The first and only time I’ve lived alone was in graduate school. I had a studio apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts and only had my cat, Poe, to keep me company. I enjoyed that year of no roommates and no boyfriend, despite the occasional bout of loneliness, but I did face one significant problem. I was afraid to enter my apartment alone at night.
I would open the door to total darkness and my heart would skip a beat. The year prior I had lived in the Mississippi Delta where our house was broken into in the middle of the night and I couldn’t shake the fear of that memory. This problem plagued me so much that I eventually sought out therapy to help me move past it.
I told the therapist about my fear of opening the door to a dark apartment and she gave the simplest and most brilliant advice: leave the lights on. Oh my! This had never occurred to me! I was suddenly free to come and go without fear.
Sometimes a tiny change can have a huge impact. I think about this often in business. What’s causing friction? Is there a simple thing I can do to take that friction away?
A nexus of friction for most of us is our email inbox. Getting to inbox zero is a Sisyphean task; just when you finally respond to the very last one a slew of new messages pour in. If you’ve been away for a few days just the thought of opening your email program can give you a migraine.
Yet, I’m devoted to inbox zero. When you fail to respond promptly to your email you disappoint customers who are waiting for a response and you lose out on valuable opportunities that will end up going to someone whose more on top of their inbox than you are.
The answer is to remove the friction and I’ve done that with TextExpander. This is a piece of software you buy online and download. Then you set it up by inputting the text of the emails you send most often and give each one a shorthand code. For example, once I secure a podcast guest I have to send them an email with details about how to prepare for the recording. I’ve written that email once in TextExpander and given it the code gguest. When I need to send that email I simply type gguest and the whole text pops up! I now have dozens of these shorthand codes for the emails I send most often. When I open my inbox I can clear the majority of my messages using TextExpander.
Another common source of friction, and one I struggled with, is bookkeeping. I didn’t start sewing stuffed animals because I loved recording PayPal fees every day or remitting sales tax to the state of Massachusetts. Bookkeeping is tedious and confusing for me. Those feelings cause friction that, for a long time, made me avoid it.
Yet, I know that keeping up-to-date financial records allows me to make informed choices about which products to develop and how to spend money wisely, plus it makes tax time much less stressful.
The answer is to remove the friction and I’ve done that with GoDaddy Bookkeeping, an app that integrates with Etsy, PayPal, and Stripe to automatically record the vast majority of my business’ financial activity. Keeping up with my bookkeeping now requires a few minutes each week to input a few transactions that occur outside of those three payment platforms, plus I can easily generate charts and reports that show my earnings and expenses broken down by category.
These are just two examples of friction I’ve identified and worked to reduce. There are many more (and perhaps you can share some in the comments). Others that occur to me are:
- Keeping the sewing machine out on the table, rather than in the closet, so it’s easy to get started on a project.
- Cleaning your desk at the end of the work day, like Ann does, so that you can start with an uncluttered mind each morning.
- Putting a mug full of sharpened pencils near where you draw.
Sometimes these steps are almost ridiculously simple (liking keeping the lights on when you go out at night!), but implementing small changes can have a profound impact.