It’s been two weeks, so that must mean it’s time for another “Ask Dan Ariely” post, and fortunately, Dan and the Wall Street Journal came through.
I know it’s not good for my health to sit at my desk all day without breaks, so I tried putting reminders in my calendar to stand up and move around. But I usually end up just ignoring them. Is there a better way to make myself get out of my chair during the day? —Michael
And here was Dan’s response:
Reminders are useful when you have actual memory problems, but they’re not so helpful when it comes to changing behavior. I wish this wasn’t so: Just imagine how easy it would be to quit smoking or stick to a diet if all you had to do was remind yourself of your earlier resolutions! In reality, creating small obstacles that force you to take action is a better way to change your routine than good intentions and reminders. So try changing your work environment in ways that force you to leave your desk. For example, you could set up a separate area for video calls—a spot with good lighting and no chair, so you have to stand up. If there are files you have to consult regularly, store them in another room. You could also make a habit of using the bathroom that is furthest away from your desk. Ideally you can pick one on another floor of your home or office, so you have to climb stairs to get there several times during the day.
I would have gone in the completely opposite direction. Instead of creating small obstacles, I would create a stimulus, something I really want. And I would put it somewhere that I would have to get up to get it. And the good news is that I know exactly what that stimulus would be.
When I sit down to do some work at home, many times I find myself getting up every five minutes and walking into the kitchen to grab a cookie, some chips, some peanuts, or a pretzel. You get the idea.
I find it much more motivating to get up from my desk to get a snack than if I had to get up to get a file from another room. I could probably convince myself that I really don’t need that file, and just keep working at my desk. But I would find it much harder to talk myself out of standing up and walking to the kitchen to get a snack.
So there you have it. The perfect solution to not sitting at your desk too long.
Just load your kitchen cabinets with tasty treats, and you’ll find yourself doing more standing than sitting at your desk working…