How to create good habits and break bad habits using streaks to gamify your success.
We all have dreams we wish to achieve, personal goals we want to mean, or unhealthy habits we want to break. Be it writing that book you have inside of you, or quitting smoking we so often fail.
From personal experience, I’ve lost and gained weight, failed to complete multiple projects, and experienced the frustration of never quite reaching my full potential. How do we get things done and beat this negative spiral?
For me, the answer was “streaks”!
What is a streak?
Several years ago I discovered the term “streak” whilst using a social media application. My friend and I would send a message each day to each other, and it would increment our streak once each day accordingly.
What started as fun, quickly became a rather compelling game we didn’t want to break! We have been messaging each other for over 200 days and now wanted to make it to at least a year! Because why not?
Needless to say, we hit 1500 days in a row before we finally called it quits as we outgrew the platform, BUT therein is the power of the streak.
By gamifying the process of communication, and by carrying out a seemingly small and simple task each day, our friendship blossomed and we as sure as heck didn’t want to see that streak hit zero.
How I first utilised the “streak”
During this process, I wondered if I could take advantage of the streak to complete a book I had been meaning to read. I decided to read one chapter a day for say 25 days. (Let’s say there were 25 chapters, it’s been a long time I can’t remember exactly). I would get up each morning, read the next chapter (which would take approximately 10-15 mins) then I would log it on a spreadsheet, watching the “streak” number go up each increment.
We all know how quickly 25 days can go. Within 25 days, I had read a book I’d been trying to read for 2 years! I tried the same with the Bible that I’ve spent over 20 years not completing! To date, I have read it from cover to cover twice since using streaks! (And yes it is still wild and boring in all sorts of places).
Why do streaks work at a personal level?
The one person you can’t lie to is you! Whilst we might be able to fool others that we are supposed to be accountable to, we cannot fool ourselves. Over the years I’ve entered into many accountability relationships, only to find new and inventive ways to satisfy my colleagues that I was making progress whilst I was still struggling.
When it comes to tracking streaks on a personal level, there is extreme satisfaction in seeing that number go up. The moment I miss a day I know it. If I try and increment that streak number knowing I missed the mark, the feeling of joy and satisfaction is missing. I can’t fool myself and I have to start over with the mission to beat my last score.
What do you want to achieve?
Consider yourself. What would you like to achieve over the next few weeks? Would it be to write a blog once a week? Go for a short walk every day? Quit smoking? Adhere to a daily exercise plan?
Whatever your dreams, write them down and consider how achieving each one would make you feel, and its impact on your life.
Now you have your list of dreams, choose one of them. It’s best to select something that:
- will positively affect your life.
- you are truly excited about
- you should be able to achieve with your current skills
- there would be observable changes within a reasonable timeframe
Track your progress
Streaks are powerful in their simplicity. From a simple number, you can see your progress which in itself is the reward you need to keep pushing on.
You can start simply with a notepad using a tally system, or if you’d prefer to use an app you can use something like the Dailyo app and set up a “goal” that will allow you to track your streaks.
Check in on your progress regularly in order to remind yourself how you are doing, and to encourage yourself to keep going. Remember too to remind yourself why you are doing this, and what you expect those outcomes to be.
As you build up your streaks, celebrate your success. Set some milestones that you’d like to reach and rewards that you’d enjoy. For example a meal out when you complete that book. A day off work when you reach that streak goal and so on.
Celebrating our successes helps us to feel good about ourselves, which then means we are then more likely to maintain our momentum.
As you develop new habits, break old ones and achieve great things, remember this: small achievable actions lead to big change.