Everything is in flow.
The stream is already rolling.
Moving from point A to point B is already happening.
And like water – your energy will flow down the path of least resistance, UNLESS interrupted by a force.
This force, can be your own resistance, or the resistance of the external world.
As you encounter this resistance you’ll either naturally flow around it or forcefully through it.
The stream is still rolling. The flow continues. The experience of friction to where you want to go creates the perception of being slowed down, from the point of view of the observer.
The flow is still happening. The stream is ongoing.
Flowing with the stream. Reducing friction to get from point A, where you are now, to point B, where you want to be in a future step. Doing all that you can to make it as friction free and effortless as possible. And choosing to flow with the stream rather than against it.
Trying to fight the current is like going back in time. Trying to swim faster than the current is a vain exercise. Flowing with the current, directing where you want to go – through reducing resistance is the most leveraged way to flow. It conserves energy. It makes the experience more enjoyable. It makes things seem effortless.
Reducing friction is the key to feeling part of the flow , while using it. Reducing friction to be part of the flow. Not just wherever the flow wants to go but with an intentional design to it. Noticing where you want to go within the flow and reducing friction toward getting there. This is the visual representation for this next part.
APPLYING FLOW AND THE REDUCTION OF FRICTION TO YOUR LIFE
So beyond the esoteric, metaphorical be like water and go with the flow what could this look like in your every day life? Very simply – it’s organizing your environment to make it easy to flow where you want to, how you want to.
Let’s start with the physical environment.
ORGANIZING YOUR PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
Take a look at your physical environment right now from an objective point of view and ask yourself what you could glean about a person in this particular environment. How organized and intentional would you say their environment is in relation to their intentions and goals.
For example if you took a look at my environment right now you’d see my workstation setup: a desk outside in nature. A large screen monitor and pretty much nothing else on my desk except a timer – to remind me that I’m focused on writing right now.
Nearby I have a music station setup complete with a looper, a keyboard and microphones.
Inside I have a vision & planning station setup complete with two large white boards: one for logging time and planning what I’m going to do next, and one for writing down any crazy big ideas or plans that come to me over the course of the day. I have my chipits laid out on the ground (for tracking habits) and little post-it note sized papers with next steps written on them.
Over in the corner I have a large rug with pillows near the fireplace. And a little baggie with my eye-mask and ear plugs for a quick drop in meditation. I have my notebooks and pens handy for capturing ideas / thoughts that come to me.
I have two large glasses of water already pre-filled with lime squeezed into them. And in the kitchen I have a freezer drawer with all my smoothie ingredients in one place.
Essentially I have organized my physical space to be as friction free as possible as I carry out my intentions for this life. Even if I get off track I have created a kind of momentum in the physical that will help me return to something higher value than a distraction.
I forgot to mention that I also chose an environment where I’m surrounded by nature and its easy for me to go outdoors and jump in a cold river or climb a mountain to reset my state. This too was done intentionally for the purpose of optimizing my state.
I could try to fight the current (and I have before), living in a big city, where I’d have to drive to the gym to exercise, in complete disorganization in my physical, with notebooks and sheets of paper scattered about. Unhealthy food options within arms reach. No water nearby. Wondering why I don’t feel good. Why it’s hard to motivate myself to do something I ‘want’ to do.
THE MORE STEPS – THE MORE FRICTION
The more steps there are between your deepest desire and where you are now – the more friction there is to get to where you want to go. And as soon as you come across a step where you’re not sure what to do next, you being to experience extreme friction – as it’s hard to maintain any kind of forward progress at that point. This is where the temptation to give up may arise.. to simply flow into something else. And keep skipping tracks until you find something ‘easier’ to flow into.
This is the approach of many in both work and in relationships. The stream is always happening – life is already unfolding. The tendency to skip around and flow anywhere the path feels less resistance is tempting. But is it effective for ultimately going where you want to go?
DON’T QUIT SO FAST IF YOU CAN FEEL IT’S A WORTHY INVESTMENT OF ENERGY
You can try it for a while and see. And when you realize that there’s more fulfillment in sticking it out and concentrating in one area for a while.. even if you encounter obstacles and some steps aren’t clear – being on a path that feels inspiring, or promising, or even just fun WHILE in the process of the flowing unfolding of life – it can be worth it to hang in there even if you’re unsure where it will go and how to get there.
Just by NOT taking your awareness off where you are .. and maintaining a sense of willingness to continue where you are .. can keep the flow going and provide you with insights and answers to next steps. New steps may seem to show up out of thin air. If it feels worth it – keep going. And see how you can get back to reducing the # of steps to reduce the friction to flow from point A to B – where you would ultimately like to be.
REDUCING FRICTION IN THE DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT
So we talked about how to reduce friction in the physical environment by organizing physical ‘stations’ for the various intentions you might have over the course of your day. Now let’s talk about the environment that lives within your screen. Or what we’ll call your digital environment. This is where it can a little more challenging.
