Self-discipline is an important component of change, but in certain circumstances you can alter your behavior without using much of your precious discipline-energy at all.

You can institute changes, often with very little effort or even awareness, if you simply adjust the way you arrange your organization system, office, or car.

Change the Physical Environment

Try to physically position things so that the habit you’re trying to develop has no roadblocks. When you feel an urge, you want to be able to follow through with next to no effort, no thought, no decisions, and very little chance of a detour.

Goal: Keep a to-do list

Physical Change: Keep your to-do list within the “easy-reach” zone on top of your desk, in your pocket, or on your phone. Have the most current items visible so you don’t have pages to turn or screens to click through. If you plan to use paper, always keep a pen where you never have to reach for it. If your list is electronic, keep it open and waiting, certainly no more than one click away.

Goal: Exercise regularly

Physical Change: Keep your workout clothes out and visible, your socks with your shoes, the shirt with the shorts or pants. If the weather is getting cool, keep your shell with the rest of your clothes.

Goal: Pay bills on time

Physical Change: Put bills to be paid in a prominent place with a large label where it will be visible to you from a regular route you use in your office or home. The best place is often right next to the place you’re going to pay them.

Goal: Start online work you’ve resisted doing

Physical Change: Put a prominent link on your computer or smartphone for any online task you might resist doing.

Use the opposite approach when you’re trying to break a current habit.

Goal: Change your snack habits

Physical Change:  Don’t place snack items where they’re visible or reachable (think obvious, handy, convenient, efficient); you’re more likely to eat more. Place them at the back of the office fridge, in a closed cabinet or drawer that isn’t in reach of your desk.

Goal: Ignore email when concentrating

Physical Change: Turn off email reminders. This is equivalent to making them less visible.

Goal: Don’t get caught by the Internet

Physical Change: Delete any “favorites,” desktop links, or other saved links that lead to entertaining or distracting web addresses. The little extra effort of having to type the address will slow down your impulse to visit the site.

Jay is an expert at helping clients come up with simple ideas and small useable steps to implement the changes they want to make. If there are things you’d like to change in your work or personal life, call or email us.