The Fabulous

New Year, New Me, right? Everyone’s saying it, as they always do at this time of year. Okay, it’s a bit phony to say that we should do “New Year’s Resolutions”, but if not now, then when?

I’m doing two things: firstly I’m doing a January Whole30, and secondly I’m trialling a new app called The Fabulous. It claims to be based on behavioural science from Duke University, and it works around setting up ‘rituals’ – habitual behaviours that you do every day – to gradually improve your life.

TL;DR: I really like it. Read on for more detail.

The app is bright, cheerful, colourful, and gives consistently positive, upbeat messages. I typically don’t like “motivate me” apps because I find them a bit patronising, but I’m enjoying this one. It helps, for me, that the app includes some fairly long (for an app) articles explaining what you’re doing and why, so that the advice doesn’t feel glib or superficial. I realise though that the idea of reading long articles explaining what to do will turn some people off. I hope they keep this; it would be a shame if it got dropped.

There’s a subscription element (isn’t there always?) called Sphere, which extends the coaching past the initial few habits. I think it’s pretty much essential: there wasn’t much content in the app until I subscribed. Having said that, you can easily try out the app and the way it works before you buy a subscription, so this seems like a reasonable compromise. I hate being forced to buy a subscription before I can even try an app; this didn’t have that problem. I felt like I understood how it was going to work before I decided to sign up.

The app itself has strengths and weaknesses. Caveat: it’s still under development – although it feels polished already – so new features are being added all the time and some of the weaknesses may be fixed by the time you read this. A major strength is the flexibility: you can set reminders, defer them, leave them open but not nagging – it’s been really well thought out. The weakness is the flexibility: sometimes there are lots of things open, and it’s hard to tell what to do next. The first couple of tries at setting up a ritual didn’t really work for me, and I had to do a ‘restart from scratch’ to figure it out totally. On the other hand, the key points are repeated several times in reminders, so it’s not such a big deal if you don’t quite get it first time.

Overall, it really shows that this app is based on science. Little tips and reminders make it much easier to actually do what you intend. They mean that you can change your life without it really seeming like too much effort.

Of course, it’s only Jan 3rd, so we’ll see whether this stands the test of time, but right now I would really recommend this app to anyone who wants to make some positive changes in their life for 2017.

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