There’s a running joke amongst my friends that 10PM is my bedtime. And it’s true. I can’t stay up at night because I'm a morning person, through and through. That time between 5:45 - 8:45 is magic for me. It’s when I am alert and the most willing to do the deep work. And if I could do my most important work then, it sets me up for the rest of the day. The problem was, I was wasting it most mornings and didn’t do what I wanted to do during that time.
I made lists and schedules of what I wanted to do each morning, but it never really stuck for more than a few weeks. I wanted to journal, read, go to the gym, and do some writing, but I was able to do none of those things. have time to write, have time to read. The reason was because of my environment.
The most powerful of all human sensory abilities, however, is vision. The human body has about eleven million sensory receptors. Approximately ten million of those are dedicated to sight… For this reason, a small change in what you see can lead to a big shift in what you do.
My wife and I live in a one bedroom apartment in New York City. I have a studio in the city that I work out of, but when at home there wasn’t a specific place I could go to in to have space for myself to work. My wife worked from home, so one part of the living room was her desk and her work. We also have a large island table between the kitchen and living room where we would eat and cook, and also a sofa to relax on.
Each space had ties to other contexts and relationships that weren’t specific to me doing deep work each morning. There were just too many triggers that would compel me to do something other than what I wanted to do.
Most people live in a world others have created for them. But you can alter the spaces where you live and work to increase your exposure to positive cues and reduce your exposure to negative ones. Environment design allows you to take back control and become the architect of your life.
And so that’s exactly what Becky and I did a few months ago. In short, we got rid of the bedroom and turned that into a home office. Once we did that, everything was reset and we were able to design our environment specifically for what we wanted to do. I bought a new desk, and created a space specific for what I wanted to do.
Every habit is initiated by a cue, and we are more likely to notice cues that stand out. If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment… By sprinkling triggers throughout your surroundings, you increase the odds that you’’ll think about your habit throughout the day.
With my specific environment created, I made it even easier for myself to create the habit of writing every morning. Each night, before I went to bed I took out a pen, opened my journal to a blank page, and placed them both on my desk. When I woke up and came into my room the next morning, the cue for what I wanted to do was obvious. All I had to do then is pick up the pen and start writing. After two weeks of doing that, now when I sit down at the desk I start writing my journal even if it isn’t on the table.
“One of the best ways to build a new habit is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. This is called habit stacking.
Working out wasn’t a new habit I wanted to do, but it was something I wanted to do more consistently. I know that if I drink my pre workout mix, I am 1000% more likely to go to the gym. So now every morning, before I sit down to write, I make the drink and put that next to me. I sip on the drink while I am journaling so that when I'm done with writing I am primed to go to the gym.
If you want to stop bad habits, you can do the opposite. I really did not want to be on the phone in bed before I went to sleep. But I know that if I had it next to me, I would pick it up. So now, before I go to bed I place the phone on my charger in my office and pick up a book. So before I go to sleep I read rather than scroll through Instagram.
There’s probably similar things you can do for yourself throughout the day to start good habits and stop bad ones. I'd love to hear about your routines and what challenges your having to create these habits for yourself. These past three posts only touch about 10% of what the book has to offer. It's a remarkable book and one that I think I'll have to go back to again and again.