86 - Habit-building 14: Building a habit MVP

04-08-2023

habit-building

Product managers and designers are obsessed with reducing friction for users. It’s not unusual to find them laboring over the smallest detail, like the placement of a text field or the number of clicks to checkout. While to the untrained eye it may seem like making a mountain out of a molehill, the golden rule for any habit-forming product is to make it easy for users.

We can apply the same rule to building good habits as well. Our only real motivation is to be lazy. We are wired to make no effort at all, if we could. So we look for the path of least resistance. Our energy-conserving selves tend to quit things that tire us.

Thankfully, there’s a hack. We require less and less effort to continue doing something. So if only we could get started we can be reassured that later would be easier. That makes habit-starting the main challenge.

The best approach to habit-starting is to scale it down. Scale it down to the smallest quantum of effort needed to form a new habit. This is what product managers do with a minimum viable product (MVP). **Build the smallest slice of a product that solves a real problem for the customer and hooks her for the future. **Because once the customer is hooked, it is more effort for her to stop using the product than to continue using it.

You can take this concept and apply it to habit formation. Your goal is to design a habit MVP. **A habit MVP is the smallest chunk of a routine that fits into your life without disrupting it such that you can perform it repeatedly without needing motivation. **As the action becomes habitual, its scope expands as you feel less physical or cognitive load to perform it.

Just like it is a lot easier to start a running habit with 10 minutes of jogging a day and gradually ramping it up, instead of 10 miles on the first day and then nothing ever again. Anyone can become 1% better every day.

Motivation is a tax we pay to do hard things. It would be best if we didn’t have to because we’re scrooges at spending energy. A habit MVP is tax-free. It is built to last without motivation. That is the beauty of it.

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