With the end of January looming, it’s likely that only a few of us have managed to keep our New Year’s resolutions to quit smoking or lose weight – and a Toronto-based startup wants to help us do better.
Rehabit.me is a new Web service that encourages users to commit to either forming a new good habit, or breaking a bad one they already have. Users try to maintain their new behaviour for 21 days and have the feedback of their friends to help them along the way.
“We are all creatures of habit,” says co-founder and chief technical officer Michael Schwanzer. “It’s hard to change because nobody is kicking your ass. We set up some pressure from your friends.”
Rehabit.me pulled together a prototype site built on Ruby on Rails code, with HTML5 interfaces for mobile devices in the latter half of 2011. It is currently running in invite-only mode and based at Incubes, a Toronto startup incubator. The social networking site features a Habit Market where users can browse habits suggested by others. Each habit also displays how many users are currently working on that.
In the Creatures of Habit section, users post about their progress in creating their new habits. Schwanzer is 62 per cent done with his goal of eating homemade food for 21 days, and one of his friends has bet against his success. If he does complete his goal, the money will go to a charity of Schwanzer’s choice. If he fails, the friend keeps the money.
“Your friends can be devils by betting against you,” the co-founder says. “Or they can be angels by hiding incentives for you once you achieve your goal.”
The 21 day period was used by Rehabit.me because of scientific studies showing that is how long on average that it takes to form a habit. Too often, people set goals for themselves that are too vague and fail as a result, says co-founder Jane Collison.
“We’re trying to help people break down goals into achievable habits,” she says. “You have to establish a support system for yourself.”
Users are audited daily on their goals, and can upload a photo or post a link to another social profile as evidence of their activity. They can also choose to have a friend or spouse keep them accountable on breaking a habit, like not smoking for 21 days.
The service will be free for users.