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The Cultivation of Small Habits
Running a kilometre a day adds up to 365km in the space of a year.
Reading 20 pages every night adds up to 2.5 books a month, or 30 books a year.
Saving $10 a day is $3650 a year.
Clearly, doing a little bit of something every day consistently can reap significant benefits in the long run. Yet, humans are frequently bad at keeping good habits and making plans for the future. Why might this be the case?
The answer lies in instant gratification. While we innately understand what our end goals might be, the progress we make might either be hard to track, or so miniscule that the end goal can seem overwhelmingly difficult. In fact, small progress can be so small that it can be viewed as a result of simply existing – that is, not worth acknowledging. This, however, is essentially the key to helping people maintain their good habits – recognising their achievements, no matter how small, can help people stay the course.
How do we see this in practice?
For all their misgivings, modern mobile games have retained their players extremely well. For example, achievement progress bars give players a visual representation of their progression. Login calendars with increasing rewards incentivize players to open the game at set intervals. These rewards usually come in the form of in-game currency. Currency itself is important, as it grants players agency in deciding how they want to spend their rewards.
Moving forward, workplaces have already started to apply this concept in the form of flexible benefits and performance bonuses, although these have remained somewhat static in nature. By more actively managing the economy of benefits and continuing to give our employees more agency to choose rewards that matter to them, we can better keep everyone in the company engaged, not just in the rewards but also the work.