4 Ways to Use Your Environment to Change Behavior
“There’s just one way to radically change your behavior: radically change your environment.”—Dr. B.J. Fogg
Click here to learn how to achieve more in the next 90 days than in a year without working harder (instead, you’ll be working smarter).
#1 Task association
Reading is an integral part of good writing.
When writing for the web, this becomes somewhat of a first-world problem: you’re always a click away from that next great source of inspiration, so it can be hard to stop consuming and start getting things done.
One method I’ve used to combat this, that comes right out of the stimulus control research, is to strictly associate an ‘outlet’ with a specific task.
In other words, when I sit down to use a particular piece of tech, I can only do a single designated task.
For me, it looks like this:
You can also use task association with environments.
Start assigning certain locations with very particular activities.
#2 Reduce or increase friction
Your environment can also be tweaked to make certain tasks more difficult or easier to do.
When it comes to reducing friction, the most universal example is to apply the ‘hit the ground running’ mindset to your toughest habits.
I pack my gym clothes in a bag the night before and place them right next to my door. On cold days, I even place my jacket on the countertop by the door.
By again designing for laziness, I eliminate all possible excuses by getting things ready when my willpower is high.
#3 Using contextual cues
According to research on implementation intentions, it’s easier to make a habit consistent if it’s built off of an existing chain.
In other words, Task X becomes easier to perform regularly if it is always preceded or followed by Event Y.
I have a ‘shut down work’ ritual every day at 6:30 pm.
Following this event, which happens every day, I clean my house (not top to bottom, just ‘maintenance’).
Try scheduling tasks for consistent parts of your schedule: coming home from work, during/after your lunch break, as soon as you wake up, etc.
Applying the ‘as soon as you wake up’ technique to my own life, I read literally the minute I jump out of bed.
Although I love reading, I often have a problem getting started, but this trigger has made it easy for me to accomplish the 1 book per week goal I’ve set for myself.
#4 Routinize with systems
Few things happen overnight.
Success is most often the result of consistent execution of a single habit, so perhaps it’s no surprise that research suggests having too many choices is the enemy of long-term goals.
The classic financial example is saving vs. spending: instead of relying on willpower to save money, take away the decision altogether by having automatic withdrawals from your paycheck into an IRA and/or a savings account.
This allows you to spend with less worry, since the system has taken care of stability for you, by withdrawing money before you even see it.
Identify the aspects of your life that you consider mundane, and then ‘routinize’ those aspects as much as possible.
In short, make fewer decisions.