Chapter 12 of the book Atomic Habits, discusses the idea of “Environment design”. Broadly – this refers to the process of making your home (or work) the most conducive to the success of your habit formation. James Clear touches on this in various points of the book – and I think it’s a great way to keep your mind focused, AND to help set boundaries between things. I say “boundaries” – and I don’t just mean physical walls dividing rooms, but mindsets and emotions that need to be on (or off) depending on who and what is worthy of your attention at that moment.
- Give “actions” a home base. Do you find that you frequently mingle spaces for various activities? Much like people say that a bed should be for sleeping, if you want to have better sleep quality; the same goes for other activities. Maybe the couch is just for relaxation. The desk/office/den is for work. The kitchen table is only for eating and/or work. The chair in the corner of the room is for relaxation/reading. You get the idea. Designate space for doing an action, and by repetition you will find yourself gravitating toward the action simply by entering the space.
I recognize this in myself SO much. For instance – I know I have terrible focus at home, so I don’t try to force myself to “work from home” – instead I just always go in to the office. I also try to only eat at the kitchen table. I used to eat in front of the tv, while sitting on the couch, but I found that I would eat more and mindlessly so. Having a snack every once in a while on the couch happens – but now, more often than not – I sit at the table for my food and move to the couch later to relax.
** I have a small apartment – so I can’t have separate rooms for each activity, like an “office” but I do try and match an “action to a seat” so my mind understands why I am there.**
- Keep work and fun separate – Electronics. Sort of like the “space” concept, with how much we use electronics these days, it can be helpful to keep things aligned with a purpose. For example: Personal cell phone might be strictly for fun/personal. Work laptop is only for work. Personal laptop is only for fun/personal. E-reader or tablet is for fun.
We THINK these go without saying – but how many times are you (or someone you know) supposed to be spending time with the family – but logged into the work emails on the phone or answering texts about work, etc? Perhaps someone sets out with the intention to “quickly look up something on my work laptop” (personal thing) – so they pop on in with no intention of working, but before they know it, they have been sucked into answering an email pr IM at 9pm or working on something that could wait until the next workday.
On the other side of that coin – how much time is spent surfing the web or online shopping during work? I know I’ve done it. I’m sure we all do. We all need breaks and that’s fine – we just have to establish boundaries to keep us in check sometimes.
- Design your home (and work) with flow. Lean six sigma principles and removing points of friction help streamline things to make the best possible environment for success.
– At your desk – Are all the things you need on a regular/frequent basis within arms reach? Do you have to go to another room to get something or turn around in your chair? Within reason (and company budget) there’s no reason you should spend a substantial amount of time “in transit” or “in motion” to get something necessary to your job. There are countless examples of how people waste hours just by taking the most inefficient route to/from their desk to (for example) a printer. I even keep a gallon jug of water at my desk so I’m not wasting time during the workday going to/from the water cooler. I fill it up in the morning and it both helps me gauge how much I’m drinking AND keeps me from a bunch of (ultimately distracting) trips where I might get pulled aside by someone else or lose my focus.
– At your home – Are you going to work out in the morning? Then all of your workout clothes, headphones, shoes, jacket, etc should be set out and easy to reach/find – so when the morning comes and you are in a half asleep fog – the scene is already set and you can be successful.
– In the kitchen – If you’ve ever watched a cooking show or seen a kitchen in action, you see that Chefs use “Mise en Place” to set up for cooking. They prep/cut the ingredients for the dish. They measure and set out the spices. They gather all the tools they might need. Only after they have “Mise en Place’d” everything do they light the burner and set forth to making the dish. This ensures that they are ready, there’s no delays, and little chance that they will inadvertently (for example) burn a dish because they had to run and get an ingredient but lost track of time, or any other number of outcomes.
Do you do this already? Did you do this and not realize it? Do you think maybe you should do this MORE or implement it in your own life?