Breaking Bad Habits With Good Design

Break Bad Habits with good Design 

Spring into Action: How to Eliminate Bad Habits with Good Design

By Melanie Jensen

Imagine this: There’s a small shelf on the bottom of a wooden dresser. The dresser is in a living room, perpendicular to the front door. The top of the dresser becomes a refuge for thrown keys and tossed sunglasses, while the small shelf is home to a pair of running sneakers. In the early morning, when a workout calls in (somewhat annoying) whispers of two-mile jogs and squats on the grass, you take these sneakers and run.


You might be interested to know that the placement of your dresser substantiates a Paleolithic psychological predilection: As human beings, as bodies subject to the laws of physics and nature, we always want to take the path of least resistance. We want to do what’s easiest and whatever requires the least amount of work.

Some of you are reading this right now shaking your heads. Not me, Melanie!  I always do what’s hard. 

OK, maybe you do but it’s only because you’ve conditioned yourself for that type of behavior. For you, the hard is easy. The path of least resistance has fused itself with the path most difficult to climb. Doing what’s hard comes naturally to you because it’s been subsumed into the non-conscious portion of your brain where habits (good and bad) live.

Even if you think, “Yes that is me. Binge-watching six consecutive hours of true crime documentaries on Netflix is just easier than going for a 7 a.m. sprint.” Well, that’s fine, too. You can use your propensity for the uncomplicated and effortless to propel a new, incredibly productive state of being. (And the world lets out a collective sigh of relief! Netflix and laziness can finally lead to productivity.)

Here’s more from a book called “Atomic Habits” written by the ultimate habits guru James Clear:


“[The] truth is, our real motivation is to be lazy and to do what is convenient. And despite what the latest productivity best seller will tell you, this is a smart strategy, not a dumb one. Energy is precious, and the brain is wired to follow the Law of Least Effort, which states that when deciding between two similar options, people will naturally gravitate toward the option that requires the least amount of work … Out of all possible actions we could take, the one that is realized is the one that delivers the most value for the least effort. We are motivated to do what is easy.”


Twirling this whole concept back to that small shelf by your door, the reason you can attribute a piece of furniture to healthy living is simple: The drawer allows the act of finding your sneakers to become easy. No longer do you have to walk to the back of your house, rummage through a bin of footwear in your closet and excavate said sneakers. Now, with this magical shelf, you grab them and go, like a fast-food line for a healthier life. (Even the idea of fast food is based on this principle: We eat the pizza, the fries and the burger because it’s so much easier than chewing through quinoa or kale salad.)

Anyway, what does this all mean for you? Glad you asked. Let me break it down:

Frictionless Design

Spring cleaning is upon us and now is the perfect time to clear your desk of random papers, (or purchase a new desk), move your coffee pot closer to your workspace and arrange your office, so you feel calm from the minute you step inside. Clear refers to this as “environmental design” or creating a space that provides the least amount of friction for whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. (If it’s flossing every night, set your floss right by your toothbrush.)

The lesson: When something seems hard, reduce whatever is causing you to stress. Rethink your office décor or rethink the room you’ve allocated as your office. (If you’re rethinking your real estate, let’s talk [email protected]) about homes that might be a better fit for your work-from-home lifestyle.)

Professional Applications

Are you a small business owner looking to grow in 2021? The Law of Least Effort can be a powerful marketing tool when crafting your business’ overall strategy. Ask yourself: Is the message I’m conveying tapping into the natural inclinations of people to do the easiest thing that reaps the most value? 


Your marketing should reflect the fact that your business alleviates some burden in another person’s life that wouldn’t otherwise be alleviated. For instance, as a real estate agent, I take away the pain of a potentially stressful homebuying or selling process. My clients know I am here  to create a seamless process from start to finish.

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