Tiny HabitsOpen Access

Tiny Habits

We're more likely to reach goals when broken down into smaller ones

The hardest step is the first. Instead of committing to a half marathon tonight, just commit to getting your running shoes on.

Adams et al. (2017). Adaptive goal setting and financial incentives: A 2 x 2 factorial randomized controlled trial to increase adults' physical activity. BMC Public Health.

The study

Setup

96 women were given fitness trackers and asked to either walk 10,000 steps per day or walk a bit more each day than the average of their own last 9 days. This equated to a lower number of steps than the 10,000 group but had the benefit of adapting to each person’s own step count.

Results

Results showed that over 4 months, those with a smaller, adaptive goal walked far more than the 10,000 group.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

Start very small.

We’re time and attention-poor, wanting results now. As one step up from Endowed Progress, what is the smallest, valuable task you can design for that affords a fast, positive Feedback Loop?

To increase long-term success, Tiny Habits creator BJ Fogg suggests using an existing behavior to trigger a new one by 'chaining' new tiny behaviors onto existing habits. 

Takeaway image

Keep the bigger goal front of mind.

People who’d completed a small exercise task were less likely to eat healthy food after, due to a short-term feeling of success (Fishbach et al., 2006). However, prompting a reminder of the larger Goal Prime of becoming fit removed this problem.

Time the reminder after tiny task success.

Takeaway image

Make it adaptive.

A system that flexes with our fluctuating capacity (i.e. time or energy) will always work best. Understand users’ habitual patterns & weak points and design empathic experiences around these. 

Takeaway image
Takeaway image
Tiny Habits

Tiny Habits

We're more likely to reach goals when broken down into smaller ones

The hardest step is the first. Instead of committing to a half marathon tonight, just commit to getting your running shoes on.

The study

Setup

96 women were given fitness trackers and asked to either walk 10,000 steps per day or walk a bit more each day than the average of their own last 9 days. This equated to a lower number of steps than the 10,000 group but had the benefit of adapting to each person’s own step count.

Results

Results showed that over 4 months, those with a smaller, adaptive goal walked far more than the 10,000 group.

study graph
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Open access, foundational Nuggets

Scarcity

Scarcity

We value things more when they’re in limited supply

Social Proof

Social Proof

We copy the behaviors of others, especially in unfamiliar situations

Prospect Theory

Prospect Theory

A loss hurts more than an equal gain feels good

Reciprocity

Reciprocity

We’re hardwired to return kindness received

Framing

Framing

We make very different decisions based on how a fact is presented

Loss Aversion

Loss Aversion

We feel more negative when losing something than positive when we gain it

Default Effect

Default Effect

We tend to accept the option pre-chosen for us

Anchoring

Anchoring

What we see first affects our judgement of everything thereafter

Fast & Slow Thinking

Fast & Slow Thinking

We make knee-jerk spontaneous decisions that can cause regretful damage

Dynamic Norms

Dynamic Norms

We’re more likely to change if we can see a new behavior developing

Salience

Salience

Our choices are determined by the information we're shown

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