I’d like to share a concept that I have been following for years but haven’t seen explained elsewhere.

Here is the gist of it for people who are in a hurry:

To do more of something, remove friction. To do less of something, add friction

Where this principle is applied already

In the sport curling to help make the stone move straighter, the team sweeps the ice to warm it up and reduce friction.

The following graph shows how removing friction in curling can improve distance by 45%.


Source: The engineering approach to winter sports

In software agile methodologies, impediments are managed daily to increase a team’s velocity.

Can you think of other professions where friction is being added or removed consciously?

The magic of this principle is that it is so simple and yet yields incredible results.

How can you apply this in your life?

Want to lose weight? Remove the junk food and sugar in your house. By making it harder to eat the wrong thing, you are more likely to eat the right thing when you are hungry.

Want to learn to play guitar? How would you apply the friction driven productivity principle to this? You could for example put the guitar in a central spot in your house, like your living room. Next time you sit in your sofa, you are a bit more likely to pick up the guitar.

Want to waste less time? Get rid of your TV. Yes there is an entertainment value in watching TV, it is for some a way to relax. But I argue that there are better ways to re-create. It is too easy to watch TV beyond the time period where it is useful. Not having a TV is not some idealistic preaching, I have not owned a TV for 12 years now and I know many people who are in the same situation. It is a lifestyle choice.

Want to exercise more? Commute by bicycle, live closer to parks or beaches. I currently live by the beach but I have lived a year in Bangkok. I have seen first hand the impact my environment has on my motivation to exercise. I went from doing maybe eight hours at the beach to struggling to do an hour each week.

Want to encourage your kid’s development? Make it easy for him/her to access his toys even if it means your house doesn’t look as tidy.

Let us know in the comments how you think you can apply this principle.

(Head photo from AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

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