Everything flows from our habits. Our identities, our health, our productivity, our relationships. These all are defined by our habits, which makes them the most critical but also the most elusive aspect of life. Humans will always have to battle their habits.
That’s why a book like Atomic Habits by James Clear spent over 45 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. James’ advice largely revolves around using our beliefs, identities, and environment to build better systems for willpower. Basically, he teaches us how to use our minds to battle our minds.
But I think technology is the better way to hack our habits.
How The Daily Streak Hacks Our Habits
One of the most effective designs that an app can incorporate to hack our habits is the daily streak tracker. Two of my favorite apps are the Kindle App and the Bible App, for this exact reason. I literally won’t go to sleep until I’ve opened them and kept my streak alive.
Here’s the current streak I have running with both apps:
Ryan is learning Spanish. He’s logged nearly 130 straight days in the Duolingo app. Even when he only has 2 minutes, he’ll open the Duolingo app to do one lesson because he wants to see this graphic come up:
When you think about it, habits are nothing but streaks. When you break the streak, you break the habit. That’s why building a streak meter into the app adds that extra oomph to open the app every day.
I know somebody who has a 1,000+ day streak in Duolingo. They’re already fluent in the language they use the app for. But they care enough about the streak to keep the habit alive.
Apps like Habit allow you to build a streak meter into any habit you want, online or offline. However, I think there’s a way this tech is elevated even more.
How Tech Will Help Us Form Better Habits
Freedom is a popular browser plug-in that allows you to lock certain websites for set periods of time. Many people use it to lock themselves from using YouTube, Twitter, etc. during work hours. I think this concept will be baked into more of our technology in the future.
Imagine a tech experience where you can prevent certain “distractive tech” from working until you’ve accomplished your goals with “productive tech”.
For example, you program your phone to prevent you from opening TikTok until you’ve clocked 20 minutes in the Kindle app. Or an Apple Watch integration where you cannot turn on your Apple TV until you’ve logged 10,000 steps on your Apple Watch.
Apple is the most capable of making this happen because its hardware/software ecosystem communicates so well.
Overall, it’s clear that willpower alone is not enough of a defense against bad habits for most people. Therefore, this is a clear instance where more technology is actually the solution.