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Creatures of Habit



Things change so fast in mobile technology these days that forming new habits seems to be something that is almost impossible to do. Just as you get used to doing something one way, another way comes along, and you shift what you are doing accordingly. Most times that leads to doing things a better or more efficient way, sometimes it just makes a chore more fun. Well, almost.

Last week, I made what on the surface is a simple change in how I access GMail, and it is driving me nuts. I’ve got several email accounts that I regularly check, and for the longest time in my email life I checked them all through Microsoft Outlook. Over time that changed as I begin forwarding everything to Gmail, and eventually Outlook became one of those apps that I just never opened, preferring to open Gmail through the web, and increasingly on my phone or iPad. The shortcut for Gmail used to reside as a bookmark that I would access by the BookMarks drop down menu. Each time I would do that I’d have that little niggling feeling that I should move this to a BookMarks bar or a shortcut on the desktop or some place more efficient, but I never did.

Last week, I gave in and  I made the change, moved the shortcut to the BookMarks bar, that got synced across all of the browsers I use via Xmarks and I thought all was right with the world. Wrong.

Since making the simple move, I have yet to break the habit of going to the BookMarks menu, regardless of browser choice, looking for Gmail. Essentially, until I can forcefully break this habit, I’ve now added an extra step, or backstep, to opening Gmail. It’s driving me nuts. Maybe you’re not as much a creature of habit as I am, but let me tell you this is driving me nuts. I increasingly find the same thing happens if I move an App icon on my iPhone or desktop. I guess I’m just habitually trapped by my habits.



  1. GTaylor

    09/14/2010 at 5:58 am

    Warner, your chart could be re-proportioned by drawing a large circle labeled habits, a dot in the upper left quadrant of that circle labeled skills, a dot in the upper right quadrant labeled knowledge, and a curve in the lower half to represent desire, positive, negative, or O curvature can represent different aspects of desire.

    The marketing of consumer tech is similar to the marketing of pop music; market as a fad, market it as flashy, and make sure that it has something annoying built in so that people will come back and buy again when you rejigger the features.

    Since our daily habits are spread across many such devices, applications, and services, our ability to form habits which allow us to be productive, economical, and reasonable is undermined.

    We need commodity marketing. This type of marketing features usability, reliability, and economy. All things tech are already sophisticated enough to meet more of our daily needs than we have yet discovered. We just need a few stable years to develop good user habits. But for now, any increased usability is lost in a dangerous and spooky forest full of product launches, trade shows, and fan boys, oh my!

  2. DNel

    09/14/2010 at 7:14 am

    Warner, If you added Gmail to your Bookmarks bar and want to break your habit of using the Bookmarks drop down menu, just remove it as a choice from the drop down menu. It won’t be long before you create a new habit for launching Gmail. It’s keeping the old habit around that makes establishing the new harder.

    • Warner Crocker

      09/14/2010 at 7:19 am

      I already did remove it from the Bookmarks menu. When I decide to make a change that’s the only way to do it in my view.

  3. Sumocat

    09/14/2010 at 7:24 am

    I’m in the mindset of Kaizen or continuous improvement, so I modify and adapt new habits regularly, but a few stick because I can’t refine them any further, like ritePen for shortcuts and keeping the taskbar on the right side.

    Regarding your particular bookmark habit, my method of bookmarking may help with that. I organize the bookmark bar with folders and keep it up on the same line as the menu bar. This essentially eliminates my need for the bookmark menu, which I limit to sites I should save but won’t visit regularly. I allow only a couple of critical sites to stand alone on the bar for one-tap access. This method might help you transition to using the bar.

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