Developing Keystone Habits


Don’t forget the giveaway that’s going on right now. Click here for more details.

I’ve already gushed about Lift App before. This time, it’s not because I’ve actually received the T-shirt they sent me to say thanks for the first post (though I did). This time, it’s because I’ve experienced some cool psychology that I had only read about until now and I believe it’s thanks to Lift App.

Remember when I read The Power of Habit? I learned a lot from that book including about what Duhigg calls Keystone Habits. Research shows that committing to one keystone habit can improve and bring positive results the rest of your life. One example is food journaling. You can read in detail about it in this HuffPo article but the summary version is this: ask a group of people who want to lose weight to track their food intake. At the beginning they may forget a lot. Slowly they’ll remember to track one meal a day or maybe one day a week. Over time, they’ll remember more and more until they’ve started tracking everything. Then what happens? They become more aware of what’s going in their bellies.

“The researchers hadn’t suggested any of these behaviors. They had simply asked everyone to write down what they ate once a week. But this keystone habit — food journaling — created a structure that helped other habits to flourish. Six months into the study, people who kept daily food records had lost twice as much weight as everyone else.

“After a while, the journal got inside my head,” one person told me. “I started thinking about meals differently. It gave me a system for thinking about food without becoming depressed.” (article)

I’m totally experiencing this with Lift. I have a list of thirteen habits I’m tracking. Not all I’m trying to do daily, but ideally I would get to that point. I had an 18 day streak with reading my Bible until we did a lot of travelling this past weekend. I’ve been writing and reading more because I’m tracking these habits.

But flossing?

I’ve flossed 5 times since I started tracking in January. Three of which were this month.

In February I had had enough of the “Floss!” at the top of my screen always taunting me. “You should floss,” it said. “I don’t want to,” I would reply and then consider deleting that goal from the list. I’m not sure why I didn’t. Probably because my dentist wouldn’t be very happy with me and neither would my wallet for having to pay my dentist so much.

As I saw everything else on my list being lit up in green as I checked them off, the 1 minute it took to floss started seeming less daunting. I became more and more motivated to get the Floss lit green too.

So I decided: I’ll try to floss once a week. That is SO manageable.

Then when I did that two weeks in a row, feeling on top of the world, I decided I could manage twice a week. See where this is going?

Last night as I looked at where I was in my list as I was thinking about my evening and I realized: if I plan things right I can knock them all off. Providence agreed by getting a giant piece of apple (Eat More Fruit) stuck in my teeth, forcing me to floss.

All this to say: you should try Lift, or figure out a system that works for you if an app doesn’t. It’s worth it!

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  • amandamarvin

    Great post! Now I might be able to get through the many books I have on the go thanks to the lift app 🙂

    • Jess Versteeg

      I’m so glad other people are starting to use it. I’m enjoying the little community of encouragers who are showing up on the app to give props and helpful accountability!

  • Tanya

    This looks like a great app! I’ve been telling myself to floss for the longest time, haha. I’d probably add puppy walking and journaling to my list. Going to get the app now 🙂

  • Erin

    Thanks for mentioning us…again! It’s pretty cool to see this psychology play out, I’ve witnessed it in my own habit building. Another cool fact: we’ve had users suggest adding at least one easy habit. The positive energy you get from checking off one habit gives you motivation to check off the others.

    • Jess Versteeg

      Hey that’s a great point!

  • Pingback: Using Information To Reach Your Goals and Build Stronger Habits | Bucket List Journey()

  • scottwb

    I too have been using Lift and have flossing as one of my habits. The big secret for me was flossing in the shower. All of a sudden it became a part of my shower habit without thinking about it. As you know from reading The Power of Habit, it has a lot to do with the trigger. For me, washing my face triggers flossing now.

    • Jess Versteeg

      Flossing in the shower! It’s ridiculous and genius all at the same time. I’ll consider trying this!

  • Kevin Donlin

    Jess, I’ve been a huge fan of the keystone habits concept since first reading “The Power of Habit” last year.

    To the delight of my wife, I started making my bed every morning! 🙂

    Since I work for myself, I started experimenting. Which habits will help grow my business?

    I’ve found these 3 keystone habits work really well:

    1) Reading my monthly goal out loud for 1 minute every morning
    2) Visualizing it for 3 minutes
    3) Walking while saying affirmations out loud for 10 minutes

    What I like best is that, while the habits may be small, they produce big changes in my life and my business.

    I wish you all the best!

    Kevin Donlin
    3 Habits of Growth

  • John

    Hi Jess,
    I’m also reading this book right now. Tears (of joy). I’m in a reading fase now. I just made my first list (weekly schdule). Now it’s a matter of doing it. I’m happy to read that you have also struggled, so have I. I’m curious as to how I will do. Can I keep doing it each week or will I sudenly realise I have stopped doing what’s on my list.
    PS; Is your surname Dutch?
    Cheers, John

    • Jess Versteeg

      Glad you like the book! Check out my ebook for some helpful questions to ask yourself on how to keep working at your goals. Good guess on the last name 🙂