The physical environment is mostly designed to CAPTURE your attention. Especially if you use social media tools, instant messengers, emails etc. on your phone, like the majority of users do. Phones used to be, well, just phones. This meant that they would only be used as a tool for communication and in a very binary way: when you called someone or when they called you. It was one person at a time and the ‘flow’ was very clear: I’m either calling you or you’re calling me. That’s what this device is for.
Now with the screen – you enter a whole new world. There’s millions of potential apps you could download of every kind of flavor and variety. There’s millions of web sites. Millions of videos. Tons of OPTIONS for where you could go once you get on a screen. If you lack a clear intention on WHERE you would like to flow – you’re going to get lost! Lost is – not knowing where you are or how to get where you want to be. You’re already lost if you don’t know where you want to be.
This might seem counter to the idea of ‘going with the flow’ but frankly, if you go with the flow on any device you’re going to be entering the flow / design of someone else. A creator of the phone or a creator of the app. And going with their flow may not serve your higher purpose.
The same is true for any system design. By default we are living inside the creation of other humans any time we partake in an activity that supports that system. For example when we use a certain currency, we are voting to uphold that system. When we fill out a certain form. Or honor a certain law – we are participants in the flow of that system, for better or worse, we are participating in the outcomes of that system.
Systems are like the guard rails of flow. And an infinite number of systems may live inside of a larger system. So it’s important to be as aware as possible of where you are, in the context of the many systems you may be apart of as you navigate and direct your own flow where you want to be.
Again to make the point more simple, if you aren’t sure where you want to be – then context doesn’t help you. You’ll willingly jump into the system another person (or machine) has created for if its distracting / addicting enough. And so the virtual world has become a huge universe of distraction. In many ways you could say the physical universe can also act as a universe of distraction – but on the screen, this effect is amplified.
ORGANIZING YOUR DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT
Only when you truly know where you want to go, should you ever get on a screen.
Unless distraction or entertainment is your main goal, then simply hop on and enjoy the ride.
But if you’re willing to be a little more conscious and intentional – it’s my hypothesis that you’ll enjoy the ride more. That you’ll get more out of the tool and be able to pick it up and put it down as needed.
So let’s start with the # of devices with screens that you use.
For example, for as much as it seems I might vilify screens, I actually use them quite a lot. And I have a variety of them. I have an Iphone, an Ipad Pro w/ stylus, a Laptop and a Mac Mini with a larger screen. Phew!
How I’ve Organized Them
I can go into the nitty gritty of how I organize my digital environment in a separate post or video, for example covering specific apps I use and why. But for now I’ll cover some of the main things to digital organization:
1 – Put all your messaging apps in ONE place. With the Iphone you can group them in one section.
2 – Don’t check messages for as long as possible – ideally after you have finished your morning routine.
3 – CYCLE through messages rather than back and forth all day. For example if I’m browsing to see what’s urgent I will cycle through, respond where needed and then leave it be for another hour or two or more. Responses from the people I messaged will stack up again and then I respond in another message cycle. If I keep responding people keep responding and then you get stuck in a loop all day. If something requires a lot of back and forth, try a good ol’ fashion phone call.
1 – The phone is especially good for STORING things and reminding you so you don’t have to think about it. Pick a good calendar app or even use the stock phone app and capture meeting times etc. so that you can be in integrity with your word and NOT have to think about appointments.
I find it helpful to also have a PHYSICAL calendar or planner (a monthly wall calendar is perfect) where I can store these meetings offline as well. The phone then acts as a back up and the physical calendar is my primary. You can also use a white board or bulletin board for this purpose.
TASKS & TIMERS
1 – Capturing tasks into an ‘inbox’ and then organizing them based on priority is a great way to use the phone. This frees up your mind to focus on creative solutions rather than storing task items.
Again I also like to use a physical system for capturing and storing tasks – and often use a physical note book as my primary and the digital system for temporary storage until I’m ready to work on the task. Then I move the task over to the white board or my ‘focus sheet’ for the day and complete it.
When I am working on a task, I use a program like Ticktick that also includes a timer – as I can only focus on one task at a time, it helps me know which one I’m working on and see it through to the end. It also lets me click on the timer so it fills the whole screen and I can use another screen (like my Ipad or computer) to work on the task if its something that needs to be done online – like this post for example.
I consider myself a creator so typically organize all my creation tools in one place, again like having a digital ‘creative station’ where I’ll dip in to record an audio, a video, do an edit or create an image.
I organize all my sharing tools in one location. This has a dual purpose: (a) It’s easier to share that way. (b) it primes to be to a creator and SHARE my content rather than be a consumer. It’s very easy to get lost on the very same tools consuming content, rather than viewing them as platforms to share.
