Friction: What’s In Your Way? What Ought To Be?

frictionI receive a lot of email. In fact I spend far too much time clearing out my inbox every day.

I’m not talking about spam, which is luckily well controlled. Too much of the email I’ve actually signed up for is useless to me: companies trying to sell me things I don’t need or want; newsletters giving me advice I don’t have the interest or time to follow; fascinating facts I don’t have time to process.

For some reason I refuse to unsubscribe. What if I miss something important? What if I a golden opportunity is lost because I wasn’t the first kid on the block to learn about it? What if my entire career implodes because I didn’t know that X left Z publishing and is looking for new authors?

I don’t want a new publisher, by the way. But what if someday I might?

One of the newsletters I look forward to arrives weekly from Amy Lynn Andrews, a blogger who publishes The Useletter and gives great tips on new software or ways of conducting business. She makes her points quickly and succinctly, always a plus. Last week Amy pointed her readers to two articles about “friction.”

Amy’s been thinking a lot about reducing friction in her life, and she gave us two resources. Never having thought about friction as anything other than as the cause of static electricity I read on.

As it turns out, friction can be a help as well as a hindrance. But let’s start with hindrance. The little annoyances that keep us from moving forward? That’s what we mean here by “friction.”

Without further explanation, can you think of something in your daily life that gets in your way on a regular basis? Something that makes a chore longer, harder, more irritating? Keep that in mind.

After I read Amy’s newsletter and followed her links here and here, I went into my closet to hang up my clothes. And friction commenced. I don’t have enough hangers. I just don’t and never had. And while hangers are cheap, I haven’t bought more. Why? Because I kept telling myself I should get rid of clothes and then I’ll have plenty.

Only, I never get rid of enough. Finding hangers is always a fight.

Friction: lack of hangers.

I went to the local discount department store and bought a package of twelve that afternoon. And guess what? No more friction! Laundry is suddenly easy to hang and not at all irritating. And I waited years to figure this out?

Friction: lack of places for my herbs and spices collection.

Next stop was my spice cabinet. Again, I have too many spices. Way, way too many. But trust me, I am not the kind of person who tosses away perfectly good edibles, especially if I might need them someday soon. However, I had reached the point where even alphabetizing to help find them wasn’t helping. (And alphabetizing is so Sleeping With the Enemy). So instead of telling myself I was going to clean and clear, I just bought another three ledge stand and made room in my cupboards for it. And now, when I need a spice/herb I no longer have to move things around, pile and unpile them, to find what I’m looking for. Everything is in plain view–and sadly, yes, alphabetized. More or less.

Friction: too much email 

Okay, my closet and my cupboard were much better now that I’d addressed friction at that level. The time had come to tackle something that really mattered. My inbox.

My inbox takes up a lot of my writing time. While sometimes I use that as an excuse to dawdle, more often than not, I just feel compelled to clear it before I can get to more important things. A quick check for friction showed me that a lot of my inbox clutter comes from publishing newsletters. Some are short and informative. Some are lengthy and disorganized. Many of them repeat the same information.

After realizing how many similar newsletters I’m receiving, and juggling decisions about which to cut and which to keep, I realized that one in particular had everything I need to know, and the editors were major voices in publishing. I could subscribe to that one email and get rid of all the others from less reliable sources.

Three home runs. And I’ve just started. All because of a concept as simple as freeing our lives from unnecessary friction.

So, can you do the same? Remember earlier when I asked you to think of something in your life that’s consistently in your way? It can be as small as too few hangers or as large as an acquaintance who is taking advantage of you and needs to be set straight.

I love this concept.

Before we send friction packing, though, consider how helpful it can be, as well.

Josh Linkner, one of the sources I quoted above, tells us that purposely adding friction to your life might help you conquer a bad habit. He gives smoking as an example. The harder you make getting to a pack of cigarettes (providing friction) the less chance you’ll light up in a moment of weakness.

I’ll give you another. Let’s say you want to stop repeatedly checking social media throughout the day. (We don’t know anybody like that, of course.) There are now apps for your computer, your smart phone, your tablet, that make it harder for you to do this, and some of them even report back to you to let you know how much time you really do spend. I’ve linked to just a few. Research a bit to find the one that works best for you and your equipment (and addiction.)

The right kind of friction can help you make big changes.

I find myself thinking about friction a lot now. I ask myself if any source of friction in my life is temporary, and if it’s not, I then ask when I can do to remove it or at least diminish it. Sometimes the simplest concepts work best.

Let me know if you find this helpful, too. What friction can you add or dismiss in your own life to make it easier, happier, better?


  1. Peggy Morra on April 6, 2017 at 11:25 am

    You have inspired me. My closet, my spices, even my e-mail. Thanks so much.
    Big Time Fan of your books. Met you at the International Quilt Show in Houston years back.

    • Emilie Richards on April 12, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      I’m so glad I’m an inspiration. Just don’t buy as many spices as I did. I love the International Quilt Show and I’m glad we met there.

  2. Emilie Richards on April 6, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    I do have to laugh here. I hope I haven’t talked you out of reading MY newsletter.

    • Kim on April 6, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      No way, I enjoy yours. Just unsubscribed from about a dozen companies that send me daily emails, which drive me crazy…. Thank you!!!

  3. Nancy Lepri on April 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    My source of friction is doing online surveys. I realize they take up way too much of my time but I’m hooked. I earn rewards of gift certificates for Amazon and this way I can “buy” things I really want. Some things may be frivolous, but I’ve felt I’ve “earned” them, making them more precious. If only the surveys I complete didn’t take up so much of my time… Argh.

    • Emilie Richards on April 7, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      I’m not sure we can call this friction since you enjoy it, and it leads to Amazon certificates. It would only be friction if the surveys were keeping you from doing something else you really need or want to do, right? Now if something’s keeping you from doing your surveys, that might be friction.

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