As I write this I've been using duolingo
for exactly 74 days. How do I know? Because the app tells me I have a 74-day streak going. I've found that slight external motivator is enough to keep me conjugating verbs even when it's the last thing I want to do. The psychological pain of breaking that streak forces me to pick up the app and at least do the minimum required. Sometimes I pick it up and spend a long time learning the gender of German words, but the streak gives me a minimum requirement for days I don't have any motivation.
Years ago I heard that Jerry Seinfeld used this unbroken chain method
to improve his writing productivity. I filed it away as something that might work, but it always seemed like something I should use for one big life task of some kind. Using it for a small thing like working in an app for 10 minutes means I have a constant sense of forward progress even if it's slight progress. I'm much less likely to put down the app for days at a time and eventually stop using it.
Now that resolution season is upon us I wondered if there was a way to create unbroken chains in other small areas of my life. Of course there's an app: Streaks
. I've been using Streaks for exactly three days (guess how I know) and I've already found it's having a similar duolingo effect. I was already walking a certain amount each day, but seeing even the small number of days add up as a score is an extra push out the door.
Streaks integrates with other apps on my phone like the Apple Health app, so tasks like walking a certain number of steps checks off automatically. Non-automatic tasks are easy to schedule and it has a thoughtful interface for completing tasks. There are calendars and charts and everything you'd expect to visualize streaks. It has a large icon library so you can pick an appropriate visual ID for your task, like this:
One annoyance I've found so far is a hidden action (shaking the phone) to undo an accidental task completion. Otherwise I highly recommend Streaks as an extra motivator for tasks small and maybe even large in the new year. In February I'll report back how many days I actually ended up using it.