Accomplish Your Goals With Visual Cues

By Ted Baeur

I’m super interested in habit formation and setting goals — although I wouldn’t necessarily call myself very good at either — because I think in some ways it’s the cornerstone of human existence. (That sounded deep.) After all, 45 percent of what we do in a given day is ultimately habit — which means that 1 of every 2 things you ever do is something you habitually designed yourself to do — and setting goals is supposed to be the big thing that keeps us on course. Thing is, these topics right here can seem daunting as all hell. Who wants to worry about forming habits and setting goals with all the other big things we need to do in a given day?

But what if we could make it simpler?

Apparently you can. We’ve talked before about making tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, and now there are new, similar ideas from the authors of the book Made To Stick. That book is all about why some ideas thrive and some die on the spot, and the authors — as many business tome authors do — spoke to Fast Company about their essential ideas.

Here’s one: place visual cues in prominent places to help you set goals and establish habits.

What does that mean?

Well, before you go to bed, you could place sneakers in front of your bedroom door. Goal: Get off your fat ass and work out.

You could change your e-mail password to “QuitSmoking4Eva.” Goal: Um, quit smoking.

The overall idea is this:

  • Set goals.
  • Make a list of the goals.
  • Associate the goals with environmental aspects of your life.
  • Figure out how to connect them (i.e leaving the shoes out).
  • The visual connection back to the goal will reinforce what you need to do.
  • That eventually will make it become a habit.

This sounds complicated in that I just listed a bunch of steps above, but it’s not. Basically: pick one thing you want to do, then figure out something in your daily routine that could remind you of that. Link them together in your mind through repetitive steps and the visual cue nature of it, and BAM, there you have it: a goal met, a new habit established.

That’s a lot simpler than some self-help book you’d read on a plane, right?

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