Welcome back to my weekly newsletter. This is going to be a series of articles covering how we came up with the idea of Calm Sleep, scaled to over a million users in less than a year, and all that with less than $1,000 worth of total investment. 🌱
I’m Akshay Pruthi, an entrepreneur who loves to build products from the ground up. Over the past 6 years, I’ve built multiple products from scratch and scaled them to millions of users. This is my attempt to share our most important lessons from building one of those apps - Calm Sleep. 🤗
Every week I will publish an article about a different challenge we faced while building Calm Sleep.
Last week, I discussed that there are two approaches to building your product: The community way or the monologue way!
What is in this week’s read
Habit Loop: One of the key insights to building strong fundamentals around a great product
Lately, I started doing workouts at home. I get up at 6:30-7 am, freshen up, and work out for 50 minutes. Holistic living? Maybe, maybe not. But this definitely has to do something with:
Just like most people, workouts are not enjoyable for me. Yet I consistently do it because it hurts when the usual size doesn’t fit well. To top it off, there’s always this one salesperson who will innocently say, “M nahi aayega, L aayega” which means, I will have to wear size L and not M. I swear, I just storm out of such outlets in sheer anger and determination to come back in size M! As things like these are easier said than done, these days, I’m just shopping from Zara and H&M. Because the label’s size S fits well, but mainly because nobody tells me what size would fit me right! 😛
Cutting the chase, while I was doing my workout today, I observed that I don’t pull through the last few minutes of the session. So if it’s a 50-minute workout, I quit at the 45th minute. When this happened thrice in a row, I asked myself why?
The whats, hows, and whys of building a habit loop:
I started relating this to the lifecycle of the user using a product.
Today, when I again quit 5 minutes before my workout should have ended, I was left with a question - what if the same thing is happening with my users too? Say, if they were using the app thrice a week, eventually that number drops to once a week. Reasons could be lack of motivation, high friction, not understanding the value in the early days, etc. resulting in user retention dropping week by week.
Here’s the switch. The moment the trainer said, it’s the last 5 minutes that helps burn that extra fat and you can’t quit now! I was instantly reminded of the value of the workout and why I started it in the first place.
What if just like me, the users need to be reminded of the value that an X activity will bring to their life before it actually becomes a habit? And once they do the action, the rewards are amazing - as in my case a nice lean body!
All of this can be summarised into a well-known concept of “building a habit loop”
What’s a habit moment?
A habit moment is when the user has established the habit around the core value proposition.
To form a habit, you need to have the right trigger.
For instance, for me, the trigger was when the clothes didn’t fit right. Prior to this, even though I knew I needed to work out I never did until that strong trigger pushed me to get up and start.
More often than not, the trigger is not enough to keep you moving. You need constant reminders of the rewards or the value they will bring for you.
The bigger question as a product person is, how do you identify these triggers?
The answer is OBSERVE! It’s all in front of you.
You can broadly categorize the triggers into:
Any modifications: Be it clothes change, be it stock prices change, be it tax changes.
Standard time-based routine: Like sleep time, wake up time, lunchtime, workout time.
Your friends / Family network-based: For eg, someone tagged you on some post, someone messaged you, etc.
Observation is a fundamental way of understanding the world around us. A number of people around the world have done miraculous work all because they observe things in a way no one does.
Our brain observes what we want to observe. Now the big thinker...how do we develop this? A few things that helped me:
Experience novelty: When you experience new things, your brain questions fundamentals and you end up paying attention to things in detail.
Question: Logic makes you sharp. The more you ask, the more you learn. Practicing logic puzzles and similar exercises daily will help to improve your rationale.
Write: Documenting your thoughts helps you process and contemplate y which in turn compels you to think harder and eventually forces you to focus on details.
It takes months, even years to develop this habit but if you look at a horizon of 2-3 decades, the skill of observing will help you reach new heights; both personally & professionally.
I will end the article on how I channelize my observation skills at Calm Sleep. The key environmental trigger is that people sleep roughly around the same time every night. At that time, if I send them a notification, my click-through rates are as high as 22%
This is our core habit loop at Calm Sleep. To support this, I try observing various nighttime activities of our users and other people. And any behavior that can potentially accelerate the habit-forming moment is then converted into another supplementing habit loop!
Until next Thursday, keep observing, keep identifying your habit loop, and most importantly keep calm!
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