Use prompts and change the users' environment

Habits are shaped by the physical environment, which triggers habitual behaviours. If you want to change habits, one way is to change the environment. For example, if someone wants to stop eating cookies, they can help themselves by moving the cookie jar to another place.
Prompts are one easy way to change the physical environment of your target group. They can be stickers that are to be placed in visible places (e.g. on the refrigerator door, in the bathroom). New devices, such as a switch-enabled extension cord, or a ‘shower duck timer’ that reminds of long showers, can also help to change habits by changing the physical environment.
What you need to do: 

There are various ways to change the users' physical environment. For example, you can:

  • Develop and distribute home or workplace  ‘energy-saving packs’ with stickers and switchable extension cords
  • Send regular e-mails or letters to remind people about certain behaviours
  • Use physical objects like meters or a ‘quacking shower timer’ to help remind users of their behaviour
When does it work?: 
These kinds of tools can be helpful as part of a broader package of change interventions. In particular, we have found prompts and physical devices useful:
  • in a work environment, to create and reinforce social norms
  • in families, to support children’s role as ‘positive pester power’ in encouraging parental participation
  • to create awareness of habits and remind people once they are motivated to change
  • when you can engage the target group in desiging their own ‘prompts’
What do you need to look out for: 

► Prompts or new equipment are not likely to work unless people are really motivated and have bought into your message.

► Prompts can be annoying.

► Prompts may lose their effect once people get used to them.