Reduce Friction

The more I work on various aspects of my and other peoples’ lives, the more obvious it is that friction is one of one’s biggest enemies. The best way I can define friction is to contrast it with regular challenges that we might encounter. A challenge is something that comes up in your path that, once you push through it, teaches you something or makes you better. Friction is something something that gets in your way but leaves you no better off once you move past it. Challenges may tire you out, but they leave you motivated. Friction slowly wears at you and saps your enthusiasm.

I talk a lot about automating things, and the reason that I do so is because automation is one of the biggest ways to reduce friction. When I first started setting up automated processes I questioned whether or not they’d actually be worth the up-front time investment. Now that I’ve done dozens of them I’ve come to realize that they’ve always been worth it for me as well as for my coaching clients who have automated away their friction.

One of the things I like about reducing friction is that it forces you to focus on important tasks. The path between you and your work is clear and unimpeded. When there’s a lot of friction in your life it’s easy to focus on that friction, even if you aren’t doing anything to resolve it.

A good example of reduced friction is my daily routine in Las Vegas (which, by the way, is the lowest friction city in which I’ve spent any real amount of time).

When I wake up in the morning I have tea nearly every day. We bought two adjoining condos, so my kitchen became the tea kitchen. I have two shelves of identical tea tins with magnetic labels so that I can choose the one I want. I have a scale, tea scoop, and tea plate so that I can measure out my tea. The labeling system was one of those friction reducers that felt like it was maybe not worth it at the time, but now it feels well worth it.

If I’m having tea with my friends or wife I bring it over to the tea room, which was a bar area to the previous owner. I have one tea kettle there and another in the kitchen for making matcha. For a long time I only had one, but found that it was too much friction to make matcha, so I bought an extra kettle. I found the additional benefit of now being able to bring both kettles into the tea room so I don’t have to get up to get more water when I’m making tea there. If I have tea by myself I make it in my office.

In my office is a huge 98″ desk that I made out of an IKEA countertop. I have a 43″ monitor and the exact same keyboard/trackpoint combo that I use on my laptop. My desktop and laptop sync so that I can work equally well on either, and I use the same keyboard/trackpoint combo so that there’s no friction in moving between them. My computer is a whole other level of friction-reduction, doing a lot of stuff for me, and having key combinations for just about everything else.

We turned one of the spare bedrooms into a gym which has everything I need to do my full workout. In a commercial gym it used to take me about 40-45 minutes to do the complete workout, but our gym is so optimized that it takes me only about 30-35. Everything is set up correctly and there’s no waiting. Plus there’s obviously a huge savings and hassle cost in actually leaving and going to the gym.

I only eat one meal a day so that I don’t have to think about the other two, and I default to eating at Chipotle at 6pm every day. If we have guests or if my wife wants to go somewhere else I’m happy to do that as well, but by having a default I never have to agonize over where to eat.

Our entire house is fully automated, so that when I put my phone on its charger next to the bed at night the doors lock and the lights turn off. Curtains close at sunset and open at sunrise, thermostats get turned down when we leave. Our plants are all in self watering pots. I even bought a valve and piping to make our humidifier fill itself. The bed makes itself at 11am every day.

Some of this stuff sounds excessive, and a lot of is certainly in the luxury category, but the combined effect is that when I’m home it is far easier for me to do the things I ought to be doing than those things that I shouldn’t. For me that makes it all worth it.

Think about what creates friction in your life and chip away at it, one piece at a time. At first the benefits may not seem obvious, but eventually you get to a point where your life has almost no friction at all and you can spend your time doing things that are important to you.

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Photo is my desk in Vegas

I still have a couple spots left for Superhuman 3 in Las Vegas in October. Email me if you’re interested or read more details here.

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