Published on Jan 08, 2024
Last month, I regret to announce that I failed to guess the five-letter word in Wordle. It broke a 60-day streak that I was hoping would extend to 100 days, simply because - y'know - 100 days sounds better than 60.
And so, the next day, I started again, from scratch. With the aim of building back up to 100.
As a marketer, I'm not unaware that I'm being held within a behavioural trap here. The very attractiveness of keeping up a streak is the only reason I do Wordle every day. And why do I keep up a streak? Because I feel compelled not to drop it, that's all.
It's a simple thing to do, and I'm motivated to keep it up.
Duolingo is another app that has learned the value of the streak. Worse, if you fail to keep your streak up, you get messages saying that you've made their owl sad, and you feel bad about it. But not everyone can keep up their Swedish lessons 7 days a week, and as a result, an owl dies of sadness.
What we can take from this is that the streak itself is what motivates us to keep going.
If, for instance, you were told that you had to take 2 hours of Swedish lessons a week, you'd probably refuse - after all, who has that kind of time for something that, frankly, you don't really need?
If you were told that you could maintain a streak for 7 days by doing 10 minutes' worth of Swedish lessons, well... that's slightly different. All of a sudden, the very human compulsion to seek easy gains is activated - and over time, you'd accumulate not just a big number in terms of your streak, but a certain amount of knowledge.
And I think, as we enter that time of year (the first two weeks of January) where everyone's thinking about New Year's Resolutions, our resolutions are always pretty much the same.
And by mid-January, we tend to revert back to type.
Could the streak be the way to motivate ourselves not to revert to type?
This is, perhaps, where Duolingo has got it right. If we can motivate ourselves to keep a learning streak going on a language app, then surely we can motivate ourselves to do other things in a similar manner.
It's not the resolutions, it's the behaviour behind maintaining those resolutions.
So perhaps try a streak this January. See how far you get. And if you drop it, then start the counter from zero and build it up again. 30 days of learning something new, 30 days of not eating chocolate, 30 days of going out for a walk...
Published on Jan 08, 2024 by Gareth Cartman