This article was originally published in the LearnThenApply newsletter.
It seems like whenever I’m supposed to….
I was trying to type “It seems like whenever I’m supposed to do something, I end up watching YouTube or checking my email instead.”
But midway through that sentence… I went to YouTube and went down a 30-minute distraction hole. 🤦♂️
Now we’re going to find out how to tweak our environments to remove distractions and make our desired actions more likely.
(BTW, a lot of these lessons are also covered in Atomic Habits by James Clear.)
“Is this trigger serving me, or am I serving it?”
Triggers (or cues) need to occur for a behavior to take place.
For example, I’ve set an alarm every day at Noon for me to do a quick prayer. (Although I dismiss that alarm and continue with my day more often than I’d like to 😣.)
I also happen to pause my work and check my phone every time I hear it vibrate.
As you can see, triggers can be helpful AND harmful.
So put on your construction helmet 👷♀️. We’re going to build experiments in order to construct ideal environments.
How to do more of what you want to do:
Make the desired action easier.
- To actually start wearing a mouthguard to bed every night (apparently I’m a grinder), I moved the guard from my bathroom to my bedstand.
- To practice the piano more, I moved the keyboard from the living room to my bedroom.
- To pray more regularly, I’ve set up alarms and Bixby Routines to launch the LRD app at the times I’ve allotted for prayer.
Pre-commit (or scare yourself) with disincentives and accountability partners.
- To make sure I write this newsletter every week, I encourage people to venmo request me if they don’t receive it. (This was probably the #1 reason I became more consistent in publishing these.)
- To practice Malayalam (my native language) more, I started studying it with my gf.
Take pride in it or make it part of your identity.
- James Clear had a story about a guy who habitually bit his nails. Then one day he got a manicure. The mani gave him pride in his nails, so he didn’t want to bite and make them look bad anymore.
- At the start of quarantine, I was regularly working while sitting in my bed (terrible for my back and neck). I invested in my desk setup (better chair, monitor, and lighting… + a blanket!) and now I love working there.
How to do less of what you don’t want to do:
Make it inconvenient to do undesirable activities.
- I use the Freedom app on my computer and Focus Mode on my phone to block out social media and YouTube when I want to focus. The issue with this thus far has been making sure I turn it on before I get distracted. Going forward I’ll set it to automatically start between 8:00–10:30 PM — the time I’ve allocated to side hustles.
- I brush my teeth a few hours before I go to sleep so I’m not tempted to eat late-night snacks. I spent 27 years brushing my teeth once a day so I’m definitely not doing it more than twice…
Let’s close this out with a little story about my laundry… 👖
I throw my clothes on the bed after they’re done drying. That way I have to put the laundry away before I go to sleep instead of letting it sitting in the basket for days.
Well, in college I was so averse to folding my laundry that I would sleep on the floor instead of putting my clothes away.
Yes, this is a true story.
So how did I eventually solve this issue?
I started hanging up my clothes.
After I saw that my cousin had most of her clothes hung up, I decided to buy some hangers.
Turns out that the process of folding clothes, and stacking them wherever it needed to go, was what I dreaded most.
Now I put my clothes away in no time 😀.
(It also helps when minimize your wardrobe and don’t have 1000 free t-shirts… college 😒.)
If you feel like I’m just being lazy, that’s good!
Set up your environments to where the laziest person in the world would perform all the desired actions.