Building Competence in the Bathroom

GETTINGWithout getting into the gory details, let it be understood that bathrooms used by men may at times be less than sanitary. A well-known intervention for improving the cleanliness of the area around and underneath urinals is the addition of a fly sticker. The sticker provides an area for men to aim, which increases the percentage of waste down the drain and decreases how much is on the floor. The fly sticker is estimated to improve men’s aim by as much as 80%. As Richard Thaler, co-author of Nudge, memorably said, “Men evidently like to aim at targets.”

The urinal fly made its debut in Amsterdam, and was extended to Terminal 4 at JFK Airport in New York, operated by the Dutch Schiphol Group (although the previously linked article suggests that the flies in those urinals may now be gone after a renovation–can any male travelers confirm?). For people who want to try urinal flies at home (moms of small boys?) can purchase their own stickers. Continue reading Building Competence in the Bathroom

Three Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

This is me blending work and personal; I took this photo during a work meeting by the pool in Orlando.
This is me blending work and personal; I took this photo during a work meeting by the pool in Orlando.

Flexible work schedules are awesome, but they also have a dark side. As someone who works from home on occasion and can sometimes flex her schedule, I know how easy it can be to blend the boundaries between work and personal life. Different balances work well for different people. For me, I am more effective at work and happier at home if I can set up a dividing line between the two and really be “off” sometimes. Regardless of your preference, it helps to have some control and oversight of your work and personal tasks.

Here are three things I do to better maintain a work-life balance: Continue reading Three Tips for Better Work-Life Balance

How to Research, 2014-Style

Timely and cute visual joke about keyboard shortcuts!

A few years ago, I read an article making a strong argument that Ctrl-F is the most important computer skill for the modern researcher or student. For those of you who don’t know about Ctrl-F, it’s the keyboard shortcut that allows you to search for content in a page. It is one of my most-used shortcuts; I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say I use it every single day, whether to find my place in a Twitter feed, seek out notes left for me by a colleague in a document, or locate the information I want to cite.

Yet, the Atlantic interviewed a Google “search anthropologist” (side note: WHAT?! What a cool job!), Dan Russell, who said NINETY PERCENT of people don’t know about Ctrl-F. That, my friends, is crazy. Continue reading How to Research, 2014-Style

Why I’ll Abandon My Fitbit (Eventually)

Startup incubator RockHealth (which, incidentally, I think is an incredible organization) recently published a report on wearable sensors that’s grabbed a lot of attention in the health-tech community. The report contrasts the current state of wearables–a market focused only on certain aspects of trackable data, with three major players dominating 97% of the market, and many users becoming disengaged within months of purchasing a tracker–with a bullish future, as judged by the huge financial and human capital investments in the space.

RockHealth identifies three areas where wearable sensors need to improve before they will achieve their potential: Continue reading Why I’ll Abandon My Fitbit (Eventually)

Curating the eHealth Universe on Wired

I have a new blog post up on Wired Innovation Insights called Curating the Universe: Behavior Scientists, Technologists to Shape a Better eHealth Future. It’s another entry in my ongoing battle cry that one size does not fit all when it comes to health and wellness interventions. Not only do different people need different tools, but any single person will need different tools at different times depending on what challenges are in play at the moment.

Photo from Thinkstock--this dude has lots of choices for apps, like we all should.
Photo from Thinkstock–this dude has lots of choices for apps, like we all should.

In my own experience as a consumer, I’ve cycled through a number of different eHealth tools and apps. I’m on a kick right now with Fitbit and MyFitnessPal, which are working pretty well for my current needs. In the past I’ve enjoyed (ok, maybe not quite enjoyed) calorie tracking with the DailyPlate (now part of Livestrong) and marathon training with a Hal Higdon app. I’m sure six months from now there will be a different app on my phone–maybe something for strength training or flexibility. The bottom line is, Continue reading Curating the eHealth Universe on Wired

Tracking Your Health

I was excited to see this article in MobiHealthNews about a new app my company just launched called Track Your Health. You can check out the product page here.

Track Your Health by Wellness & Prevention, Inc., a Johnson & Johnson Company

I wasn’t part of the core team that launched Track Your Health, but part of my role is making sure we maximize the value of this new tool to deliver meaningful, motivational coaching. I see so much possibility in helping people to really understand the impact of their small behaviors on their larger health and happiness.

I thought it might be nice to share why behavioral feedback is so much on my mind these days. I’d love to hear about your experiences with tracking and how an app might add new value for you beyond what is already out there.

The Value of Feedback at Multiple Levels

One of the key tactics to support user competence through technology is providing feedback on performance. Ideally, the feedback does a few things:

  • Acknowledges success or improvement in order to build self-efficacy
  • Provides clues or instruction on how to improve
  • Arrives in a timely fashion so people have a chance to actually use the feedback

You can think about feedback at a couple of different levels. There’s immediate feedback that’s tied directly to a person’s granular behaviors. An example would be an error message when a person selects an inadequate password (which, if it’s a good error message, also provides feedback on what the user should change to make the password appropriate). I call this level of feedback “proximal.”

My leaderboard for one of my favorite running routes
My leaderboard for one of my favorite running routes

A second level of feedback is what I like to call “distal.” This is the 10,000 foot view of the user’s performance within an ecosystem. How is the user performing over time? Examples of distal feedback include point totals or leveling up over time. On the beer app Untappd, distal feedback takes the form of badges that show how frequently and broadly a person drinks from various beer categories (I’m most accomplished in the IPA category). Continue reading The Value of Feedback at Multiple Levels

The Power of Beautiful Design

I admit it; I make ugly slides.

I can recognize lovely design, and I very much want to emulate it, but the fact is, I just don’t have a brain that can arrange content in attractive configurations. I’m the presenter equivalent of a sensible shoe. I get the job done in terms of delivering the information you need, but you’re probably not attracted by the styling.

One of my personal development goals is to improve my slide style, because the fact is that the format influences how people receive your message. More attractive slides are more engaging and reflect well on the presenter’s overall skills. In many cases, the formatting can even influence whether or not the audience accurately understands your meaning. Continue reading The Power of Beautiful Design

Why the Facebook Top Stories Sort Makes People Angry

If you’re one of the 1.28 billion people who use Facebook, you’ve probably noticed that there are a few different ways to sort your news feed. My favorite sort is “most recent,” which arranges my friends’ activity in reverse chronological order. I can browse starting from the newest activity and scroll down until I reach the first familiar post, which indicates I’m fully up to date. Facebook also has a sort called “Top Stories” which uses an algorithm to determine which of your friends’ posts should surface to the top of your feed. My guess is that the algorithm accounts for factors such as likes and comments on a post, as well as originality (i.e. a Facebook-originated status will carry more weight than a link from another site).

For a user like myself, with a only few hundred friends (only!), the Top Stories sort is sub-optimal. Continue reading Why the Facebook Top Stories Sort Makes People Angry

Big Brother’s in Your Pocket!

OK, I chose the post title just to be alarmist. I don’t really think that wearable and integrated trackers (for example, to count your daily steps) rise to the level of Big Brother. At least, not yet.

I recently posted an entry on Wired Innovation Insights about wearable vs. integrated trackers:

There’s been buzz lately with more device-based trackers like Move and Runkeeper’s Breeze that the wearable might be Continue reading Big Brother’s in Your Pocket!

Psychology for Health and Happiness