A habit is just a behavior that becomes a pattern: something we’re so used to doing that it becomes baked into our subconscious. That’s what makes bad habits so dangerous (we can’t stop doing them!) and good habits so powerful (we don’t have to decide to keep doing them — at a certain point, they become automatic).
As Charles Duhigg points out in The Power of Habit, a habit “loop” is made up of three pieces: the cue or trigger (whatever prompts you to engage in your habit), the routine (the habit itself), and the reward (the payoff that rewards and reinforces your habit). Your tech tools can help you with each of these components.
Tech is most useful with the first part of this loop — creating a dependable trigger that prompts you to follow your routine.
More and more people use apps to guide or structure their habit routines, particularly when it comes to reading and exercise.
The same logging apps that can serve as triggers may also serve as a reward. There are a lot of habit-logging apps that can work for this purpose, but if you’re using them as your reward as well as your trigger, take the time to test out a few until you find one that is pleasurable to use. You need to get a rush from logging your latest routine if you want this to reinforce your reward loop.
Breaking Bad Habits
The reality is that technology is now central to many of our habit routines. The whole reason we spend so much time fretting about our phones is because technology makes it so easy to develop new, undesirable habits.
But the same qualities that make tech a hazard zone for the development of bad habits also make it a very promising ally for the development of the habits we want.
Adapted HBR March 2018 Samuel