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Build Better Habits

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How to Make Good Habits Automatic


In the last step, we discussed environment design as a method for making cues more obvious, but you can also optimize your environment to make the actions themselves easier to perform.


James Clear refers to this process as “reducing friction”. The less friction associated with a habit, the more likely it is to occur. In other words, as convenience increases, so do the odds that you follow through on your habit.


When deciding where to practice a new habit, it is best to choose a place that is already along the path of your daily routine. Habits are easier to build when they fit into the flow of your life. For example, you are more likely to go to the gym if it is on your way to work because stopping doesn’t add much friction to your lifestyle. By comparison, if the gym is off the path of your normal commute—even by just a few blocks—now you’re going “out of your way” to get there.


Perhaps even more effective, is reducing the friction within your home or office. Too often, we try to start habits in high-friction environments. We try to eat healthy in a house filled with chips and cookies. We try to have a good conversation with a friend or family member while allowing our beeping phones to interrupt us constantly. We try to work on an important presentation while sitting in a room with a chatty coworker.


James Clear likens these attempts at habit formation to forcing water through a bent hose. Imagine you’re holding a garden hose with a kink in the middle. Some water can flow through, but not very much. If you want to increase the rate at which water passes through the hose, you have two options.


The first option is to crank up the valve and force more water out. Trying to pump up your motivation to stick with a hard habit and overpower the friction in your environment is like trying to force water through a bent hose. You can do it, but it requires a lot of effort and increases the tension in your life.


It doesn’t have to be this way. You can eliminate the points of friction that hold you back. You can simply remove the bend in the hose and let water flow through naturally.


Reshaping your environment to make your habits convenient and effortless is like removing the bend in the hose. Rather than trying to overcome the friction in your life, you reduce it.


The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible. You want to make your good habits the path of least resistance.


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 Green Chef or Hello Fresh.

  • Clear your work space of distractions that will take you off-task.


The ultimate way to reduce friction is to use technology and automation.

This is exactly what many popular businesses are designed to do.


If you look at the most habit-forming products, you’ll notice that one of the things these goods and services do best is remove little bits of friction from your life. Meal delivery services reduce the friction of shopping for groceries. Dating apps reduce the friction of making social introductions. Ride-sharing services reduce the friction of getting across town. Text messaging reduces the friction of 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.

Take a smoothie blender for example. It makes making smoothies easy. You just press the smoothie button. Zero thinking. No need to set a timer or select a speed setting. It is designed to have as few moving parts as possible, which makes it easy to clean. There are only two pieces. Rinse both off and you're ready to use it again. Some fancier models are even easier--they self-clean. Ultimately, a blender that is easier to use and easier to clean is one that gets used more often.


Technology can transform actions that were once hard, annoying, and complicated into behaviors that are easy, painless, and simple.


At this stage of the challenge, your focus is on optimizing your environment to make it easier to stick with your two-minute habit and follow through on your implementation intention. You don’t need more motivation. You need a more supportive environment.

In a comment below, state how you can make the habit you are working on this month more automatic.


Julie

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