Additionally – I try to automate sharing as much as possible. That’s why I have used a plug in like Blog 2 Social to post in one location and syndicate to as many locations as possible. And I have created a feed that automatically streams to my newsletter system mailchimp – the more automation the less I have to think about and the less I get distracted by.. automatic flow is a one-time setup, a very good use of my energy!
This one is very useful when it comes to working from the computer. If you’re like me from the past, you might have a very disorganized list of bookmarks, that just continues to grow with time. I have found it worth the time to prune out all the book marks I no longer use, use relevant names and sort them based on intentions (by folder). I have also book marked the inner pages of sites I use to get as close to the action I’m trying to take as possible – to reduce friction in getting to the result.
For example, I have book marked individual Google sheets and tabs rather than just book mark the main google sheets site. I have book marked the page where I add new posts to this blog, rather than just book mark the blog and then have to click another button to go to the section where I can add posts. Remember, the most I can reduce friction, the easier it is to flow to point B – where I want to be.
This takes us to our last point for today’s post and that is automation. I know I mentioned it briefly earlier in talking about syndicating content and sharing it with the world with the least friction possible. Anything you repeatedly do that can be automated is a HUGE savings in the future and is worth the effort now.
One way I have become more automated for example is in my balances. This may sound like a high quality problem but having multiple businesses and bank accounts / credit card statements etc. all over the place created a lot of uncertainty around my financial situation. And so for the most part I avoided tracking it until right before tax season or on a smaller scale when I would get monthly reports from my team. So for most of the year I had a general idea of where I was but I wasn’t really scientific about it or anything.
But what I did recently is setup a tool called Tiller – that automatically pulls in all my US bank accounts and credit card balances & transactions into one google sheet. Then for all the foreign accounts I have team members go manually into the accounts and update those balances on a separate google sheet. And then I use the Google sheets IMPORT RANGE function, which you can google search, as I don’t want to get too technical here. But basically that allows me to import ALL the data into one master sheet. And with that sheet I have been able to easily create charts and diagrams (took me about 20 minutes of research on Youtube), that shows me exactly where I’m at with all balances. And even categorize this information based on what needs to stay in reserve and what is available capital.
Basically I have AUTOMATED the process of gathering really key information about my financial situation – which brings me peace of mind through clarity. And where there might have been any gaps, I was able to get human support to facilitate the automation for now.
Automated financial tracking. Automated syndication of content. These are just a few examples of how automation can make life easier. I’m excited about a future where more and more of our lives can become push-button automated based on our needs and wants. Obviously we don’t want to automate the wrong things (like a fake connection), or get lazy in areas that require quality attention (like caring for a love done) , but done properly, automation can help give you more of your life back in those areas.
Investing in Automation
At first it might take a lot more time and money to automate things you do regularly. A ration I heard recently that’s helpful is to plan on spending about 30 minutes of training time for every 1 minute you want to automate. This relates to training & recruiting a human to help you. But you can use the same ratio when thinking about how much time you could be spending to find and setup a system to automate things you routinely do.
Beyond time ratios, businesses are routinely calculating the amount of financial investment they can put into developing machines that replaces human labor and what the break-even point is. Because it’s simply a numbers game for any task that can be done by a robot / machine (the same or better), millions of jobs have already been displaced and will continue to be displaced by this coming robot revolution.
Well this can be a cause for alarm for some, it can also be a great opportunity as humanity enters into an era where humans will have the OPTION to work on only the things they want to work on while having not only basic needs get met but also even higher needs as machines will eventually be able to predict what you could want before even ask for it, and supply it! This is the highest and best scenario of automation – a kind of loving entity that supports you every step of your journey in realizing your own highest and best self.
Any way you look at it we are entering into some interesting times. And now more than ever we will need to be vigilant about how we program and create this new era of smart machines that can either create a paradise on Earth or it automatically creates a world without us.
This post began with a simple idea, how to reduce the friction in one’s physical and digital environments to more effortlessly arrive at the places we want to be. Doing and creating and experiencing the kind of results we want to have in this life. And as you can see, optimizing for less friction ultimately lead us to the path of essentially automating as much of life as possible.
I’m curious – how you will apply today’s post to your own life?
What will you change about your physical environment to make it more appealing to do the things you want to do / ought to do?
What can you change about your on-screen environment to ensure your time on-screen is productive in helping you realize your highest and best outcomes?
Lastly – will you go with the flow or are you ready to direct the flow more consciously, with the least amount of friction as possible?
That’s it for now. It’s your day, make it amazing!
James Sunheart is a student of personal development and spiritual growth. He is passionate about optimizing people, systems and life. He’s written 7 books. Interviewed hundreds of experts. Given a TED Talk in France. Lives in Costa Rica while developing a sustainable eco-village. For opportunities email: James AT FullPotential.com