Goal SettingHabits

You See, You Do: The Importance of Visibility

Visibility: Sticky notes on computer

Bad news first: You don’t default to doing good, hard things.

You probably default to conserving energy and hedging your bets. It’s nature’s way of protecting us. But it’s not very satisfying, is it? Most of the time, it’s the struggle and sense of adventure a challenge presents that leads to the greatest personal satisfaction.

So, how do you work against self-protective inertia and make progress on what matters to you?

That’s where the good news comes in. There’s a simple, easy strategy to push you toward positive action. Visibility. Making visible—physically visible—what matters to you drives reflection and action. Visibility works for four reasons.

Visibility Causes Us to Remember

There’s truth in the idiom “out of sight, out of mind.” When we see a physical reminder, it causes us to remember a former intent, event, or idea. For example:

  • Putting your planner on top of your laptop might prompt you to set your Daily Big 3.
  • Leaving your dryer door ajar might remind you there are clean clothes to fold after dinner.
  • Making an important phrase your desktop background might recenter you on what’s true.

Visibility doesn’t introduce new information. Rather, it reconnects us to prior information we want to shape our behavior.

Remembering is particularly important when it comes to who we are and aspire to become. Sometimes, we act out of character with our values simply because we’ve lost sight of who we are. Remembering calls us home to ourselves. It invites us to act in alignment with who we seek to be.

Visibility Causes Us to Consider

When the next step is obvious, visibility can just give us a friendly shove. But sometimes, what we want to make progress on is a little more complex. How could visibility help you move toward increasing your savings by 30%, becoming a foster parent, writing a book, or getting a new job?

The answer lies in our thinking. We need to identify the next right thing.

This is a foundational premise of the Full Focus Planner: you don’t need to see the whole route. You just need to know the next step. When you set out to do something risky, you likely won’t know the whole way there. That’s okay. You only need to know the next step.

Visibility becomes a prompt. It causes you to consider: What could I do next that could lead me where I want to go?

Visibility Causes Us to Plan

Sometimes, we can go straight from thinking to action. But often, that undermines our productivity. There’s a way to optimize our energy and time. And that’s where planning comes in.

Let’s go back to the idea of getting a new job. You realize the next right step will be to generate a list of keywords and phrases you might use to update your resume. The next question is: When and how will you do it?

This is why a process like the Weekly Preview is so powerful. It takes something you want to do (a SMARTER goal) and turns it into a next step (Weekly Big 3), which in turn can be scheduled (and broken down into Daily Big 3 as necessary).

First, seeing makes you remember what you intended. Then, it makes you identify the next right thing. Next, is causes you to create a plan of action. Can you see where this is headed?

Visibility Causes Us to Act

Once you have a plan, what’s left is to execute. And here, again, you can use visibility as necessary to cue your action. Here are a few visibility tools you might leverage:

  • Physically placing something in an obvious or unusual place.
  • Opening a tab in your browser or phone.
  • Using sticky notes.
  • Changing the background of your devices. (Be careful: you’ll need to update periodically so you don’t get desensitized to it and stop seeing it.)
  • Writing down what you intend to do (especially in your Full Focus Planner).
  • Setting timers, making voice memos, or using an audio cue.
  • Leveraging your calendar. (What gets scheduled gets done.)
  • Posting a progress tracker somewhere visible.
  • Tying an intended action to a naturally occurring environmental cue.

That’s just a few ideas. Can you come up with more? Better yet—can you take the next step toward something you care about?

P.S. Visibility plays a key role in forming habits. For more on habits, check out this blog.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use and believe will add value to our readers. We are disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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