In the last lesson, we discussed using environment design to make cues more visible… more obvious, but you can also use your environment to also make actions easier to perform.
This is what I call “reducing friction”. It is more likely for a habit to form when there is little friction. In other words, convenience increases the likelihood that you will follow through on your habit.
If you want to practice a new habit, it is best to find a place that is already on your daily routine path. You are more likely to build habits when they fit with your daily routine. For example, you may be more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work since stopping isn’t as disruptive. A gym that is a few blocks from your normal commute-even if it’s just a few blocks-will now become an “out of the way” destination.
Reduced friction within your home or office is perhaps even more effective. Too often, we attempt to start habits in environments that are high-friction. We try to eat healthy even though our house is filled with cookies and chips. We try to have a conversation with a friend or family member while allowing our beeping phones to constantly interrupt us. Trying to complete an important presentation while sitting next to a chatty coworker.
Trying to form a habit like this is similar to trying to force water through a bent hose. If you think of a garden hose with a kink in the middle, you can see that it is difficult for water to flow. Some water can flow through, but not very much. You have two options if you want to be able to speed up the flow of water through the hose.
The first option is to fully open the valve and force more water out. Trying to force yourself to stick with a hard habit and overcome friction in your environment is like trying to force water through a bent hose. You can do it, but it will take a lot of effort and cause more stress in your life.
There is a better way. By eliminating friction points, you can move forward. By removing the bend, you can naturally let water flow through the hose.
By reshaping your surroundings to make your habits effortless and convenient, you are removing the bend from the hose. You reduce friction in your life rather than trying to overcome it.
The idea behind this is to make doing the right thing as easy as possible. Make following your good habits as easy as possible.
Here are some examples of how you can do exactly that:
- Put apps that promote learning or relaxation – reading apps like Audible and Pocket, or a meditation app like Headspace – on the home screen of your phone, rather than filling it with distractions like email or social media.
- Put together a home gym setup. That way, even if you don’t have time to get a full workout at the gym, you can still do a few sets at home.
- Get healthy meal kits delivered to your door with a service like Blufit or Nutri91.
- Clear your work space of distractions that will take you off-task.
Using technology and automation is the best way to reduce friction. This is precisely what many popular businesses aim to achieve.
You’ll notice that the most habit-forming products and services do what they do best: removing friction from the user’s life. The convenience of meal delivery services reduces the friction of grocery shopping. The use of dating apps reduces the friction involved in meeting people. Using ride-sharing services makes getting around town more convenient. Sending a text message is more convenient than sending a letter in the mail.
Just as businesses use technology to automate the behavior of the masses, you can use technology to automate your own behavior.
We recently purchased a blender. Smoothies can be made easily with this blender. Simply press the smoothie button. Zero thinking. You do not need to select a speed setting or set a timer. Because it has so few moving parts, it is easy to clean. It consists of only two pieces. Simply rinse them off and you are ready to use them again. Some models are even easier to clean–they self-clean. A blender that is easier to use and easier to clean is one that will be used more often.
Technology can transform actions that were once hard, annoying, and complicated into behaviors that are easy, painless, and simple.
You will focus your attention, at this point, on optimizing your environment to make it easier to follow through on your implementation intention and maintain your two-minute habit. I don’t think you need more motivation. It’s time to create a supportive environment.
That’s all for Lesson 5. See you in the next lesson,
p.s. If you want to tell a friend about 30 Days to Better Habits, you can use the sharing links below, or just copy and paste this URL to send to them: 30 Days to Better Habits
Helpful bonuses and downloads
- 30 days to better habits workbook – This 20-page PDF includes an action checklist (including templates for key strategies) for each lesson of the course, plus lesson summaries and a key terms dictionary.
- 30 days to better habits examples – The examples database is a Excel Sheet of 100+ examples of how to implement each strategy covered in this bootcamp for dozens of different habits.