You are the Engineer of Your Life
It is possible to design a life that flows. You are in control of more things than you realize. These 5 ways to reduce friction will help you design a life around you that makes success look inevitable. One of the keys to creating a stress-free life is to reduce unwanted friction wherever you find it.
Think of “friction” in scientific terms first. Essentially, whenever one material moves against another, some energy will be lost to friction. One example is when you brush your dog, or go down a slide at a playground, or grind your coffee beans. As two materials move against each other, energy is lost. That energy becomes heat which will cause deformation, and wear. This wear will eventually reduce the life of materials that are in contact with each other. You can take action to reduce friction in these instances, for instance: using detangling conditioner for your dog so the brush glides through, flowing water down the slide so you slip down easily, or sharpening the blades on the grinder to process beans easier.
The exact same thing will happen when you find areas causing pain and friction in your daily life, then take steps to reduce that friction, little by little, until you discover you have built a life that makes success easy and life immensely more enjoyable. By the end of this article, you will be ready to jump into action. If you are like me, I know you are ready to fix those pesky areas in your life that are causing unnecessary friction. I’m going to give you some steps you can take to reduce the friction and smooth out the path to a life and career you love!
The struggle is real
Trust me, I’ve been there! You push and push and you work your butt off, but some days, even some weeks and months, it feels like you get nowhere. Sometimes you feel like you’re even beginning to slip backward. Yes, there are a few things that you really can’t control. There are times when people in your own family, including in your own home, derail your plans in unexpected ways – often unintentionally.
You do have an unstoppable work ethic and you find ways to power through most of the asteroids that life hurls your way. Yet, I have news for you: Life doesn’t have to be a constant barrage of unexpected events and struggles you must overcome, like a hero in a blockbuster action flick. If you’re ready to take your game to a new level, it’s time to think about ways you can smooth out your processes (for you and your family) so you can avoid all the obstacles coming at you like you are Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, you know the scene…
Start by Improving Processes in Your Home
Let’s start with the idea of process improvement first. You probably hear about this concept, including Lean Six Sigma, at work. Depending on your company, some organizations take this concept to a nearly religious level. Why? It is all about reducing friction and waste. When a company does that – they produce their product faster, with higher predictable quality, while reducing stress on current employees. People in the high potential executive pool apply these concepts as a matter of daily practice at work. You probably have extensive training in process improvement. Still, many people do not apply these ideas to their family or home. They just don’t think about it. You think you just want to relax when you get home, but what you decide that this weekend you are going to improve one process in your own home or life?
Identify Friction in Your Home
Start with some of the obvious processes in your home. Let me give you an example of a “process”. Everyone in my house has a morning routine. I will talk about that more in a few minutes, but this includes the kids. (Yes – they had a morning routine even when they were very small.) It was good for me because it helped them get ready to head out of the door, and it was good for them because kids feel safe and secure when they have a routine they are following, it makes them feel like they know what is going on.
Now my two sons are 11 and 14. Every now and then, one of them will say, “I can’t find my favorite socks” or “I can’t find my running shirt.” They might even say, “Did you wash clothes, mom?” I always have one question and they can hear it coming a mile away…. Did you put your clothes in the laundry basket? Their response is always the same… blank look, eye roll, turn around to go look in their room… NOPE! Too bad… I tell them, “I did laundry last night, I washed all the clothes in the laundry basket.” If the shirt and socks they wanted were not in the basket, they did not get washed.
It all goes back to their morning routine, it is simple:
Clearly identifying morning routines for you and all the members of your house will smooth the process of getting out the door for school and work. Once you create a routine, you can always improve it over time. An example is that my kids have simple things they have to do, while I am doing my own morning routine, and we all hold each other accountable.
- Take dirty clothes to the laundry
- Clean up the yard (we have dogs)
- Eat Breakfast
- Feed Dogs
- Brush teeth and get ready for school
This is just one example of a “process” we have in our house. You have a laundry process too. Even if it is not as defined as mine. There comes a point when you want clean laundry and you do things to make sure you have clean clothes the next day. Some people take their clothes to a laundry service, some have a housekeeper, some do a little laundry every day, some wait for weeks until they literally have nothing to wear and then take eight loads of laundry to the laundromat and spend entire Saturday washing clothes so they can start it all over.
No matter what your way is, it is a process. Obviously, some people’s processes have more room for improvement than others. It is all about what you are willing to live with. Either way, this is an example of how you can find space in your life and day.
Five Overarching Ways to Reduce Friction in Your Life.
You want something different than I do and you have a different expectation of your life. So, even though I’ll give you examples, you’ll have to get creative to reduce the friction in your own life. I want you to think about the ways you could start to reduce friction in your own life as you read through these five examples.
- Develop routines for various parts of your life. Here are a few ideas of routines I have implemented:
- Morning (from wake up to start work). The kids have their own version.
- Start work
- End work
- Arriving at home after work until dinner
- Night routine (preparing for next day and bed)
- Others: Laundry, paying bills, cleaning house, yard work, recording my podcast
2. Automating some areas of my life has become essential as I have become more senior in my career, which has driven the need to optimize my time.
- Automated Bill paying, online grocery delivery, a weekly lawn service
- Get creative with things you can automate
3. Eliminate things not aligned with your life vision.
- Excessive TV
- Toxic people or people on a much different path
- Projects or paths you are pursuing because someone else thinks you “should” (parents, friends, colleagues)
- Declutter – desk, countertops, garage, drawers. Find a place for everything. This will make cleaning easier. In order to do this, you will may have to purge things you do not need or never actually use. Go ahead and do this – your future self will thank you.
- Reorganize to enhance daily flow. (ex. Kitchen, coffee area, bathroom, laundry area, garage)
- Say no
- Decide what your three (3) most important priorities are and stop doing anything not related to those. (ex. family, career, travel or family, church, career or career, exercise, hobby)
- Design a very simple weekly dinner menu, one the kids can help with.
- Work on only one or two goals at a time.
5. Making your desired actions EASY – some good books that will help with this are Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg and Atomic Habits by James Clear.
If you want to STOP any behaviors or “bad” habits, try this:
- Think about what your trigger or prompt is that sets your “bad” habit into motion.
- Remove that trigger or prompt from your life. (Example, do not buy food you don’t want to eat, remove that food from the house.)
If you want to START new behaviors of “good” habits try this:
- Decide something “good” you want more of in your life. (Example: exercise or healthy eating).
- Break it down to the very initial action required to do the habit. (Example: putting on running shoes, buying good food at the grocery store, or maybe beginning to chop vegetables for the meal prep session on a Sunday afternoon.)
- If you want to meal prep for your lunch at work, try this: Make a goal to chop up one cucumber. That’s it. (I recommend putting this on the calendar.) When you get your reminder – chop that one cucumber. Worst case, you have one healthy snack for tomorrow – a bag of slices that will replace a bag of chips. Best case, and most likely – once you start you will complete your whole meal prepping plan for 4-5 days. It all started by making a very easy, doable plan.
A life like a well-oiled machine
I covered only the basics in this article, but you get the picture. There are so many things you can do to take charge of your own life, create days that are easier on the whole family, and set your family up for success. It will be a change at first, but the more you do this and start to look at the things that make life operate smoothly, the more time you will have and the greater chance that you will start to not only feel successful, but you may even find that success will start to just come your way. It’s amazing what happens when you focus on what you want and set up a life around you that makes success look inevitable.