How Smart Devices Can Help You Master Your Habits & Routine

How Smart Devices can help you Master Your Habits & Routines

I have to admit 1 big geeky fact today – I love habits. 

I love studying them, following them and honestly, they have literally made me who I am today. 

It’s the simple 1%, the tiny thing, the absolute basic thing you do daily that helps you get the most exponential returns in the future. 

“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.” 

Charles Duhigg

 “Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement” 

James Clear

James and Charles are two habit experts, who have their own research and very well explained books. You can check the “Habit science” section for a brief overview of the same.

The 1 percent rule states that small differences in performance can lead to very unequal distributions over time. You don’t need to be twice as good to get twice the results, just slightly better and maintain the 1% advantage consistently over time.

Now, This simple rule works best when we can convert our long term goals to daily tiny habits. Imagine the work that can be done in 356 days and 2-5 year time period if done consistently in this era of massive distraction.

So, in the last few months, I’ve run a few solid experiments remotely in Koh Lanta where I spent a month in November 2019 and also now, in January 2020 and the results are quite decent for me to finally share here. Here’s an example of one of my perfect weeks, just a few days back.

Before we jump to the magic here, we need to revise our Science quickly.

The Science behind Habits

Habits have 3 main components that you need to remember: 

  1. Cue – a trigger eg: getting up in the morning
  2. Routine – your main habit eg; brushing your teeth
  3. Reward – your final output and the why behind habits eg: feeling great, clear teeth and smile

Hopkins designed these for Pepsodent and is responsible for establishing a nationwide tooth brushing habit. And that is why, you get up every day and brush your teeth, because of a 100- year habit defined by world-class marketers.

The way these three components work are as follows: Cue tells the brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use, the routine can be physical, mental or emotional, reward helps your brain to figure out if this loop is worth remembering for future.

There are two more factors worth a quick mention that you can use when going deeper – Craving and Belief. 

Rewards are powerful because they satisfy cravings

A clear belief is when you can change a habit or accomplish the same habits daily. 

Changing Habits:

Unfortunately, removing habits is extremely tough, but they can easily be replaced. The Golden Rule of habit says: If we keep the same cue and the same reward, a new routine can be inserted. But that’s not enough. For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible.

Now, based on the above – this was my scenario and could be yours too in this distraction era and I wanted to completely change it.

Next section explains how I went about changing this over the last few months with a smart device and installed new habits too.

How I’m using Smart Devices to Master Habits

You must have heard or seen cool videos of Alexa/Google home being used to play music, turn on/off lights and so on for your smart home – but the “Habits/Routines” feature is where there is deep automation and the real ROI.

My main objectives are as follows and it’s all about the morning routines 

  1. Change 1 habit – Reduce Actual Screen time in morning and talk to devices instead and also automate/save time by using them for reminders/alarms/queries etc
  2. Add 2 new habits – Start meditation and journaling regularly post workouts – installing serial habits, one after the other. 

Basically, you just use the Smart routines and habits feature in your Smart speakers (Google home/Alexa) and set them up as you want them to play (Tech details in next section).

After you say the magic words (Eg: Good morning, good night, leaving home etc) a bunch of things happen serially as you want and as you have customized your smart device.

Below, we will explore the “Good morning” routines which I’ve been working on: 

My morning routine before:
  1. Wake up and pick up my phone
  2. After 15-30 minutes of wasting and losing time, get up to prepare for workout/run etc
  3. Meditate

Basically, I’m cutting out 1 & 2 completely and imbibing new habits in the time regained here. 

My morning routine now: (after using smart home devices)
  1. NOT using the phone & saying – Good morning, Google — all about your day, reminders and habits to follow now!
  2. Prepare and go for the workout  (Without phone unless really needed)
  3. Meditate (10-20 mins) 
  4. Journal and write

The habit loop now changes to the following for my main first objective and that is how you change habits. Now, the whole reason for using “Smart devices” is to maintain the same cue, the same reward and just change the routine – which as we learnt is the fastest way to change the habits.

One last component is the “Environment” you are in is very important too. I’ve used small smart devices such as “Google home mini” or “Alexa echo dot” so it’s portable for when I’m travelling and also has no screen at all.

Now – I make sure my phone is as far away from my bed that I don’t reach out to it and my smart device is much closer and visible so I see it (but be radiation careful and add enough distance)

Similarly, my workout clothes are ready, meditation audio and journal pad also so I can stack them up and go after it one after the other.

Technical Setup for Habits / Routines in your Smart Devices

I’m assuming you already have your “Google home/Alexa” setup by now in your house. If not, go ahead and set it up, connect your device to WiFi, your phone and then add the routines with instructions below and customize it to fit your needs

Here are some steps on how to go about quickly adding this routine on your smartphones. 

  1. Fire up the “Google home” / “Alexa” app and head to settings -> more setting and find the “Routines” option (Just find routines feature, it differs in various versions)
  2. You can see the type of routines in there and the options in each of them
  3. Pick 1 routine at a time and just focus on that – for me, the morning one was the most important.
  4. Customize the routine to fit your needs and requirements
  5. One favourite thing apart from the usual aspects is the “Say something” or “Alexa says” feature where you can literally add a message to yourself that you want reminded. Eg: My message is “Journal, meditate and write – focus on the 1% daily” as I need to focus on these habits now and workout is mostly automated by now.
  6. Choose the triggers wisely that start your routine – I’ve chosen voice and commands so that I can control it, but if you have a defined time to get up, feel free to set a time and play something during
  7. Experiment and see what works best for you

Here’s how my “Good morning” routine looks like where I get most of my notifications that are important from synced google tasks, google keep, google calendar (not urgent like whatsapp, social media, emails crap) and lastly, the “Say something” has my secret message of habits added in.

Here’s our ultimate guide between Google home vs alexa if you are stuck between them and if you decide to buy either of them, I would highly recommend Echo dot with their bulbs as it’s a package and higher value due to the time you save with smart lights automated along with massive colour options once setup is done. The google home mini package also does the job well if that’s your ecosystem choice.

These are some ways how I’m using Smart home to highest impact my life and productivity levels and I’d highly encourage you to do the same.