Using Friction to Reinforce Habits

I use several my habits to make my life easier – in essence to reduce friction. I lay out my clothes for the week on Sunday to make my morning routine go smoother, and I make my bed each morning as a favour to my future-self so that she can enjoy a hotel-like experience every night.

This week I started to think about the relationship between friction and my habits in a different way – I started think about how I can apply (or reduce) friction to make my habits easier to build and maintain. In the early stages, almost every habit, no matter how small could use a bit of a boost.

Applying Friction to Build Habits: Some habits are harder to build and maintain, for me a big habit I have been working on for several years is watching less Television and looking to ways to choose a more productive activity first. For a time, I had a basket next to my bed full of alternate downtime activities – sudoku books, knitting needles, even a Rubik’s cube – I had even attached a list of “20 things to do instead of watching TV; around the same time, I created a list of the TV shows I allow myself to watch. Despite working at this habit for several years, I still need a little boost especially when I’m tired. I’ve added a new action to my morning routine, I place my remotes in a drawer near my side table – instead of leaving them on the bedside table – creating just an ounce of friction for me when I want to use them, I have to go fishing in the drawer which often serves as a reminder that I should look for something more productive to do.

Removing Friction to Sustain Habits: Like everyone, my life is a work-in-progress; one of the biggest challenges in my life is staying active when its cold outside. In the summer I putter around the garden, and spend hours walking outside, but when it gets frosty outside, I have to work to motivate my butt into the gym. I am actively looking for ways to reduce the friction in my routine to get me into the gym. To-date, I’ve tried – buying cute workout gear, calendar blocking time not only for the workout but also for packing my bag the night before, buying tasty protein bars that I only eat before a workout, taking my bag into the office so that I can change and go straight to the gym – NOTHING IS WORKING. So, instead of offering a solution, I’m admitting a problem that I’m still working to solve – maybe if I set my alarm for 5am, it will be just as easy to get-up-and-go as to turn over and go back to sleep…

I encourage everyone to look at the habits they are trying to build and/or sustain, and to look for ways to use friction to your advantage.

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