Barriers. It’s all about barriers.
A barrier is anything that makes an action more difficult. It can literally be a huge physical barrier, like the Berlin Wall, or it could be nothing but air.
If you want to stop eating so much crap while you work, don’t keep the candy dish at your desk. Keep it across the room, just far enough so you have to get up if you want a piece. Just that few feet of air can literally save you five pounds of fat on your ass per year.
If you want people in the office to communicate more, don’t stick them in separate offices. Arrange their desks so constant communication is inevitable. If you want to use your treadmill more often, don’t stick it in the garage, put it directly in front of your TV.
Barriers are powerful. So powerful, in fact, they even work on the king of the jungle. As told by the Harvard Business Review:
I was on an old, rustic train lumbering through the plains of Harambe, Africa (at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida) when I noticed a majestic lion sitting on a rock on top of a hill, in perfect view.
“Aren’t we lucky the lion is out,” I mused to the “ranger” on the train with us.
“He’s always out there, sitting on that rock,” he responded.
“Really?” I said. “How do you get him to stay in that exact spot?”
The ranger just smiled.
It turns out the rock he sat on was temperature controlled. It was warm on cold days, cool on hot days. No need to train the lion or tie him to the rock or hope he likes the view. Just make the rock a place he wants to sit.