Habituated environments

I was just reading this great article on Copyblogger about becoming a more productive writer through planning and preparation. One point the author raised was the importance of setting up a consistent writing environment, whether it’s a physical space or a type of music or a preferred beverage.

I’m really into this idea. I love productivity hacks, and psychology hacks are even more fun. If there are ways to trick my brain into working better and getting more done, I’m on board.

As a kid I would go over to my dad’s house on weekends and make nachos. I would’ve eaten nachos – simple chips and mozzarella cheese nachos – for every meal, if they’d let me. To this day, my dad keeps nachos materials stocked in case I decide to drop by. We also had these amazing natural sodas – Blue Sky Root Beer – that I drank alongside my nachos, every time, without fail. Unsurprisingly, I now have a profound sensory association between these two foods, especially if I’m sitting in my dad’s kitchen. When I went away to college, my dad asked me how many times I’d made nachos already, and I had to tell him: “none.” That craving was so specifically tied to his house and that soda that it hadn’t even occurred to me that I could make nachos anywhere else.

So I know my brain is capable of wiring and rewiring based on environment – I just need to harness this power for good. Nachos are great, sure, but they’re not exactly making me a smarter or more productive marketer. As a remote worker, I’ve ended up establishing a “focus-and-produce” space in various coffee shops when I need to get out of the house. Ideally, I could set this up psychologically without having to commandeer an outlet at a café.

Solution: Write every day, in the same place, with the same tools. I’ve started blocking off hours on my work schedule to dedicate to writing projects like blogs and ebooks, and will try to cordon off part of my mornings for personal writing. I’ll turn off the internet, get my cup of coffee, and turn on something good on Spotify. Let’s do this.

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