Stay Hydrated by Using a Live Water Cup

Make a Basic Habit More Convenient Using Environment Design

Vaibhav Gupta
4 min readAug 6, 2020
Photo by Tyler Swann on Unsplash

Water is really good for you. Duh.

But people get really fucking weird about drinking water. They don’t drink enough, they don’t pay attention to it, and they get really defensive if you call them out on it.

The problem with staying hydrated is that water as a resource is so readily available in most places that we take it for granted.

It also isn’t very convenient to drink upwards of 2 litres of water a day — you have to keep track of it and remind yourself to keep drinking.

Even if I tell you the benefits of drinking water,

  • (Better organ health — heart, kidneys, liver,
  • Better joints and less body pain,
  • Soft pliable skin,
  • Higher energy, higher motivation, better mood,
  • Healthy and regular digestive system,
  • and many more)

or warn you about the dangers of dehydration,

  • (lethargy and weakness,
  • poor mood,
  • blood pressure and hormonal imbalances,
  • headache, dizziness, and fainting,
  • literal death
  • and many more)

chances are you won’t be motivated to keep up your hydration for very long. The inconvenience of it makes it an easy habit to discard.

So here’s a solution to make it more convenient.

The Live Water Cup

You know how in bars you have a “live” drink, i.e. the drink in your hand that everybody wants you to finish so you can get the next drink? I tried that with a cup next to me at my workplace.


  1. Keep a full water bottle and your favorite mug full of water at your desk, in front of you and within easy reach.
  2. Fill your cup as soon as it is empty using your water bottle.
  3. As soon as your bottle is empty, make a trip to the water cooler and fill it up.

Step 3 is the only inconvenience which might break your flow, so opt to get a big water bottle.

I used this simple system all throughout 2019 and it dramatically improved my water intake. I found myself automatically reaching for my cup every few minutes, and was easily getting through 2 litres of water almost every day. The 1 trip to the water cooler was the only pinch point.

Now at home during quarantine, I’m so lazy about going to the kitchen to refill that I keep a massive 1.5l capacity surai (clay bottle) and a 5l pot of water in my room.

I don’t need a cup anymore because the surai is convenient enough. The only reason I previously kept a live cup was because my water bottle had a screw-on top, and opening that bottle was enough of a deterrent to prevent me from sipping water every couple of minutes. With the surai, I simply take off that little cap that isn’t attached to the bottle and enjoy the cold water a clay bottle gives you.

I am NOT paying attention to my water consumption nowadays, but I am comfortably getting through one full surai daily. I absent-mindedly get through 1.5 to 2 litres.

Why does this work?

This is a very simple example of environment design, which is a larger philosophy about adjusting your surroundings to make your habits and work easier. We will never stick to our habits unless we find a way to make them easy and convenient.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear defines a habit as a four-step procedure — Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward. I highly recommend reading Atomic Habits to understand the full scope of this, but in short, James says that we:

  1. get triggered (cue) by sensing a familiar event or item,
  2. and we generate a desire (craving).
  3. We then attempt to fulfill that desire (response),
  4. and get a feeling of satisfaction from it (reward).

Example: You go into your kitchen and see a pack of cookies in a box (cue). You think about having a cookie because it is sugary and tasty (craving). You open up the box and have a cookie (response) and you feel good (reward).

Environment design is all about allowing yourself to be cued in a way that you want. By keeping a water cup next to you, you will be cued to take a sip every time you see it, which will be often. The reward in this case is the satisfaction of maintaining your habit, and then within a few days, you’ll start getting the benefits of water.

Try this method and see if it works for you. It really made staying hydrated a convenience for me, and I believe it will help you maintain a very basic and necessary habit.



Vaibhav Gupta

Professional technical writer, 2x Distinguished Toastmaster. I write about mental health and self-awareness. Also see