Erin McKean transformed from a dictionary editor to a Silicon Valley startup founder after giving a 2007 TED Talk about fully mapping the English language outside the confines of a dictionary. Her company’s app, Reverb, recommends and organizes news based on connections between words and a user’s behavior over time. But McKean also appreciates the benefits of repeated behavior outside of lexicographic algorithms, which is why she says she’s an “evangelist” for the app Lift (not to be confused with Lyft).
“Lift is a habit tracking app,” says McKean. “Let’s say there’s a habit you want to keep up, like I need to stretch every day because I’m getting less flexible as I get older. It relies on habit micropsychology to get you to keep a routine.”
According to a Lift blog post on the science behind it, the app is based on the work of Dr. BJ Fogg, who runs the persuasive technology lab at Stanford. The framework is called B=MAT, and it means that in order get a behavior you need to have motivation, ability, and to experience a trigger.
“Sustained effort over a lifetime produces incredible results,” explains the post. “Research into genius-level talents almost always turns up that they are the product of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice. When you think of goals within Lift, think about them in terms of momentum. What goals are going to get you going? One heroic week from you isn’t going to change your life, you need practices that you can keep up. Dr. BJ Fogg calls these tiny habits. If you can lock in a routine then there is plenty of time to expand the difficulty.”
The app motivates the daily practice needed to work toward a goal by tracking, connecting users with other users working on the same type of goal, and setting regular reminders.
“If you have a goal like ‘run a marathon,’ you can’t just do that. You have to work up to it and be reminded to do a little every day,” says McKean. “Lift nags me to repeat a habit. Plus everybody has their phone with them every day.”
McKean also shares one of her daily habits that needs no reminder–reading Mallory Ortberg’s humor and commentary website The Toast. “She is the funniest person on earth,” says McKean, particularly recommending Ortberg’s Dirtbag MacBeth and Dirtbag Hamlet pieces. I might just go and stand outside the publisher waiting for her new book Texts From Jane Eyre to come out. The worst thing about trying to explain her writing is you just collapse into giggles. I think she could be weaponized to make a lot of people incapacitated.”