Whether you’re consciously aware of it or not, you’re much more likely to do things that are convenient. We’re all lazy at our cores. Even the most productive people don’t want to put more effort into things than they have to. That’s why, when you’re trying to establish a new habit, making that habit convenient is non-negotiable.
I’m sure you know the value of building good habits. Good habits and routines make all of the boring, annoying parts of life much easier so that you actually do them. No one wants to fight a daily battle with themselves to get things done.
Taking care of all of the basics with routines leaves you with more time and energy to do the things you care about and actually want to do. Streamlining your life with habits is the easiest way to build a healthy and exciting life that you love to live.
But habits are difficult to build. I don’t have to tell you that. You wouldn’t be reading this if you could build habits easily.
In the pursuit of self-discipline and a better life, you gain nothing by challenging yourself unnecessarily. Making things harder than they need to be only sets you up for failure. You can challenge yourself more as you’ve built more discipline if you want, but in the early stages, easy is better.
Your aim is to build the best base of good habits that you can as easily as possible. Making your habits convenient makes it easier for you to get on track and stay on track in the long run. Don’t fight your laziness; work with it.
How can you make your habits convenient?
Obviously, making your habits more convenient will mean different things depending on the habit. And before I launch into some ideas for how you can make your habits convenient, I want to remind you that it is important to start small. Even if this post inspires you to want to start 27 new habits, hold back. You’re much more likely to succeed if you start small and build one or two new habits at a time. Lifestyle changes take time. Be patient.
This one falls more along the lines of breaking bad habits rather than building good habits, but I use it often, so I’m including it.
When you decide not to buy something that enables one of your bad habits, you only have to use your willpower once. If you’ve already bought it and it’s in your home, then you have to exercise willpower constantly to avoid giving in.
The obvious example—and the place that I use this strategy—is with avoiding unhealthy food. I know if I buy a bag of chips, I’ll eat the whole thing in a day or two, so I don’t buy chips. It’s much more difficult to binge on salty/fatty/sugary foods if there aren’t any in the house. And eating a bunch of apples isn’t nearly as bad as eating a bunch of cake when the craving kicks in.
Avoiding the temptation of the snack aisle gets easier the more you do it. If you need to, bring a trusted friend to the store with you and let them know that you aren’t allowed to buy unhealthy food under any circumstances.
Some other ways you can use this strategy are canceling subscriptions that suck up a lot of your time (Netflix, Hulu, etc.—and you save money!), deleting your YouTube/Reddit accounts so that you no longer have a constant stream of new content to consume, and uninstalling distracting apps so you have nothing to do when you mindlessly pick up your phone. Instead, use that feeling as a trigger to go do something productive instead.
In certain circumstances, buying something that makes your habit more convenient helps it stick. But be cautious with this one; for some people, buying something related to your new habit is enough to make your brain feel satisfied without you ever doing anything about it. If you’re the kind of person to sign up for a gym and buy a whole wardrobe to hype yourself up for getting fit, but those new leggings have only ever been worn to watch tv, skip this section.
Often, it’s not the big purchases that make your habits stick. It’s those little things that make it way more convenient that help. For instance, I have one of these guys attached to the wall right beside my front door. When I come home, I hang my keys on it. I never lose my keys and they’re always ready and waiting for me as I walk out the door.
(Disclaimer: That's an Amazon affiliate link. If you make a purchase using my link, I make a small commission at no cost to you. It helps me keep the blog up and running.)
Buying a trash can for every room, a reusable water bottle, or a well-structured planner (although I love Google calendar, which is free) are purchases that don’t cost a lot but can make a big difference in your habits.
Just make sure that the thing you buy is something that you’ll use. Know yourself, and limit yourself to only the things that you’ve found a need for and know will make a specific habit easier. Aimlessly wandering around Target isn’t going to solve your problems.
