If You Want to Design Your Life, Start by Designing Your Environment

A few nights ago I was teaching the first session of our Fearless Writer’s workshop.

The Designing Your Days

One of the common challenges people had was maintaining some semblance of consistency. It was the same problem I had before 2013. But once I understood the impact that environment has on behavior, and started to design my environments for my desired behavior deliberately, my daily writing habit became automatic.

  • I don’t have superhuman discipline or willpower.
  • I have to get shit done despite having ADHD.
  • I have to get the most of out the first 3 hours of my day because my attention gets shot to hell after that.

Designing your life begins with the designing your days, and designing your days starts with designing your environment. By designing the right environment, all of our desired behaviors become automatic.

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Design the Environment for the Habit

Our behavior is not defined by the object in an environment but by our relationship to them. In fact, this is a useful way to think about the influence of environment on your behavior. Stop thinking about your environment as filled with objects. Start thinking about it as filled with relationships. Think in terms of how you interact with the spaces around you. For one person, her couch is the place where she reads for an hour each night. For someone else, the couches where he watches television and eats a bowl of ice cream after work. James Clear, Atomic Habits

Many people try to use willpower and motivation to adopt a new habit. But the supply of both is limited. When I first learned about The 9 environments that make up your life from my friend Jim Bunch, he said: “if you get fanatical about designing environments, the environment will do the work for you.”

  • As somebody who wants to write every day the essential elements for my environment are a pen, a notebook, some noise cancellation headphones, and a place to do my writing.
  • If you’re someone who wants to exercise every day, the essential elements for your environment would be authentic shoes and gym clothes.

When you design the right environment for your desired habit, the environment, and the habit will get linked. When I start the music on my headphones, sit down at my desk, sip my bulletproof coffee, and crack open a notebook I know it’s time to write.