Proximity, The Key To Resolutions
In an earlier article I wrote about Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity hack of not breaking the chain. If you’ve got resolutions you hope to achieve and want a little edge, let me share with you the value of Proximity as they relate to existing habits or patterns. We humans tend to be creatures of habit. How many of you frequent a restaurant or coffee shop where the wait person or cashier knows your order before you say a word? Those consistent habits and patterns continue in so many parts of your life. And you can leverage them to build other habits and add new positive habits.
A key item is to have the correct visual cues at the correct time. An example for me was to wear my smart watch. I kept it on a charger by my bed, but never noticed it in the dark when I got up. The only reminder was either when I was driving and felt my phone vibrate, wanted to glance at a page during a meeting, or when I was climbing into bed and saw it there on the night stand. By moving the charger to the bathroom sink the watch became part of my normal daily rituals. When I was done for the day the contents of my pockets went onto the counter, and the watch onto the charger. Then each morning as I got ready I’d place each object in the correct pocket as I got ready.
I also take medication daily, related the the accident I experienced a few years ago. This was another item that I kept by the bathroom sink. But there were often hours between when I got up and when I was getting dressed for the day. And if I got those meds and supplements early my day got off to a better start. How did I fix this? By looking at my patterns. Every morning I’d wake and walk down the hall to get a drink of filtered water in the kitchen. Even kept a certain glass on the counter by the refrigerator. The trick here was to put my pill organizer right next to the glass. The organizer is easier in the dark than opening multiple safety pill bottles. Now I not only always take my medication, it always is early and gets the day going properly.
After that glass of water, the next stage of my morning is the living room sofa. A warm blanket over my lap and some time reading personal email and news on the phone. The warm blanket inevitably attracts the family cat. Which makes it easy to rationalize sitting a bit longer. By leaving my laptop within reach, charged on the coffee table, I am able to reach over and get it without disturbing my furry friend. Yes, it is 5:30AM on a Saturday as I write this. And yes, I have a spare charger that is always there ready.
Hopefully you are seeing the pattern here. Either way, here are a few other examples:
- I keep the dental floss so I have to get past it to get the tooth brush. Flossing is pretty habitual now.
- The trail mix (healthier) is in front of the M&Ms at my desk. It needs refilling more often than the candy now.
- The calendar for my chain is on the mirror in the bathroom. I see it every morning and every evening, reminding me to add another link. I know I blew it off yesterday, but the chains are getting longer and taking less effort to add a new link each day.
If you’ve got a new habit you want to form, look at how you can work it into your normal routines and existing habits. It removes a lot of the friction and increases the odds of success!