Over recent years I’ve been trying to declutter and streamline, all in the name of simplifying my life and reducing stress (should I call it minimalism?). But it turns out there is another layer to this. We don’t simplify for the sake of it, we do it to remove friction. As Corbett Barr describes it, everything we do involves friction, just like how you have to fight against friction between the road and the tires when you press down on the accelerator.

One of the examples he gives is publishing blog posts. Think of the friction there is in coming up with ideas, writing, editing, publishing and promoting. If you don’t have the passion or enthusiasm for it, the friction involved in such a process can wear you down until you no longer have the motivation to blog any more (assuming you even start blogging at all).

But why not, as Corbett suggests, publish the post and do the editing later? That’s precisely what I’ve been doing recently. Rather than worrying about making a post perfect before publication, I write something I’m happy to publish now, and I’ll then revisit it a week or two later, with fresh ideas, more energy and less friction.

Editing is a friction-full activity when it comes to writing books too. The prospect of doing free-flow writing for a few months and then spending an age tweaking it can really kill the enthusiasm.

So, what I’ve been experimenting with on my current project is to take a break from writing the first draft each month and spend a few days editing my progress to date. Sure, I’ll still have plenty to do later, that’s just the nature of writing, but at least I’m chiseling away some of that workload early. It’s a subtle change to my workflow that’s making a big difference.

Thinking in broader terms, Corbett gives another example of healthy eating. Rather than planning laboriously how you intend to eat healthily, just buy some fruit and veg and then figure out what to do with it all. Taking that approach into the realm of exercise, why not buy a set of dumbbells or kettlebells and work out what to do with them later? Or just start with a pre-existing training routine. Stronglifts? Starting Strength?

Sometimes, suboptimal tools can drag you down, too. That’s why simple, focused apps are so popular nowadays. Nobody wants to go through several options to do one thing. This blog is currently on Tumblr, but thrashing out a post directly in their app is messy. That’s why I use Workflowy first, a tool that’s perfect for brainstorming.

One of my favourite productivity tips is to break work down into bitesize chunks of work, often to a degree that many people might find obtuse. But it’s always worked, and now I understand why. Building an entire website, with all the tricky steps involved? Whole lotta friction. But focusing on one step at a time (buy domain, buy host, download Wordpress)? Now that’s a much smoother ride.

So, the next time you’re struggling with a project or goal, ask yourself where the friction is and what steps you can take to reduce it.