Nothing says "exciting blog post" quite like "productivity enhancing smartphone app." Given this irrefutable truth, you're in for a fucking treat, as I've just downloaded "Way of Life" for my iPhone and I'm here to you let you know about it.
The premise of this application is simple: create some recurring tasks and then note if you've worked toward them by the end of the day. You mark each task with either a "yes," "no," or a "skip" (for things that you don't intend to do every day) and you can see various charts and diagrams of your progress over time. You can also configure what its website hilariously refers to as "powerful reminders" (also known as notifications) to keep you on track. That's pretty much it.
As it turns out, this simplicity is a great thing, as people tend to make things too complicated for themselves when attempting to change their behaviors. Having recently read through The Power of Habit, which serves a relatively well-researched entry in the often terrible world of self-help books, I've learned that you can benefit greatly from adopting just a single new habit that has positive spillover effects (known as a "keystone habit"). Additionally, it helps to recognize the kind of events that trigger your everyday behaviors ("cues") and the rewards that you expect for completing them, as it helps you slot in new behaviors without having to fight off everything that is already burned into your brain.
With all of this in mind, I set up a short list of new habits to track, with one of them being the thing that I care about the most: updating this website again. In addition to feeling guilty about leaving the two or three people who are aware of this blog without anything to read, I've missed the variety and the sense of discovery that this endeavor brought to my life. Doing something new and writing about it each day isn't "hard," per se, but it's something that I've struggled to do consistently.
Taking 30 seconds each day to mark each of my habits with a "yes" or "no" each day may be the meaningless sort of reward that my brain craves. Whenever my mind wanders during the day, which is constantly, I'll instinctively reach for my phone and shuffle through applications to see if there are any shiny new popups for me to poke at. I mean, I don't consciously care all that much if one of my photos has gone from three "likes" to four, but I still get some kind of satisfaction out of clicking on the notification to confirm that took place. Now, whenever boredom or something else compels me to reach for my phone (cue), I'll be immediately reminded of some tasks that I've deemed to be important, and I'll later get the unadulterated thrill of seeing a green check mark materialize before me when the task is done (reward).
And hey, I ended up writing this post tonight, so this application probably works flawlessly for everyone in all situations.