Use Your Phone For Good
After you’ve deleted all of those apps that serve only as distractions and don’t bring fulfillment and purpose to your life, you’ve got space for those few apps that actually make life easier.
Now, there are plenty of terrible “productivity” apps out there that end up serving as just another distraction and procrastination tool. Weeding your way through those apps can be difficult, so I have a post in the works about my favorite apps that are actually useful. Get on my email list if you'd like to receive a weekly email with all of my latest posts so you don't miss it!
Be selective with your app usage. The right apps can be game changers, but the wrong apps will make the problem worse. Look for apps with a simple design that are fast to use and have the features that you need without being bloated with useless crap.
In general, I’ve found that apps with specific purposes have been the most helpful. Rather than a generic productivity app, choose specific habits that you’d like to build, and find apps that cater to those needs. Many apps try to do too much and become bloated and useless. Apps that do one thing well are the way to go.
I realize that automating something doesn’t count as building a habit, but why make your life harder than it needs to be? You could focus that energy elsewhere and create a change that couldn’t have been taken care of with some code.
Saving money and bill paying are two of the most obvious things to automate. I realize that this assumes a certain level of income and isn’t an option for many people, but if you are able, many banks allow you to send a percentage of your income to a savings account as soon as it comes in. Saving money is much easier when you never even see that money in the first place.
My roomba is one of my favorite purchases ever because I no longer have to worry about vacuuming. DJ Dave is schedulable, so all I have to do is make sure that I haven’t left my laptop charger on the floor and empty him occasionally, and the vacuuming is taken care of for me.
Automatically sending emails to a separate folder, your archive, or the trash also makes dealing with your inbox much easier. The easier something is, the more likely you are to do it.
One of my favorite ways to automate tasks is with If This Then That, which is an application that allows you to create “recipes” or use ones that others have created. All of the recipes consist of a trigger—"If this"— and an action—"then that."
There are recipes to send you a message if it’s going to rain tomorrow, remind you to drink water, add any new contacts you put in your phone into a spreadsheet, create Spotify playlists of all the songs that you save each month, and tons of other useful things. (Btw, come hang out with me on Spotify!)
Make It Fun
Fun is convenient, right? Pairing a new and not-so-exciting habit with something that you already do makes it much easier to keep yourself committed to the new habit.
If you’re really bad at folding the laundry when it’s dry and tend to just leave it in the dryer for days (I may or may not be talking about myself), commit to folding the laundry while doing something else that you enjoy, like watching YouTube.
Getting your workout in will be easier if you choose to do yoga in the park beside your favorite coffee shop instead of trekking across town to the gym, and you can treat yourself to coffee for sticking to your workouts. Reading more is easier if you get a library card and bring a friend along to browse the stacks with you.
Your habits don’t exist in isolation. Consider the habits that you’d like to build in conjunction with the things that you already do and find creative ways to pair them to incentivize the habit and fit it seamlessly into your life as it currently exists.
Literally, Just Move Things Around
This is probably the thing that popped into your head when I first said to make your habits convenient. Often, convenience comes down to location. If something is easy to get to, we’ll choose it over a more appealing but farther away option.
Meal prep some healthy snacks and make sure they stay at the front of the fridge. Put trashcans everywhere. Put your gym bag right beside the front door. Hide your phone and the TV remote somewhere that they’re difficult to get to and leave a stack of books in a place that you’ll see them.
The more you can move your habits into your path of normal travel, the easier they will be to remember and stick to. If you stumble on the things that you need in order to do your habit, you won’t forget about it, and you’ll need much less willpower to make it happen. You’re much more likely to go for a run if your shoes are beside the couch than if they’re in the back of your closet.
Don’t make this harder on yourself than it needs to be. Lifestyle changes take time and are a lot of work. The more you can lessen the burden, the easier it will be to carry, and the more likely you are to be successful.
What steps have you taken recently to make your habits more convenient? Or, after reading this article, what are you inspired to change to make a healthy and productive lifestyle more convenient and attainable?