Is Technology Sabotaging You?

Sometimes, technology doesn't help your good intentions.

Posted Dec 30, 2019

From Fitbit to HeadSpace to budgeting app Mint, technology is often billed as the solution to sticking to our New Year’s resolutions. With 80% of resolutions failing by February, the ability to track our exercise, food, weight, spending, and meditation habits at our fingertips seems like a no-brainer.

But is technology actually making it harder for us to stick to our goals? What if we are embracing the very mechanism responsible for sabotaging our good intentions?

Technology is highly addictive, by design. In a recent BBC investigation, a former Silicon Valley insider said social media companies were sprinkling “behavioral cocaine” over smartphone apps, adding features that deliberately keep us addicted.  If not kept in check, using a smartphone app with the goal of sticking to your resolution may tempt you to do other things, such as checking your social media accounts instead.

To adults, apps are as tempting as marshmallows are for kids. Succumbing means multitasking, but the vast majority of us cannot multitask effectively. Indeed, research shows it’s harmful to productivity. Plus, apps have made global connectivity ubiquitous, contributing to the “always-on” work culture. With the world at our fingertips, we’re suffering from information overload, even when trying to develop healthier habits. Consequently, our willpower is being drained.

And even when sticking to one app, you may grow to resent its control over your routine and be more likely to give up on your resolution. Little wonder that digital detoxes are all the rage. A growing number of people want a break from constant exposure to computer screens, amid warnings that it could be bad for our mental and physical health and wellbeing.

What is the answer?

Taking strategically planned breaks from apps meant to support your resolutions may improve your ability to sustain them in the long term. Say, for example, that you’re on your best form on a Monday morning, but by Thursday work life has you fatigued. Giving yourself permission to ban the use of tracking apps on that particular day may make you more apt to stick to your resolution. The next day you may find yourself feeling fresher and rejuvenated, with more motivation to stick to your resolutions.

A good way to measure the impact of these strategically planned breaks is by journaling. Keep a record of your weekly breaks from each app noting for how long and how this made you feel. Experiment with what works best for you.

There are other mindfulness techniques that can help make a resolution stick, with or without a mindfulness app. One way to stay motivated is to keep a list of what you have achieved so far. Often, we are so focused on the end goal that we do not think about the small steps we have already taken to get there. Reflecting on small wins can help you stay positive, and committed.

But, inevitably, we will slip up along the way and fall out of our new routine, whether it’s exercising regularly, eating better, or reading more. In addition to your app’s meditation reminder, make a point to meditate when you need to, which can help raise awareness of the issue from the unconscious to the conscious. It’s only when we are aware of our barriers that we can begin to tear them down.

Meditating in this way, too, will build up our resilience, which is important for overcoming setbacks and sticking to a goal. Rather than beating themselves up about stalled progress towards a resolution, resilient people will get right back on the proverbial horse.

Ultimately, the key to sticking with your resolutions past February is listening to your intuition and being mindful about the impact your apps, and technology, in general, is having on you—for it can be both a blessing and a curse.