There is no denying that your environment affects you. It is easier to focus on your work if your desk is clean, your office quiet, and your computer desktop is not littered with fifty different files and leftovers of abandoned tasks. It is easier to get into the mood of doing exercise when you are in the gym, as opposed to working out alone in your garage. You go more easily into a deep meditation session if you have a corner of your room dedicated to this activity, with its own calming vibe, rather than meditating seated on your couch in the living room.
While we can’t always control the environment, and changing it doesn’t always work, it is wise to improve it when we can.
Harness the power of default:
- Make bad habits as hard as possible (default to not doing)
- Make good habits as easy as possible (default to being reminded to do it)
To stop smoking, don’t keep packs at home, and avoid people who smoke. Want to stop gaming? Delete your gaming apps. Want to stop checking your phone every five minutes? Turn off all notifications, or go to airplane mode.
Make good habits easy with multiple reminders—objects, messages, and images that inspire you toward your long-term goals and your ideal self. One way to implement this is setting an inspiring image/message as your phone’s lock-screen wallpaper. Since we pick up our phone 50 to 100 times a day, you get a constant reminder—until you get used to it, and then you need to change the image.
To lose weight, buy a great outfit that you want to fit in, and hang it where you’ll see it often, as a reminder to work hard for your fitness goals. To drink more water, have a water bottle in every corner of your home. To run every morning after breakfast, put your running shoes in front of your coffee machine. To replace TV-watching with reading, place your book on top of your remote control.
Advance preparation can also make future behavior easier. To cook healthy meals quickly every weekday, chop the week’s vegetables on Sunday night. To work on an important project every morning, have all the tools ready, so when the time comes you can just sit down and start.
In the beginning it is helpful to have your daily schedule on paper. Don’t rely on your memory—or on a digital platform only. Keep it in view, multiple times a day, by posting it in several places.
Personally, here’s what I do to “hack my environment”:
- No social media apps, games, or news apps on my phone
- Phone on airplane mode, 9pm to 7am every night
- Phone five feet away from my bed, so I never snooze the alarm
- No cakes, donuts, pies, muffins, gum, or candies at home
- My work environment, both physical and digital, is minimalistic and tidy
Make your environment a reflection of the person you want to become, and it will influence you to get there more quickly.
Exercise: What are five changes you will make to your environment today?