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An Easier Way to Form New Habits

July 4th, 2011 by Lauren · No Comments

The long, long list of things I love would have two things right up near the top: striving for self-improvement(*), and the elegant use of technology to help humans do better. When the two come together, I get really, really excited.

I discovered a lovely and incredibly useful tool a while ago, but was recently reminded that it’s not as well-known as it deserves to be. This is my attempt at rectifying that situation.

People who love self-improvement like I do: meet HabitForge.

It’s a brilliantly simple tool that helps you start & maintain new habits. Those habits might be, well, anything. Some of mine include:

  • Get up 15 minutes earlier and walk to work.
  • Take 5 minutes in the middle of my work day to simply breathe.
  • Show up for people the way I promised them to, and be consistent in doing the little things that keep my relationships solid.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You create a free account, and enter your email address.
  2. You set up a new habit that you’d like to keep.
  3. HabitForge sends you an email first thing every morning, asking you if you were successful at _______ (whatever the habit was you described). The email contains two large text links: YES and NO.
  4. You click the appropriate link.
  5. After 21 days of consecutive “YES” answers, HabitForge congratulates you on your success, and stops the reminders. (The whole thing is predicated on the idea that it takes 21 days of consistent behaviour to start or change a habit.)

If you click “NO,” the clock is reset and you start over at Day 1 of 21. It’s that simple.

There are some additional options you can enable, such as adding some text about what’s motivating you – this text will appear every few days as part of your check-in email, to remind you of the all-important why behind your actions. (There are spots for both the pain you’ll feel if you don’t change your ways, and the benefits you’ll reap if you do.) You can also choose to make your progress public, for added accountability – or to join a group that’s striving towards similar goals.

I personally think this little app is absolute genius. If you’re a fan of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I can see HabitForge making the daily checklist much easier. But even if you only use it occasionally, the whole process is so simple that it’s well worth using it for support. For me, a daily email is a much more reliable reminder tool than putting it on my to-do list (too easy to slip to the bottom), my calendar (too full already), or goddess forbid, a mental note (there’s simply no way I can count on my memory for 21 days straight).

Highly recommended. If you’ve been meaning to make a change, no matter how small, give it a try.

(* With due respect to Danielle Laporte, whose excellent post, “Why Self-Improvement Makes You Neurotic,” is one of my all-time faves, I have not yet found a suitable replacement for the term “self-improvement” as shorthand for “practices that bring me closer to feeling a sense of personal integrity and power.”)

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