One of the most important things to do when trying to develop new habits is to make sure your environment will support the daily behavior that will turn into a productive habit, that will then contribute to the completion of your goals.
The key to setting up your environment for success is to create visual cues that trigger a habit or behavior that contributes to a positive outcome. Your environment can prompt you to take actions that lead to a negative result like sitting on the sofa to watch tv for hours, or a positive one like going to the gym.
You want to do everything in your power to decrease friction between having a goal and actually taking action it to accomplish it. So here is how to achieve your goals by changing your environment.
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Using them gives me a small commission at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here.
Your Daily Habits Make or Break You
Goals are the results you want to achieve. The way you achieve those goals is to create systems of behavior (habits) that add up everyday to the eventual completion of your goal. Goals point you to the direction you should go, but your habits determine your progress.
It’s important to have goals, but you can have hundreds of them and never achieve them if you don’t set yourself up for success. The thing that gives you results are your actions over time and what determines your actions is in part your environment.
DESIRE (goal) + CUE (environment) + ACTION (habit) + TIME = RESULT
“All behavior is driven by the desire to solve a problem. Sometimes the problem is that you notice something good and you want to obtain it. Sometimes the problem is that you are experiencing pain and you want to relieve it.” – Jame Clear, Atomic Habits
Why isn’t Will Power Enough?
You may think that will power determines your success, but the truth is that creating the right environment is the key to developing good habits. Motivation and will power get people to the gym on January first, but eventually they fade.
Will power is only a short-term solution. So how do you keep momentum going? By creating an environment that will trigger your desired behavior, and decrease friction that would prevent you from taking action.
The majority of sensory receptors in the human body are in the eyes, so it makes sense that what you see plays a big part in the habit forming process. If you open your refrigerator or pantry and see just junk food, what will you reach for? The junk food. Likewise if you see healthy options you will chose that.
When you pair your desire with physical cues that make taking action easier, then repeat those actions over time, you are on your way to achieving your goal.
Setting Up Your Environment for Success
1. Make Visual Cues
If you don’t see it you’ll probably forget it, or you’ll struggle with that one added step between thinking about your task and actually doing it. Make it obvious!
- Put out your gym clothes the night before so you’re reminded to put them on the next day.
- Place your bottle of water next to your bed and carry it around with you.
- Tape your checklist or habit tracker on the door or mirror.
- Put your planner next to your bed or on your desk.
- Keep your journal next to your coffee cup to remind you to write in it each morning.
- Have your vitamins right next to your breakfast foods so you remember to take them.
- Cut up fruit and veggies ahead of time and put them at the front of the refrigerator so that they are easy to grab when you need a snack.
- Prepare a few healthy meals on Sunday that you can quickly heat up instead of going for take out.
My chance of putting on sunscreen every day went to 99% when I put it right next to my foundation instead of in a drawer with other skincare items. Putting floss next to my toothbrush increased my chances of flossing. Having visual cues works!
2. Keep a To-Do List
Making a to-do list may seem like a no brainer, but it’s very easy to think you’ll remember something and then you totally forget what you meant to do.
Keep a pen and paper nearby to take quick notes or put it in a notes app on your phone (I like Google Keep). Then later you can put those things on your schedule.
Here are some tips for how to make the perfect to-do list.
3. Minimize Distractions
Setting up your environment for success means you eliminate as many distractions and negative cues as possible.
Distractions can come in many forms. It can be visual clutter that “drowns out” the visual cues you actually want, or it can be websites or apps that take up a lot of your time. It can also come in the form of drama from people in your life.
Identify what physical distractions are taking up valuable time and see where you can minimize those and redirect yourself to activities that will help you instead of hinder you.
Block websites and uninstall apps that take up too much of your time. Unfollow, block, or mute people that cause distractions.
Clear out any clutter that is stifling ideas or keeping you from using a space that would help you achieve your goals. If your desk or home office is cluttered, do a deep clean and only have what you really need in your space. If you want to workout at home, clear out the space where you exercise.
4. Upgrade Your Tools
So you don’t have to buy anything, but if you don’t already have the tools your goal requires make the investment.
If you want to drink more water, get a reusable (and sustainable!) water bottle. Get eco friendly food storage for meal prepping. Wanna get fit? Get a gym membership or some weights and a jump rope to use at home. Have a special space in your home for working out, even if it’s just a corner with a cute basket for your equipment. I have one of those cube bookshelves with a section just for my weights.
If you work from home designate a space that is just for working, at least during work hours. Last year I invested in a desk and my productivity went way up because now I have a space that’s just for working.
5. Set Up Reminders on Your Phone
So your visual cues will help but its good to have extra reminders. Look at your notes or to-do list and schedule specific times to do those things.
Set up a system on your phone to give you reminders. I use and love the Loop Habit Tracker app for my daily habits like taking vitamins and doing yoga. Then I use Google Calendar for work and other one-time tasks, which sends a reminder to both my phone and my email.
Utilize these tips on how to set up your environment for success and you’ll find that you develop new productive habits so much more easily, and then those habits will help you achieve your goals!