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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Prospect Theory

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Reciprocity

Reciprocity

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Framing

Framing

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We tend to accept the option pre-chosen for us

Anchoring

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What we see first affects our judgement of everything thereafter

Fast & Slow Thinking

Fast & Slow Thinking

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Salience

Salience

Our choices are determined by the information we're shown

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Risk Aversion
We don’t like uncertainty and generally stick to what we know
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