How Calendar Alerts Can Help You Build Healthy Habits

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When it comes to being consistent with nutrition and exercise habits, and generally just making things a bit easier, we sometimes need reminders or guidance for even the simplest things. This is especially true if it is a habit that is hard to try and break.

By reminders, I don’t mean putting sticky notes on the fridge, on the bathroom mirror, on the steering wheel, or in your pocket. I mean reminders that actually make an impact and don’t end up crumpled at the bottom of your bin.

What kind of reminders are these then?

The answer is automated reminders using your phone’s calendar alerts.

It is believed that it takes around 21 days for something new to actually become a consistent habit and not just something you tried for a while. However, it may take longer for some because any small mistake or slip-up can unravel a lot of progress.

Calendar alerts, meanwhile, will constantly remind you to be doing something. It’ll allow this new habit to remain in your head and keep nudging you without being annoying.

But honestly, we can’t just get you to put a reminder on your calendar to stop binge eating,  it’ll only work if we break down the whole process and focus on what we need to work on, based on what you struggle with.

Let’s have a look at a few examples to show how these calendar alerts can be implemented in real-world situations.

 

Example 1: The Late-Night Indulger

The subject here is named Jen. Jen’s biggest issue is constantly having dessert late at night.  By 10 p.m., she’s settled on the couch, getting ready to watcher favourite television show. This is her late-night habit, and it’ll usually involve grabbing some ice cream or a few biscuits, too. Obviously, this is counterproductive to her goals, and despite nagging and talks, she still continues to do this with the excuse, “Sorry, I forgot.”

We can’t blame her, but we can keep her from repeating this habit forever. Here we tell her to grab her phone and go through these steps:

Go into the calendar app on your phone.

Hit the giant plus sign (in the upper right corner), as if you’re creating a new calendar event, and a screen titled “New Event” will display.

In the title section, type in what behaviour you should avoid and what you can do to overcome it. With Jen for example she might write, “Don’t eat the ice-cream, make a fruit smoothie instead”.

In the “Starts” tab, set a timer to go off at 10 p.m.. When it does, a notification and a ring will go off while she’s going to grab her ice cream. When she sees it, Jen will be reminded to make a smarter choice each and every time.

Click on the Repeat section and enter how often you want to repeat this reminder. In her situation, it’s necessary to set them daily because her problem is late-night eating, so a daily alert would be ideal.

Also, make sure the calendar app notifications are turned on so they pop onto the lock screen.

 

Example 2: Miss Unprepared

Hannah has trouble bringing enough food with her to work, so she eats what the cafeteria has or dines out.  We know that being prepared with meals is a huge piece of the puzzle to healthier eating and general success with weight loss. Hannah’s problem is that she’s too tired at the end of the day, or simply forgets to prepare her meals.

We could try a more aggressive approach and set two timers in the span of two hours on two separate days (i.e. Sunday and Wednesday, Monday and Thursday).  While two alerts may seem like overkill, we need to be able to reach her through her fatigue, in which case a single reminder probably won’t suffice.

Create a “New Event” in the Calendar App on two separate days as before.

In the “Title” section, type Hannah’s instructions for her meal preparation. Ultimately, it would be something like “Get food ready for meal prep/lunch.” Or break it down further with things like “Go shopping for tomorrow’s lunch.” Or “Put a salad in a plastic bag for tomorrow.”

In the “Starts” tab, set a timer to go off at two different times over the span of two hours. This will ensure she will be reminded, even if she is tired. It’s probably the second one that’ll prod her into action, which is why it’s so important to have it in a close timeframe.

Click on the Repeat section and enter how often it should be repeated. Since Hannah’s issue can be resolved with two larger behavioural modifications, the frequency does not need to be as often as Jen’s from our first case study. Every Week will be fine.

 

Why Do These Reminders Work?

Without much effort, these reminders work because they “automate” your efforts and are a constant reminder of what you should be doing, instead of the thought being only in your head.

For someone developing the habits to lose weight, these reminders are pivotal: the less the habit feels like a chore, the more likely you are to succeed and go beyond.