Hi everyone! Sorry for not sending out the newsletter last week and yesterday. The truth is I usually write the newsletters throughout the week when I especially don’t feel like studying. It gives me something productive to do when my energy is very low and allows me to get back to studying once my energy is back. It also means that I’m able to write long newsletters, which include more nuance and detail. Now that I have exams coming up that didn’t really happen. The problem is that this increased the friction to writing them, which is what I want to talk about today.
In physics, friction is the resistance that one object encounters when moving over another. When you slide something on the floor it usually takes some force to push through the resistance caused by the two materials sliding against each other. This physical phenomenon is used to describe a mental phenomenon that is very important to understand if you want to consistently be productive.
If an action has high friction it means that the energy required to do it is very high. If you have a very difficult task that you need to complete (for example, a hard set of questions to work through) the mental energy that you would need to spend to get yourself to do it would be very high. On the other hand, if all you had to do was answer some simple addition problems, it still might not get done right away but it wouldn’t be as difficult to get yourself to do it.
The reason I talk about this is, if you’re able to master the skill of increasing the friction for things you don’t want to do and reducing the friction for things that you would like to do, you’ll be able to effortlessly be more productive and avoid distractions.
For example, If you want to spend less time on your phone, download an app blocker. If you want to eat less junk food, don’t buy any so the temptation isn’t there. If you want to play fewer video games, disconnect your console and place it in a drawer. Just the fact that there’s an extra step in between the idea and the action, will make you much less likely to do it.
If you want to meditate more, commit to doing 1-minute meditations. If you want to practice playing your guitar more, place it on your couch so that it’s easy to grab whenever you have some downtime. If you want to eat more healthily, precook healthy meals and have them ready to eat in the fridge. If you want to go to the gym, get your gym bag ready and place it next to your door (for bonus points sleep in your gym clothes to work out in the morning).
Stack the deck in your favor. Make success more likely to happen. People have systems and environments in which accomplishing their goals is very difficult, then they complain about not having enough motivation and discipline. OBVIOUSLY, even very disciplined and motivated people would have trouble succeeding in that environment, why would you think that you should be able to?
Maybe a good way to think about it is with 2 versions of yourself. You have the version who designs systems and environments for your future self, and the one who tests them. You design something, see how it goes, and tweak if it didn’t work. It’s not the user’s fault if something goes wrong, it just means that the system isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.
I think you get the idea. Make good things easy and bad things hard and you will accomplish your goals without having to constantly push against the mental resistance of friction. You won’t need to rely on your motivation or discipline. They are important, but they should only be relied upon when your system invariably fails. It shouldn’t be the crutch you lean against.
This might be the single most important skill to develop for productivity. Let me know what you think, and if you’ve implemented this into your life, let me know if it worked. See you next week.