April 17, 2019

Why are devs so crazy about forming habits?

Peter Vu @Petervu

Context: I'm an indie maker of Habitify, a habit tracker.

I have just done a full review of my users, and I found out most of them are devs or designers.

I'm really curious. Why are devs so crazy about forming and tracking habits? What is your pain point or preference or mindset that leads you to a habit tracker?

Your answer will help me a lot!! Thanks!


  1. 8

    Consistency is the long-term driver of any amount of success or growth.

    Inconsistency is expensive, exhausting, and chaotic. It causes stress.

    One thing developers (and others obsessed about habits) know is that once a process is automated, it can continue with little maintenance. It will produce the same results, and is relatively stress free to make decisions formed around habits.

    Also, like code, habits can be iterated on. If I start a habit of reading for 5 minutes every night, I can do that for a few months a form a solid habit. But it doesn't take several months of habit forming to then increase it to 10 minutes every night. That's much easier than going from not reading to reading every day.

    Consistency. Predictability. Automation. It's the developer's ethos. And something code provides readily.

    As James Clear says in "Atomic Habits":

    The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader. The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner. The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.

    1. 1

      So it all comes down to mindset I guess? Does code teach devs that mindset or are devs inherently born with that?

      1. 1

        I think it's a bit of both. To be successful with code the goal is automation. I think anyone can learn to code, and starting out your code can be one-off piles of code. But over time you'll learn how to structure your code to be built for automation and scale from the beginning.

  2. 4

    You've shared your project on Indie Hackers, on Hacker News (more than once!) and on other dev-heavy places like Medium and /r/android. It seems natural that you've found a lot of devs.

    Do you have any real evidence that devs are actually "crazy about forming habits" compared to everyone else or is it more of an assumption?

    1. 1

      I think it is more of an assumption that I'm trying to validate and finding the real insights behind. I have little evidence of some of my users (devs) who have like 100 small habits and they literally complete them every day.

      1. 1

        Interesting. I'm only one data point but I've been less habit-focused in the past 8 years as a dev than I was in a previous life teaching school children. I was also super into habit building when I was involved in competitive athletics. I wasn't tracking them online, though. It was all either based on feedback from a trainer or from my own reflection right after an event or class.

        Of course we're all habit-driven creatures, but the only habits I'm actively trying to build now are:

        1. Document every technical problem I run into and
        2. If I ever find myself spending much time doing the same thing over and over, automate it
  3. 3

    Could this be that the channels you are using only reaching the developers?

    I would not make the assumption that only devs are crazy about forming habits. People in other domain knows and are equally interested in habit-forming too.

    1. 1

      Besides Product Hunt and Hacker News, most of my traffic is organic (from App Store)...

    2. 1

      I thought the same :))

  4. 3

    We are not crazy about forming habits. We only automate things!

    1. 1

      That's a good point actually!

  5. 2

    Unlike @jordanmoconnor, my driver isn't consistency.

    I like inconsistency and chaos. It's between the things that we planned, that life happens. (Thanks Allen Saunders & John Lennon)

    But habits compound.

    Combine enough critical habits, and even with little effort you'll reap proportional rewards.

  6. 2

    I am a developer and I could easily believe that. I have a well structured set of habits for years (see my profile).

    What's a developer? One could easily answer "somebody who writes code", but the truth is deeper than that. To me, we are problem solver and we automate things.

    First I was doing it in software, but I noticed I was applying automation and problem solving more and more in my life as well. It makes sens: I code all day for 20 years (10 years professionally), of course it would affect my life in general.

    First, the problem: I want to build software mainly because I like building software. However, I have a full time job, I need a social life, I have other interests I don't want to give up.

    Then, the solution: Reducing the friction to begin building software. To do that, I need habits.

    This is a very simplified example, but I believe a lot of developers have this kind of thinking schema.

    1. 1

      Hmmm this sounds really credible. Do you think that the feeling "I want to balance my life" also applies to other jobs as well? I mean, honestly, anyone can be super busy and indulged in their work life that they want a true balance.

      1. 1

        I think the feeling "I want to balance my life" apply to everybody who's working. As developers, we approach the problem as something which can be automated for us to think about / do something else. As a problem to be solved with automation.

        I think it's not restricted to developers though, but any job which include problem solving and automation.

        Another important thing: not everything can be automated. The job of a developer is somehow creative as well (tackling problems in creative way to make life easier in our software or for ourselves), and I think we can't automate this part. Otherwise we would have created programs who code for us.

        It's just an example. I like taking picture, I would not automate that... because I like to do it myself. I don't want to create an habit so strong that I would always take my picture the same way with the same workflow, since I like the creative (chaotic) process around it.

  7. 2

    I wouldn't say we are crazy about forming habits.. however in order to be proficient at something it requires repetition of thousands of hours of doing that thing, and whether or not you want to you will develop habits around this thing. This is also not specific to developers. The best in any field are very habitual such as athletes, musicians etc.

    1. 1

      That's true though. Then, besides devs, who is the one that is most likely familiar with "repetition" concept, in your opinion?

  8. 1

    Perhaps devs enjoy a confluence of multiple traits that reinforce to encourage development of habits and habit tracking?

    Identifying patterns, codifying them, analyzing, iterating on them to make them more efficient ...

    1. 1

      That seems like an effortful process.

      In my interview, actually, a common opinion is that "habit is good, but compared to tasks, it's optional, and it's okay if I fail once in a while" - "The purpose of habit tracker for me is to see how much I have done it so I will have a plan to do more/less of it" Guess not just devs want to do that?

  9. 1

    A computer program is essentially a habit the computer can't control -- if X then do Y else do Z.

    If somebody lives their life this way, they probably have a knack for development -- the computer can't break the loop unless you tell it to.

    "I have to pick out a shirt to wear every day, but this is kind of a drag. If I buy 10 of my favorite shirt, I will never have to think about this."

  10. 1

    I would echo what almost everyone else is saying. The entire point of a developers job is basically to automate or make things easier. Creating habits or routines is one way of doing that to yourself.

    I wake up every morning at the exact same time because I know it's easier to wake up like that. Your body automatically wakes up at a certain time when it has been trained to do so.

    Creating a habit is basically automating yourself.

    1. 1

      I guess then, as devs are assumably more familiar with the "automation" concept, they are more likely to adopt tech pieces that support that, right?

      1. 2

        Sounds like a reasonable assumption.

  11. 1

    Your job as a developer is basically to automate stuff, i.e. take repetitive tasks and put them in a for loop. Forming a habit is a mechanically repetitive task, ergo it should be automated.

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