It’s safe to say that a majority of us are figuring out effective ways to organize our work lives and stay connected to our loved ones. Amidst this, it can be challenging to maintain an intentional self-care routine.

Self-care can mean different things to each of us. But mindfulness, exercise, restful sleep, and a balanced diet are some of its strongest pillars. The idea, of course, isn’t to find time for them every day but instead to design ways that can help remind us to engage in these activities on most days.

Amongst other things, our environment or space we live in impacts our behavior; we respond to cues that surround us. How, you may ask? Simple, think of how our feet start to tap when listening to music, or how we smile almost immediately when we see a dog.

If our environment plays such a big role in our actions, then how can we design it in a way that works for us? This is where the concept of behavioral design comes in. It essentially marries the science of change with aspects of design that can help facilitate behavioral change.

Habits expert and author of Atomic Habits, James Clear says we should look at our space as a set of interactions and relationships we engage with rather than mere objects that surround us. He talks about noticing how we interact with these objects and thinking of ways these interactions can be designed to enable change and build better habits.

According to Clear, we can be “architects of our own environments”. We can organize our rooms, offices, kitchens or other areas in a way that the adjustment in the environment helps us to make better choices. For example, we can keep healthier food in more visible spots in the refrigerator or kitchen, and make self-care a part of our everyday life.

Behaviorally, designing our space is a creative and exciting way to understand our actions and preferences. We can almost seamlessly integrate self-care into our schedule and reap the benefits of productivity and flow in our work.

Possibly the best part about this approach is that on days when our reserves of motivation and willpower are low, we can depend on these design cues to remind us to take care of ourselves.

How can you ensure a better self-care routine at a time when our homes double up as workspaces? Visual clues help. Let’s say you want to build exercise into your routine. You can break down our exercise routines into smaller chunks and place visual cues (eg. post-it notes) around your space to almost mimic mini-workout stations. These cues will then help remind us to carry out those tinier chunks of exercise.

Another way is temptation bundling. This is a clever technique of using rewards—or the things we enjoy doing, those guilty pleasures that offer instant gratification—to invoke the willpower to also get all the things we don’t particularly enjoy doing.

You can get really creative with this one, depending on your go-to guilty pleasure.

What do we suggest? You could set your screensaver to something that reminds you to take quick breaks for mindful breathing. That way in your downtime of listening to music or watching something you can be reminded to take care of your mental health as well.

It’s interesting and motivating to know that a lot of us design our space based on behavioral cues without necessarily realizing it. For instance, leaving my yoga mat rolled out while I work reminds me to take occasional breaks to get in some much-needed movement and stretches.

Much of our behavior and actions tend to make sense when looked at in hindsight; this perspective helps us make informed choices in the future. That being said, I’m going to leave you with this thought: How are you already designing for change and how is it helping you take care of yourself?

Rachika Komal is an Associate, Behavioral Analytics with the Product Team at Harappa Education.


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