Optimize Your Environment For Better Habits

Deep in your heart you know all the things you shouldn’t be doing to reach your goals, yet it can turn out to be quite a challenge and sometimes you still catch yourself doing the things you shouldn’t be doing – whether it’s procrastination, eating junk food, buying something mindlessly. 

I bet you have heard the famous slogan of Pringles chips – Once you pop, you can’t stop. Tom Bilyeu, the co-founder of the brands Quest Nutrition and Impact Theory, once said: “I find it very hard to eat one Dorito, but I find it very easy to eat zero Doritos”. Meaning – It was easier for him to not start but really hard to stop once he started. So his solution was to never have Doritos in his house at all

This is something everyone can relate to – you allow yourself to indulge in something good but maybe not the healthiest, promising that you will only take a certain number of those goodies. Once you reach that number, you feel that one more, and then I’ll stop and repeat that until the bag is empty. Or do you allow yourself to watch one video on Youtube and then start working on the project you really should be working on? It’s never just one video, isn’t it?

It’s hard to stop doing something that is firing up your dopamine levels and getting you to a state that’s similar to being high on drugs. It’s normal to not want that “high” to end and it’s normal that it takes a lot of strength and self-discipline to step off the carousel of a dopamine high. Does it make you a weak person or does this determine that you’re doomed? Absolutely not.

On Day 5 you learned how to set yourself up for a win by becoming aware of your strengths and weaknesses. Today you may want to add one more to the list of weaknesses – Being vulnerable to your environment.

Reducing and adding friction

When trying to start new habits and introduce new behaviors to your life, the concept of it is hard enough already. The environment around you can make it easier or make it even harder by leading you to distractions and temptations. 

Ideally, you want to automate the good decisions you make. Think about a habit you feel to be the most impactful.

  • What are the possible distractions that can stop you from practicing it?
  • How can you modify your environment in a way to reduce those distractions?
  • How can you modify your environment in a way to make practicing this habit easier for you?
  • Is there any objects you use during this habit? Where could you place those to have them visible and therefore more likely to catch your attention?

The Noise

You have probably realized how hard it can be to focus when there are a lot of things happening around you. Try working in a busy cafeteria or in an open office with tens of people, or at home with kids and pets running around! While some people indeed manage to get things done in such environments, even for them it’s much more tiring than it would be in a calmer space. In the long term working in such an environment will have an effect on our health and nervous system. It can raise your blood pressure, cause stress and anxiety, that doesn’t go away even after the work hours are over, affect sleep quality, cause depression, heart issues, etc.

But noise isn’t just an audible distraction. Visual distractions have the same effect. Take a look at your work desk and identify each object on it and classify it as

  1. Something that’s necessary to complete the task you’re working on
  2. Something that’s not related to the task

For the items that you put into category B, determine whether they are

  1. related to another task or an activity
  2. are purely decorative

I encourage you to put everything that you marked as related to another task or activity out of your sight and take a critical look at the things you classified as decorative as well – do they have a purpose or are they just clutter?