Alfred Lua posted an article recently where he wrote;
I thought the way to get more results is simply doing more of the same thing and doing it better. For example, if I were to write more blog posts and write better blog posts, I can get more traffic and shares.
This certainly could be attributed to working smarter, not harder.
But that is not a satisfactory answer because the process is not boiled down to a simple trick or hack.
Well, before I introduce the idea for today's article, let me introduce you to a simple test I call the 'iPhone test'.
If you are an iPhone user (like me), what are the reasons for using an iPhone?
Is it status? Is it's design and aesthetics? Is it the OS?
My answer is simple. For most people, using the iPhone produces less friction than, say Android or other operating systems. The simplest example is when I'm transferring everything from my old iPhone to a new iPhone. I backup everything to iCloud and restore it to the new phone.
Think about some of the apps that you use on your phone, for example. Why do you use them?
Here's an example from my own experience. For navigation, I prefer using Google Maps to Apple Maps or Waze. Why? There's less friction involved; I'm familiar with the interface, it is usually 99% accurate, and I can save the most used addresses for Work and Home (that interestingly changes from Work /Home depending on the time of day I use the app).
Your preferred app may not do things better, the same way an iPhone is probably not better than a top Android phone. You use them because the process of using one produces less friction.
What is the super-duper-ultimate way to increase my productivity?
Productivity is a process of eliminating distractions. The more we can eliminate, the better our focus. Therefore, increasing productivity.
In my crude drawing below, you'll find the formula for productivity;
Increasing productivity is simple, reduce input and decrease distractions.
But there comes a certain part of the curve where increasing input is increasingly harder. And deleting distractions entirely is almost a futile effort.
The flywheel effect, a concept from Jim Collins in his book Good to Great, says this (emphasis mine);
No matter how dramatic the end result, good-to-great transformations never happen in one fell swoop. In building a great company or social sector enterprise, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no one killer innovation, no solitary lucky break, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.
I borrow this concept for the concept I'm calling the Productivity Flywheel;
There is no single defining action that increases productivity. It is the process of turning the productivity flywheel, building momentum until the point of breakthrough and beyond.
Productivity is grunt work at the beginning. It is doing the heavy lifting, the grind, the big push to get started and get things moving. While the effort to keep something moving is much less than to get it started, you still will encounter some drag or friction.
This friction is what will limit your productivity.
The answer is clear, to increase productivity, you have to reduce friction for your inputs and increase friction to your distractions.1
What is frictionless productivity?
In the movie The Founder, Ray Croc (played by Michael Keaton) tours the kitchen run by brothers Mac and Dick. Their innovation of a "fast food" system to churn out burgers at a rapid pace, combined with a high work ethic of young people with a systematic layout of the space, resulting in massive results. A high volume of food is able to exit the kitchen to feed a growing and hungry crowd. Day in and out, the cash registers don't stop ringing.
I wish I had a chance to have worked in a McDonald's when I was a student. I would have learned so much just seeing how the kitchen worked from the inside.
It's not unlike the Ford assembly line building out its Model T's. Every person, every machine and every square inch plays a specific purpose. When everything is in sync, output improves. Productivity soars through the roof.
Frictionless productivity is finding ways to optimise by looking at areas of high friction.
If you wanted to improve productivity, I'd suggest start by looking at areas of friction.
For example, for my daily reading habit, I use the Books app on my iPhone to read. Because it's there and I get to my book straight away without much effort, my reading increases. Would I read more if I had a Kindle? Maybe, but the fact I carry my iPhone with me everywhere means I can access my books anywhere and everywhere.
Look at areas in your life or work that you'd like to improve and find those friction points.
- Do you need to remove the friction? (take out a step or middle man)
- Do you need to 'add oil' to make it run smoother? (For example, switching software)
The most important thing to remember is that removing friction doesn't mean changing your input.
Don't change your input. Keep doing what you have been doing to get this far.
Look at ways to reduce friction so you can keep doing what you do, but better.
- I came across a similar idea from James Clear about increasing path of resistance to discourage bad habits. You can discourage distractions from your productivity by putting more resistance to them eg. putting your phone far away from you while you work, deleting social media from your phone, turning of your internet while you do deep work.