4 Ways I Increase Friction to Get More Done

Most people look to reduce friction to get more done, but I'm weird and one of the first things I look at when I'm needing to get a good amount of work done is increasing the friction in my life. Not just all friction, but the right amount of friction that forces me to limit the things I take on in a week.

Bullet Journal

The first place that I increase friction is by using a Bullet Journal for all my tasks. In contrast to Things or OmniFocus or any modern app based productivity system a Bullet Journal has some problems. First, my standard notebook is a Leuchtturm 1917 book, which doesn't fit in my pocket so I can't capture any idea at any time. GTD purists are having a bit of a heart attack right now, but I love that I can't capture things sometimes.

While I get the argument for ubiquitous capture the truth is I kept burdening myself with a bunch of crap that I thought sounded okay to do, but I was never actually going to do. Then I'd have to cart that around until I choose to say no to it. Often a little part of me felt pain when that happened, so I'd cart things around and have some huge burden of things I wasn't getting to when I reviewed my projects.

Contrast that with a physical notebook. If it feels like too much work to move a project forward into a new spread or new notebook that's me telling myself I don't care about it. Where a digital system defaults to "yes" and carries tasks forward a Bullet Journal or other physical system defaults to "no". Instead of needing to be active with saying no to things, no is the default and I only expend extra effort if I want to move things forward.

Probably my favourite thing though is the daily log I can look back at over years. I do a bit more than just write tasks down, I log bits of my day most days of the week. I can look back to today and know that my youngest child has been sick for a few days and understand why things maybe weren't getting done. I can read about my thoughts on the business, and see how far I've come.

iPadOS Has All the Right Friction

My next bit of loved friction is my chosen platform for work, my iPad Pro. Yes there are some things that aren't great on an iPad, like SFTP clients with drag and drop, but I get so much more done while using my iPad.

I've done a video on this before, but I think iPadOS is a more focused and productive system. Where it's always easy to add another window on macOS that's floating around somewhere to distract me, iPadOS single focuses on the task at hand.

It was tough at first, but my server chops have improved greatly as I use more command line tools to do web development on my iPad. The lack of a few GUI based tools is far outweighed by the benefits of a single focus operating system.

Limited Call Times

Years ago after reading Deep Work, I started limiting my call times. At first I only took calls on Tuesdays in the morning because that's what fit. Now it's Friday's and again only in the morning. That leaves me with 3 call times each week for current and any new clients. Far from limiting the work I get, clients regularly comment on how refreshing it is that I focus on clients the rest of the time and don't worry about calls.

I also don't do coffee with friends outside of very limited windows.

Probably my biggest realization lately is that "I don't have time" doesn't need to mean that every minute of my seclude is booked solid. It can mean that I don't feel like it, or I don't have the energy for that, or I'd rather build stuff with my kids. This realization has helped me say no way more often to things I could technically fit in, but simply don't want to do.

Book Notes

The final constraint I put on myself to be more focused is to take all my notes on the books I read on paper. I've shared the specifics of what I do a few times over the years. The main choice is that if a quote or idea isn't worth the effort to write down, it's not worthwhile. My book notes went from thousands of word to maybe just over a thousand, and I put more effort into the first read and understanding what's going on in the book.

That's how I embrace constraints to get more of the right stuff done with my work. By limiting my ability to pull tasks I'll never do into the future I don't have to feel guilty about not doing them. By choosing iPadOS I limit the distractions possible[^Yes of course you need to keep notifications off] and can focus on my work. By limiting my call times I make sure I have large chunks of time to focus on the work I need to be doing. Finally, by hand writing my notes for books I don't waste time with points that aren't important.

Increasing friction in much of what I do has done nothing but help me make better choices about what I focus on.