Making The Right Thing Easy


Over the past 14 months or so, I’ve gotten serious about taking better care of myself. I work out Monday through Friday, with rare exceptions. While I’m not super strict on what I eat, I have gotten much healthier there as well—replacing most of my usual sugary snacks with fruits and vegetables and ditching fast-food lunches in favor of salads or other healthier alternatives. I used to drink very little water, opting for, well, pretty much anything else. Now, most days, I’m drinking somewhere between 80 and 100 ounces of the stuff.

This comes after years of saying I wanted to do these things but never sticking with it for very long.

One of the biggest reasons it has stuck is also one of the simplest and least revolutionary: I made it easy to do the healthy thing.

I bought a water bottle that I like and carry it with me pretty much wherever I go. When I’m at the office, I set it right on my desk, next to the computer, so that it’s never more than an arm’s length away.

For the snacks, I went to the grocery store and found healthier options that I still enjoy. I keep them a few feet from my desk so that if I feel the urge to snack on something, they’re right there. I do still have some more “fun” goodies (I have a massive sweet tooth), but I keep them in a separate room. If I’m going to opt for chocolate over an apple, I’m going to have to work a little more to do it.

I keep a gym bag in my office, with gym clothes washed and ready to go. When I walk in, the bag is sitting right there by the door. I don’t have to think—I grab the bag and walk out. I do the same thing when I’m traveling: my gym stuff is always right there, ready to go. All it takes is a few seconds of willpower to get moving. I keep a pair of adjustable dumbbells at home, so even if I can’t get to the gym, there’s never an excuse not to workout.

I changed my default state so that it supports the habits I want to develop.

It’s one of the most important things any organization can do as well.

Our default tooling stack makes it all too easy to build sites and applications that don’t perform well. The next library is just an npm install away. Images, fonts, CSS—the starting point for pretty much every resource you can think of is “just add more here.” It’s easier to do the wrong thing than it is to do the right thing.

So for every company I work with, I try to flip that script.

How do we make it easier to build well? What changes can be made to make it easier to make something performant, secure, and accessible than to create something that doesn’t live up to those standards?

While most folks have the best of intentions, we all fall back on whatever our default state is from time to time. A combination of seamless automation (for example, automatic image optimization) and carefully placed friction (for example, enforcing performance budgets at build or even install) is necessary to change the default of our processes to promote things like accessibility, security, and performance.

If we want to see lasting improvements, we need to make sure the default state of our workflows makes it easy to build well, not just to build quickly.