Reducing Friction – Smoothing the Way to Higher Productivity

Layering on last month’s newsletter, Smooth is Fast (see it here), this month’s topic is Reducing Friction.

I heard the phrase used recently by a friend of mine – Tom Nitopi, founder and CEO of NxGen Payment Services. Tom’s company is a global provider of payment processing solutions. He and his team spend their time making it easier for customers to get paid. Sometimes it’s a technology issue and sometimes it’s a process issue. Either way, the premise is that less friction means better business for everyone.

Which brings us to increasing our own productivity. What friction can we reduce to facilitate getting more done?

  • Routines. There is much routine in our day. Routines reduce the number of decisions we need to make, thereby conserving energy. However, routines also become habit. They go unexamined. “Because it’s the way it’s always been done” is a by-product of this way of working. Often, examining a routine uncovers unnecessary steps. Removing those steps reduces friction. Pick a favorite routine. Examine its steps. Can any of them be eliminated?
  • Communication. Effective communication means transferring the picture of what we want or want done from our mind’s eye to the reader’s/listener’s. The key to good business communication is two-fold. We must focus each communication on a single subject to reduce the risk of confusion. Then we must start with the conclusion – request or action – then follow with only the descriptive elements necessary to reproduce a clear picture. Structuring our communications this way reduces the time it takes to communication and increases the clarity. Less is more, friction is reduced.
  • Deadlines. We are awash in “now”-based priorities. Things are “urgent” or need doing “ASAP.” Viewed differently, if everything is due now, then nothing is a priority. Establishing or simply deciding what will be done next forces us to focus on what the true order of priorities are. Even if others won’t cooperate in the effort, the reality is we must make that decision. Establish a personal framework for determining priorities. It facilitates getting more done with less friction.

Less is Often More

Seeking ways to facilitate workflow reduces the effort of and obstacles impeding getting things done. Clients and colleagues are all feeling the pressure and most are unwilling or unable to help you smooth your path. However, you can reduce friction by asking questions –

  • Is this step necessary?
  • How can I make this request quick and clear?
  • Which action should I take next?

The smoother you pave your path, the more you will get done.

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