Get updates by email or on Twitter at @hughdurkin

Motivation, Ability, Trigger

Since December 31st 2020 I've written a blog every day. It's the 23rd of March 2021. I'm hopeful this trend - actually, habit - will continue for many months to come. Or years. Only time will tell.

What started as a small experiment is expanding. Blogging every day was meant to be one, small behavioural tweak to re-ignite parts of my brain that had fallen silent during a year long pandemic.

There have been other tweaks. Just over a month ago I installed Intention to help me manage browsing behaviour and reallocate my time. For 36 days in a row I've spent no more than 15 minutes per working day on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and news sites.

Before that, Pandemic panic set in. Each day - several times a day - I found myself checking "the numbers." Case counts, fatalities, the path to a vaccine. And everything else going on in the world.

I replaced all of those with a daily email from Mailbrew. I receive one email - every morning - with headlines from sources I care about, relevant updates from my Twitter timeline, share prices for companies I care about, and - once a week - simple analytics for this blog and some others I own.

I'm procrastinating less and doing more. I'm connecting dots more quickly. I'm more creative.

None of this is a surprise to me. I've read enough books over the years to understand how human behaviours work, and how human behaviours change. But books are useless without action.

I needed to take action.

One of the best explanations of human behaviour - and how to influence it - was published by BJ Fogg in 2009. "A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design" explores three factors that influence our behaviour model.

  • Motivation: usually Pleasure/Pain, Hope/Fear, Social Acceptance/Rejection.
  • Ability: removing obstacles like Time, Money, Effort, Brain Cycles, Deviance, and Routine.
  • Trigger: one or all three of Spark (Hope/Fear), Facilitator (Ability), and Signal (Reminder).

Looking back at the last few months, here's how I reason about the changes I've made:

  • Motivation: Get pleasure from being creative, double down on post-pandemic hope.
  • Ability: Create a new, simple blog (Less, But Better), add time constraints, change routine.
  • Trigger: Spark was the end of a tough year, Facilitators were here, Signal was New Years Eve.

Many say technology has created more harm than good in the world. I know I'm biased, but I disagree. What we do - individually and collectively - with that technology is what matters. It's on each and every one of us to change our behaviours if we feel they're getting out of whack.

Easier said than done, I admit, but technological progress has given us more tools than ever. Headspace, Calm, Waking Up - and Tiny Habits, by BJ Fogg. Check out his blog and projects here.