Tech DeKoded — Apps, Zaps and New Year Resolutions

A shocking tale: The Pavlok in action

What starts strong at the beginning of the year, looks shaky by the middle of January, and fizzles out completely by the time February comes knocking? Yes, we are talking of resolutions! They seem to be like Teflon — so difficult to stick to.
However, if you can’t power your resolutions on willpower alone, let these smart ideas and technologies do some of the heavy lifting.

There’s a zap for that

The Pavlok is a wrist-worn wearable that claims to break bad habits in just five days, by shocking you out of them. No, seriously! Every time you find yourself indulging in an activity that you have resolved to overcome, press a button and Pavlok zaps you with a bolt of electricity! Apparently, this helps “train your brain to dislike bad habits”.
But if the idea of shocking yourself into submission sounds a bit too draconian, you could always invest in a more ‘benign’ wearable like a Fitbit, that keeps track of your activities and food intake; or the Spire, which looks out for stress levels and “coaches you to a more calm, balanced state of mind”.
Though if you would rather stick to resolutions without investing in additional hardware, you could try some of these apps and sites. First off, how about the prospect of losing money if you fail at keeping a resolution? Stickk wants you to put your moolah where your resolutions are — if you achieve your goals, you get the money back. Otherwise, it goes to a charity or even to someone you hate!
Or try Forest to avoid distractions — here, you plant a virtual sapling and help it grow into a tree by focusing on the task at hand. But wander away to a time-wasting activity — yes, Facebook we are staring at you — and the sapling withers away. And you, sir, are now guilty of killing an innocent tree! On the flip side, as the name suggests, you can stick to your goals and keep growing trees until you have your very own virtual forest.
Another feature-packed app and site combo that will help you successfully tick off the line items on your resolutions checklist is GoalsOnTrack, which promises to be a “systematic approach to achieving more by doing less”. But be warned — you will need to commit $68 per year for it. A cheaper option is 21 Habits, where you pony up $21 for the “committed mode” — you get a dollar back every day if you stick to good habits for 21 days. Which, apparently, is enough time to turn those habits into second nature.

The old-fashioned way
Not interested in apps or zaps? Well, you could supplement your willpower with couple of simple tricks highlighted in the Freakonomics podcast, titled ‘When Willpower Isn’t Enough’. One of them is the concept of “temptation bundling” — the “idea of tying together two activities: one you should do but may avoid; and one you love to do but isn’t necessarily productive.” So, for example, if you have been eyeing that sumptuous chocolate bar for the last few hours, why not link it to spending 10 minutes at the gym? Finish the latter, and then go ahead and gobble up the former!

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? So go ahead and try it out, along with some of the other ideas mentioned here. And do tell us how it went in the comments below. In the meantime, we shall be off to practice what we have just preached here…