It’s standard practice at a two-day meeting that I attend regularly to have a spread of snacks out during the gathering. It’s a veritable buffet of goodies and all of us partake liberally in the treats. We finally met again in person after a long pandemic hiatus, and to help slow the spread of Covid, all of the snacks were in individual packaging. We hardly ate anything.

It truly was “out of sight, out of mind.” The principle applies not only to food but to all kinds of behavior. If our colleagues are out of sight, it’s easier to forget about making the connections. If we aren’t having social engagements with friends, we too often fail to call to sustain the relationship. If the warning light doesn’t pop up on the car, we don’t think about getting an oil change. If there aren’t automatic withdrawals from our paycheck, retirement planning fades.

If you want to change behavior about something, visibility matters. Treats in the dish look appealing and make it easy to enjoy. Snacks in a package require effort and intentionality and are far easier to ignore. Make that which you wish to encourage visible and put that which you hope to forget one step away from being seen. That thin layer makes all the difference in action.

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