Fresh Start Effect

We're more likely to stick to habits made at the start of new time periods

We can motivate ourselves to self-improve by using a time marker (a new week, month, year or event) to wipe the slate clean and focus on being better.

Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). The fresh start effect: Temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior. Management Science.

The study

Setup

11,912 members of a gym were surveyed over 442 days for their attendance.

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Results

Results showed that, next to the baseline, the probability of people going to the gym increased at the beginning of the week, month and semester, showing our higher in-built level of motivation at the start of new time periods.

np_read_2490885_000000

In detail

Key Takeaways

Motivate around fresh start moments. 

How can you help people achieve their dreams by communicating around multiple time chunks, such as the start of the week, month or year, or even personal events like birthdays, graduations or job changes? 

Target one-shots.

Fresh starts are particularly good at helping people make one-off decisions that perhaps they'd been delaying, such as getting that flu jab. What single task can you help people do around new time periods?

Use to overcome failures.

There are countless fresh start opportunities to help people who have let good habits slip. Frame it as a "new you", which gives an opportunity to separate themselves from past failures. Get them started by being empathic and having them Commit to a Tiny Habit.

Fresh Start Effect

We're more likely to stick to habits made at the start of new time periods

We can motivate ourselves to self-improve by using a time marker (a new week, month, year or event) to wipe the slate clean and focus on being better.

Dai, H., Milkman, K. L., & Riis, J. (2014). The fresh start effect: Temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior. Management Science.

The study

Setup

11,912 members of a gym were surveyed over 442 days for their attendance.

Results

Results showed that, next to the baseline, the probability of people going to the gym increased at the beginning of the week, month and semester, showing our higher in-built level of motivation at the start of new time periods.

Key Takeaways

Motivate around fresh start moments. 

How can you help people achieve their dreams by communicating around multiple time chunks, such as the start of the week, month or year, or even personal events like birthdays, graduations or job changes? 

Target one-shots.

Fresh starts are particularly good at helping people make one-off decisions that perhaps they'd been delaying, such as getting that flu jab. What single task can you help people do around new time periods?

Use to overcome failures.

There are countless fresh start opportunities to help people who have let good habits slip. Frame it as a "new you", which gives an opportunity to separate themselves from past failures. Get them started by being empathic and having them Commit to a Tiny Habit.

Fresh Start Effect

We're more likely to stick to habits made at the start of new time periods

We can motivate ourselves to self-improve by using a time marker (a new week, month, year or event) to wipe the slate clean and focus on being better.

The study

Setup

11,912 members of a gym were surveyed over 442 days for their attendance.

Results

Results showed that, next to the baseline, the probability of people going to the gym increased at the beginning of the week, month and semester, showing our higher in-built level of motivation at the start of new time periods.

np_read_2490885_000000

In detail

Pairings

Business Models

Create 'pain bundles' at new time periods

When we aspire to start afresh in new time horizons, we often need to let go of something that's holding us back: a bad diet, indebtedness, a broken relationship...

1) Health organisations could campaign for aspirational individuals to do a weekly, monthly or yearly health purge / trade-in, where unhealthy foods are ceremoniously removed from food cupboards. Marie Kondo for food, if you will. This way, the pain of deliberating on whether to keep or lose one pack of cookies or another bag of marshmallows is reduced.

2) Future FinTechs could offer products that incentivise faster debt repayments by making it temporarily attractive to pay back more of what you owe just after payday.

"0% interest if you pay back £100 today."

The money could be made on predicting patterns of bad debt and pre-empting them by buying the debt for cheap and offering rates for any payments made by the consumer.

Bundling the financial pain around a fresh start with an attractive, timely incentive will help people to make better decisions at a time when their resources are least scarce.

Ultimately, it's far easier to make a fresh start if we can start to let go of what is stale and no longer represents who we now want to be. Packaging any loss felt from our past selves is a good strategy for enabling a more successful future.

Overcome bad past investments with a clean, reflective slate

A fresh week, month or year offers a convenient opportunity for perspective-taking and a more rational assessment of work done to date. Letting go is hard, but iterative time segments with built-in pre-commitments around milestones can offer everyone a clean break from the past.

Behavioural Insights Team did this, setting a self-destruct button on the whole project if they weren't able to achieve a measurable outcome by a certain time.

Where in your projects can you create a future line in the sand upon which you can all decide to continue or not?

Connected to

Running workshops?

Fresh Start Effect

is included in Box One of our physical workshop tool.
is included in Box Two of our physical workshop tool.
Box Two