In terms of personal habits, there are two ways to use friction to your advantage:
- Create less friction for good habits.
- Create more friction for bad habits.
The first one is easy to understand: you lay out your gym clothes the night before so there is less friction in the morning – a smooth transition, or maybe you automate your bills so you don’t have to think about them.
The second one is what I have been spending more time thinking about lately. The biggest concentration breaker in my life right now is my phone, reaching over to “check” if I have any messages when it is unnecessary. Then I read Cal Newport’s blog post, “Do Smartphones Make Us Dumber”, and decided to experiment with keeping my phone in my backpack like I would do in the office – with the ringer turned on so I can hear if someone is calling me. That tiny bit of added friction made a big difference in my concentration and ability to stay on a hard problem.
Understanding and using both types of friction to your advantage creates habits where it is easy to succeed and hard to fail.