The glamorous side of productivity and self improvement is the big changes. You put your stake in the ground, decide to make a change, and you do it. You start a new set of habits or a new project. These are positive things, but we sometimes forget about the other side of forward progress.
Throughout our lives we are constantly introducing chaos and friction. A new business might mean a new bank account, IRS forms, email address, and a new web site to maintain. A new relationship can disrupt your regular routine. A new set of habits adds more obligation to your day.
The less glamorous side is systematically reducing friction. Sometimes we forget to do this because reducing friction doesn't look like forward progress. It looks like janitorial work, and that's not very exciting.
But reducing friction is what helps you get the most out of each stroke. It makes it so that you can sustain your progress and do more each day with the same amount of effort.
Here are some examples of things that I did recently to reduce friction:
- I made some mailing lists for groups of friends that I email frequently
- I bought a few years of extra batteries and toiletries from Amazon
- I sorted through all of the paper in my office and all of the mail in my mail scanning service
- I organized my tea, loose hardware like nails and screws, and my tools
- I bought better pliers because my old ones annoyed me whenever I used them
- I moved all of my vehicles to the same LLC and the same insurer
- I sold the small amounts of cryptocurrency I had in coins like CVC and BCC because I was too distracted checking the prices
- I bought new sandals because my old ones were annoying
- I bought a new projector because the remote stopped working on my old one and I had to reach under the couch to turn it on and off
- I went through my shelves in my little shed and closet and got rid of everything I didn't need
- I made some tools for CruiseSheet to make routine tasks take a fraction of the time they used to take
- I polyurethaned the shelves in my tea room and the nightstands I made in my bedroom
None of this is glamorous stuff. And each little item is so small that it almost doesn't feel worth working on. Better pliers? Extra batteries? Deleting old mail? But the cumulative benefit is huge.
I was working on some electrical stuff in my car and was trying to crimp wire connectors with pliers. It works but was a miserable experience. Then I finally paid $18 for some actual wire crimpers and the rest of the job was not only quick and painless, but actually fun. Efficiency feels really good.
We are all going to add stuff to our lives naturally. If I make a new friend, I'm going to make time for them. If I have a new project idea, it's not hard for me to get motivated to start on it. If there's something I really want to buy, I'm probably going to do it.
If we don't watch out, though, we'll never remove stuff from our lives. That's the mechanism we use to create space for the new things, though, temporally, physically, and mentally.
I always try to remove friction. I try to travel with fewer things in my backpack. I like getting rid of things in my house. I unfollow and unfriend people on Facebook all the time. I love spending focused time building something that will save me from tiny annoying bits of work throughout the year. I used to try to calculate if the time savings was worth it when automating things, but now I just do it no matter what, because I've never found a time where it wasn't worth automating even a semi-frequent task.
All of this feels like a huge secret weapon to me. Every item in my environment makes it easier for me to do whatever I want to do. The constraints on my time are probably fewer than the average retired person. This doesn't lead to me living a coddled idle life, it enables me to do a lot of work with no stress, no encumbrance, and no distraction.
Take a week and notice anything that distracts you, contributes even a tiny bit of stress, or annoys you. If you can afford the time or money to solve the problem, just do it. Try to do a lot of them. Every year or two I'll spend 3-4 weeks and focus on this stuff, and it really pays off.
Photo is a weird gold + mirror mannequin I saw in a museum.
Based on feedback from an offhand mention in the last post, I'm going to put on an event in Vegas. I have a bunch of ideas for it, but I'd love to hear what you'd like to experience if you were to sign up for such an event and spend a weekend with me and 10-20 other awesome people. Looking to do something more more fun and interactive than me standing in front of a room and talking all day.
ATV riding/racing in the dunes
Tactical firearms class
Behind the scenes casino tour
Startup day - group tosses ideas around. Picks most exciting one and spends a full day hacking something together.
