App-countability

I have installed a device in my car called Snapshot by Progressive in hopes that I can save some money on car insurance (which costs an absurd amount of money in New Jersey for anyone with a less-than-immaculate driving record.) The device tracks my driving and beeps when I am not being a good driver (which, by Progressive’s definition, means braking hard.) It also logs times when you drive between 12 and 4 am, which are “High-Risk Driving Times.” All of this gets factored in to your discount (or lack thereof) at the end of your contract term.

I have found myself seeing this as a fun challenge and checking the corresponding iOS app obsessively. I check for my weekly average of hard stops. I pay attention to the smoothness of my braking and take the backroads to minimize risk of jerky drivers. I now pay more attention to the distance between me and the car in front of me; I will not let ANYONE get in the way of my discount.

This behavior-changing device got me thinking about ways that technology can help us gain awareness in other parts of our lives – particularly in the workplace. We have devices that track our steps and our posture, but what about devices that track how many times we undermine a colleague? How many times we complain at work? How many times we cut someone off in a meeting?

What kinds of self awareness-raising activities can we practice in the absence of this kind of technology? I like the method of tallying the number of days in a row I have done something, such as exercising. The positive feelings in making the tally mark create desire to make another tally mark  (for further reading on this, check out: The Power of Habit.) Likewise, the positive feelings around having 0 Hard Brakes in a driving trip inspire me to have 0 Hard Brakes next time I drive.

However, in order to really create behavioral change, you have to practice self-compassion. The goal is consistency, not perfection. Accountability tools are meant to raise awareness, not to make people feel inadequate.

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