. The result? I was considerably more active throughout the whole day. As someone who works at a computer most of the day, this tiny habit got me outside several times a day and, eventually, I started a regular walking ritual. Success!
BJ explains, “You can’t force this connection, just like you can’t force a small plant to grow. But you can speed it up by experiencing good feelings about what you’re doing, at the precise moment you’re doing it. For example, when I do a new tiny behavior, I think (and feel) ‘Victory! I’m getting better.’ I know that sounds goofy, but it works.”
Also, for Tiny Habits to work, do not pick a habit you want to stop. However, you can reframe it. For example, Bryce Roberts wanted to cut down on his phone usage at home. His solution: switch his phone to airplane mode after he got off the train.
Another plus was BJ’s daily encouragement. At first, I was surprised. Was BJ personally responding to email responses? Apparently, I wasn’t the only one wondering. He twittered, “It’s me, sitting at the keyboard, responding to people. It’s fun, and I learn stuff.” His interest in your success is sincere and palpable.
To join a Tiny Habits session, you can sign up here: http://bit.ly/apply3tinyhabits.
If This, Then That: IFTTT
The beauty of Tiny Habits is that Fogg designed the whole program in less than four hours with no special technology. The challenge to mHealth developers? Apply this theory of behavior change to one health challenge and develop an app that nets healthy behavior!
A similar successful concept was developed by a “two-person” startup with a productivity tool called IFTTT, which stands for “If This, Then That.” IFTTT users simply connect two Internet services together to respond to triggers, under the construct that if this happens, then do that. “IFTTT” just received $1.585 milllion in funding.
Inspired mHealth developers interested in designing for behavior change, click to view BJ Fogg’s new behavior model.
Other resources by BJ Fogg:
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