We are a product of our environments, whether we realize it or not. Each day you wake up to more or less the same stimuli and interact with the same areas and objects. To some extent, we are on autopilot. Much of your day is governed by what you see, and where you are. At home, your morning routine follows a specific path; from the bathroom, to your closet, to the kitchen. Outside your home, you see the same things on your drive, you move through buildings in similar fashions. Even your stop at the grocery store (ever wonder why they have them laid out the way they are?) There is little variance. It’s routine, habitual. This isn’t a bad thing, and is actually an amazing part of our being. Habits formed based on our environments are one of the single greatest and most detrimental aspects of our lives.
Once engrained, these habits become easy to perform over and over again without exerting much mental anguish. This frees up a lot of capacity for us to focus on more important decisions that can help us progress, or sadly digress too. If you’ve engrained some less than desirable habits, these can be your undoing. Today’s post will focus on environmental design and how you can leverage it to win the day, overcome bad habits, and reinforce the positive ones.
Designing Your Environment
Unfortunately, we can’t control every environment. But there is one specifically that we do have a lot of control over; your home, and you should control it, not the other way around. It’s very likely that you’ve designed the layout of items throughout your home to align with a least resistance path. You probably don’t even realize that you’ve done it, but take a moment to consider your routine. Think about how you move through your house each day. For most, this probably consists of a morning routine and then off to work, followed by a night routine after arriving home. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Where do I put my toothpaste and toothbrush?
- Are my shampoo and soap sitting on the tub side or in a hanging bin on the shower head?
- Where do I sit the TV remote when I’m done?
- What is is in the front of my refrigerator?
- How do I find my car keys in the morning?
Most likely, you know exactly where all of these are. You’ve designed your environment around them. For example, I know that if I walk into my bathroom right now, the toothpaste is in the right vanity drawer. My toothbrush is sitting on the right side of the sink standing upright on it’s charging stand. If I went to the fridge, I know I have sparkling water on the bottom shelf. I know the vegetables are in the bottom drawer and the fruits are in the one above it. My car keys are always sitting in the counter caddie just inside the kitchen door.
To be fair, I did a lot of this unconsciously, and didn’t start realizing it until I started reading about this topic. Now that I have though, it’s like a light bulb went off in my head and I can’t get enough of it. It’s an organizers dream. My motivation to go through my entire house, study, and move things around spiked as soon as I started thinking about it. It was an epiphany.
Some of my habits are great, some not so great. The not so great ones led to a lot of these same realizations though. I personally forget to floss, often… Ok, I basically never floss. I know I should, but I just don’t think about it, or have a cue to do it. Recently, and after reading about this, I started sitting the floss next to my electric toothbrush. Guess what, I have been flossing a lot more now. I changed the environment to make it easier to remember to do. The same can be said for good habits also. This year I committed to wanting to get back in shape. To help do that, every day when I get home from my workout, I immediately sit out workout clothes for the next morning. When I wake up, the first thing I see are my workout clothes staring me in the face. I don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear, or what I should be doing. The answer is right in front of me. Again, I designed my environment to help me stay productive and on task.
This can work for a lot of different areas. Here are some to consider for yourself:
- Have a junk food problem. Throw it out and don’t fill your pantry with it. Replace those snacks with healthier options. You may still get the cravings for sugar, but if it isn’t there, you’ll settle for that apple instead and probably be just as satisfied.
- Watching too much TV? Unplug it. Next time you want to watch it, the extra effort required to turn it on may make you think twice.
- Always forgetting where you put your keys? Put a basket just inside the door to drop your stuff. It works wonders for time savings since you won’t be wasting precious minutes in your day searching for them.
- Want to read more at night? Start putting a book on your pillow after you make the bed. That way when you’re laying down to go to sleep, you have to move the book to do so. You may not read every night, but hopefully it’ll help you start, and that’s generally the hardest part.
The point in all of this is you have an amazing opportunity. Your home is YOURS to control, to design how you see fit. It can either be your greatest masterpiece, or your worst disaster. You get to decide.
At the time of this posting it’s Sunday for me. I find that is usually a perfect day to reflect on myself and make simple adjustments to help me do better in the upcoming week. I encourage you to do the same. If it’s not Sunday, bookmark this post and add it to your calendar to revisit. If Sunday isn’t a good day for you, find a time that works for you and try this out.
Spend 20 – 30 minutes actively rehearsing your routines. Go through what you do in the morning. Pay particular attention to where you put things and find them. Ask yourself questions about why they are there, or what motivates you to do that next thing on the list. Once you’ve done that, think about your goals and ambitions. More importantly, take a moment to reflect on the type of person you want to be. Do you want to be healthier? Are you trying to be more present? Is your relationship in need of some work? Figure out what that WHY is for you, and then start looking at your environment and how you can design it to help you be better at that.
As always, I’d love to hear your opinions on this post. If you try these techniques out, did they help? What recipes for success have you produced? Maybe they can help others. Share them on one of our social channels with any of these hashtags: #mydesign, #environmentaldesign, #productive, #organized.