Parkour/ninja warrior gym
Trampoline park - do this with friends and be prepared to laugh hysterically
Give back - find local people in need and do something as a group to make their day/week/year
Group cooking class
Improv/pickup social challenges in public
Dude, cryptocurrencies are up like 40% since you posted this
Amazing post Tynan. Do you ever buy from eBay as well? I have seen you talking about buying from Amazon several times but never saw the word eBay on your blog.
results from googling "site:tynan.com ebay", these are all posts where he mentions eBay
The item in the photo is a jade burial suit from China. http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/jade-burial-suits
I feel like most readers here would be down for most anything, and personally for me part of the fun would be connecting with everyone so seems like stuff that is more organic than just sit-in-a-room-and-give-talks would be a lot more interesting.I'd be down for most anything with the right group of people, but some ideas that come to mind are something like an escape room or big social game (Werewolf, One Night, Two Rooms and A Boom) might be good for breaking the ice.Depending on the heat for the timing you're thinking of, hiking Valley of Fire (or Red Rock) would be nice and leave lots of opportunity for conversation/climbing/etcBarring that, indoor bouldering, skyzone, or something along those lines would be fun.Neon Boneyard at night is something I keep meaning to do and also probably leaves a lot of room for talking about goals/sticking points.I'd be interested to know what your favorite places are after having lived in Vegas for a bit and always love tea.
I asked my (adult) son what he had been doing: He said he had taken 189 "friends" off Facebook....I said, "Why?" He said," If I would not walk across the Safeway parking lot to talk to them, why would I have them as "friends"? But everyone is different.
Some random ideas which could be fun to test with a good group:
* everyone talks about a passion they have (ie. lightning talks)
* something meditative for mindfulness
* something low-key for spontaneous creativity
* physical activities
* Campbellian exploration/adventure (requires more planning but potentially the most fruitful)
This reminds me of the story of David Brailsford and Team Sky, the British cycling team. He followed the same concept, "the 1% margin for improvement in everything you do", a concept he called 'aggregation of marginal gains' and led the British Team to a win in 3 years for the first time ever. You can read about it here. http://jamesclear.com/marginal-gains
I used to dislike to work. I saw how most people lived their lives, slogging through work that they hated, and I was determined not to fall into that trap. I made the mistake of generalizing, lumping all work together in the same bucket.
Since then, things have changed. In terms of monumental personal life changes, becoming a hard worker is the most recent one I've undergone. About a year ago, for reasons I touched on in this post, I decided that it was imperative for me to become a hard worker. I didn't do it because I had suddenly fallen in love with work, but rather because I had began to feel as though I was behind. And believe me, it wasn't love at first sight.
To fall in love with hard work, you must understand why it's necessary. When I was young I was told that sugar was bad, but I never understood exactly why it was bad, so I kept eating it. Only when I learned how it chemically affected my body did I finally give it up. The same is true of work-- if you don't know why you have to work hard and love it, you'll probably never actually do it.
Work is your gift to the world. That sounds corny, but it's true. And believe me, you owe the world a gift or two. Think of all of the various things that millions of people around the world have done for you to enjoy the life you have. They made up languages, invented stuff, procreated at the exact right times to create your ancestry, and managed to not kill each other in the process. We're lucky to be here, and the high standard of living we all enjoy now is only because of those who came before us. Some, like Einstein, had huge impact, but even people you don't notice, like the janitors, are making your life better.
The coefficient of friction is a number that describes the friction between two objects. A combination like rubber on concrete would have a really high coefficient of friction, whereas a greased baby on a slip-n-slide would have a really low coefficient of friction.
There's more to it, though-- every pair of objects has two coefficients of friction, one for static friction, whch applies when the objects are at rest, and one for kinetic friction which applies when objects are in motion. The kinetic coefficient is always lower, which is why something can be stuck on an incline, but as soon as you give it a tiny push, it slides easily. We have mental coefficients of friction, too, and they react the same way.
Preparing for my trip to China last fall, I knew that my laptop battery wouldn't last for the entire length of the flight. Rather than being a champion and just read, I decded to download the first season of Breaking Bad to watch on my phone. Being the paragon of discipline that I am, I figured I'd watch the first half of the season on the flight over (after exhausting my computer battery with work, of course), and then watch the second half on the way back.
So I got on my flight to China and worked until my battery was dead. That was easy, because working on my laptop is what I do. I read for an hour or so on my Kindle and then decided to check out Breaking Bad. As everyone said-- it was great. I watched it for the rest of the flight.