We all read articles about the risks and dangers of tech devices such as smartphones, but a growing chorus of voices urge a lifestyle where devices can help cultivate positive habits.
Harvard Business Review offers tips on tailoring your technology to a help create a healthier, happier life. Devices, the publication notes, can help us break bad habits and create new, positive habits.
The key is to develop triggers, such as reminders from a smartphone or an artificial intelligence (AI) device.
“Select the right trigger type,” the Harvard Business Review urges in the March 27 article. “Once you have this formula, build a trigger for it. You probably know your phone, computer, watch, and other gadgets can set reminders for a specific day and time. For a great many habits, that’s the right kind of cue: When I got tired of getting reminder calls from my bank, I asked Siri to ‘remind me to pay the mortgage at 7 PM on the 15th of each month.’”
The article encourages the development of a routine and a strategy to overcome obstacles to a healthier or more disciplined work routine:
“More and more people use apps to guide or structure their habit routines, particularly when it comes to meditation and exercise. If you’ve always intended to meditate, but don’t know where to start or how to stick with it, apps like Headspace, Insight Meditation, or Calm can talk you through each meditation session. If you’ve always wanted to become a runner, an app like Couch to 10K can coach you through a gradually ramped-up running program. Even apps like Google Inbox have implicit habit-formation tools: If you resolve to answer each email as soon as you read it, Google Inbox’s prefab, clickable responses will support you in that effort.”
To help you stay on track, you can get real-time encouragement through technology, including social media platforms such as Facebook for daily posting of articles or photographs. Skyping with friends can also provide encouragement and support.
Positive reinforcement will create a reward loop, the article concludes: “By building an association between doing something and getting some kind of immediate payoff, we train our brains to crave that habit loop. Tech helps here, too, either by providing an immediate reward or by offering other kinds of reinforcement. The key is to know what motivates you, so you can select a tech-enabled reward that actually works.”
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 and computers is that 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. Learn to use technology to trigger, enact, and reward your habits, and you can become a habit-forming machine. Maybe your tech can even help you develop one of the most powerful habits of all–using your phone, computer, or other gadgets more intentionally and less compulsively.
The bottom line is that there are hundreds of apps that can support your goals, whether it's more exercise, eating healthier, better sleep or getting to appointments on time. Yes, there’s an app for that!