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Set cues for success

Recently, I published an article on Medium about how we can use the theory of affordance from behavioural science to help us create the lifestyle we want.

Many people want to pick up new hobbies or achieve new goals, but find themselves stuck in their old routine.

Affordance is the set-up of an environment to change or control behaviour through hidden or subtle messages and cues. Therefore, you can tailor your environment to support the lifestyle you want and the habits you want to build by simply adding in new cues and messages.

See it on Medium here or read below: find out how you can set cues to success with affordance.


Do you have a huge list of things you want to do and achieve that you struggle to find time for? I do. I have countless goals and I know what I want my lifestyle to be like, but I often end up distracted in the old routine of my life. Recently, I decided enough was enough and have been looking at how to use affordance to kick my old behaviours out the door and tailor my environment to create the lifestyle I want.

This article will show you how you can use affordance to create the lifestyle you want, too.


Affordance is the set-up of an environment to change or control behaviour through hidden or subtle messages and cues.

This could be as simple as footprint stickers on the floor of a shop to show you where to line up and which direction to walk. The footprints send you the messages of how the creators of that system, the shop, intend you to use that environment.


Many well set-up environments use affordance to guide people to most effectively use that space. Examples include:

  • Stickers in men’s urinals to promote aim and reduce spray.

  • Bright borders around the latest message on your work message board to show you which one to read.

  • Seats put in particular places for you to rest and use the services around them easily.

A great example of affordance is in this video, below. This train station wanted to encourage more people to use the stairs. With decoration on the steps making it more obvious that it’s intended to be used (and the fun benefit of the piano noises that match with stepping on the keys), it’s a fun example of how an environment can be adapted to encourage and change people’s behaviours for the better.


Like a train station can decorate stairs and get people changing their habits to exercise more by using the steps, we can use affordance to change our daily behaviours.

Follow this checklist to see how you can use affordance to create the lifestyle you want. Grab a piece of paper and a pen to make notes on what you can change:

  1. Write down your goal. What do you want to change?

  2. How is your life currently set up to go against your goal and make it easy for you not to change your behaviours?

  3. How can you change the set-up of your environment to give you behaviour-changing clues?

  4. Evaluate after giving your new environment a try: how well did changing your environment work for changing your behaviour? Is there anything else you can change to make it more effective?


  1. Goal: to watch less TV.

  2. I can see that my room is set up so that I can easily flop on my sofa to relax after a tiring day. My TV is right in front of my sofa so it’s easy to see, turn on, and get stuck there all evening.

  3. If I move my sofa or TV so it’s harder to use them both together, I can’t flop on the sofa and watch TV. Maybe I move the TV to face a different direction or put it in a place in the room where it’s not ‘obvious pride-of-place’.

  4. Did you watch less TV and rest on the sofa less? How could you improve?


You can use affordance to improve your environment and tailor your ideal lifestyle and behaviour.

To do this, set up little cues and hidden messages in your environment to use your space more effectively. These could be as simple as leaving notes by the coffee pot you use every morning or moving your bookcase to a place you walk past regularly if you want to read more.

Bookcases at the front of the living room
If you put your bookcases in a place that’s easy to see or access, you’ll find yourself thinking about books and reading more often.

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