A Forgetter’s Gadget for Better Habits

No matter your good intentions, your phone’s alarm, your Tasks list or the calendar reminders you set aren’t working. You snooze and run late, you ignore the list of little red flags and you dismiss the calendar push notifications before you can even read them.

All these little time nags aren’t doing the trick. That problem was irking Sohan Japa and Joshua Newth at Stanford University, so they started creating Droplet, a device that would remind their loved ones of a daily task, specifically, taking medication. Droplet is one of a handful of wireless smart button devices coming to market right now, including Flic on Indiegogo and Amazon’s online reordering device Dash.

“As we began brainstorming solutions, we realized that a reminder device could be used for many other use cases,” Japa says. “There’s an explosion of details we need to remember, which leads to a lot of mental clutter. We wanted to create a simple device that could help people stay on top of the most important tasks”—from healthy living habits and efficient work schedules to household chores and nighttime routines.

That’s how Droplet, “the smartest button you’ll ever press,” was born. Currently in the fundraising phase on Kickstarter, this wireless button can be attached to anything—a medicine cabinet, a treadmill, a vacuum, a litter box, a floss container—to remind users to complete daily chores and activities, and keep on track with various life goals. It has IFTTT integration, which means nearly anything you can create a “recipe” for, you can use Droplet for.

A user simply taps the teardrop-shaped button, which measures about 1 inch by 0.8 inch, to signify that he has completed a given action for the day; progress is then recorded through a dedicated app (available on iOS and Android). Droplet can also serve as a trigger to perform certain actions; for example, send a text message to your spouse, “On the way” when you leave your office.

What makes it different from other reminder systems? You get to decide how and when you want to be reminded. Droplet has the option to be set to remind you only if you forget to complete the task, and it won’t inundate you with endless notifications and reminders that are far too easy to dismiss and forget.

But aren’t there apps that do the same thing? The team wanted to create an actual, tangible button because the presence of a physical object serves two functions: “It serves as a tacit visual reminder, and it provides positive reinforcement every time we press it upon completion of the task,” Sohan says. “This is what makes Droplet better than the host of smartphone apps out there.”

The simple action of repeatedly tapping Droplet helps set a powerful habit-forming process into motion, says Japa. “Research has suggested that habits are solidified as we successfully repeat them. In other words, the more often we do a habit, the more likely we’ll continue doing it. As a result, systems that help us stick to our routines can be very helpful.”

Another of Droplet’s many uses? Daily tracking. Users can also keep a tally of recurring actions, like cups of coffee consumed or number of work calls, simply by tapping Droplet for each occurrence.

People can share notifications with friends; or trigger online actions such as automatic reordering, spreadsheet updating or time tracking.

The Kickstarter Staff Pick, which had reached more than $67,000 of its $80,000 funding goal at press time, isn’t just for old-timers. Sohan himself, 31, uses Droplet as an easy reminder to take his daily vitamins. “Despite having the container on my dresser, I still manage to forget occasionally,” he says. “By using Droplet, I’ve become a lot more consistent in taking [them] since it only reminds me if I forget.”

Even tech evangelist Guy Kawasaki is singing Droplet’s praises: “I could use about 25 of these!” he tweeted.

Couldn’t we all?

Check out a behavior scientist’s Tiny Habits life hack, a painless way to trigger new (good) habits.

Chelsea Greenwood

More From Our Friends

Leave a Reply