I was washing dishes the other day when I noticed our grilling spatula for the fifteenth time. I was vaguely annoyed that it was still on the counter…but not in a super conscious way. Just an under the surface ‘meh’ feeling that can usually get drowned out by other projects.
This time, it was just annoying enough. I grabbed our cabinet magnet to open the baby lock on our bottom cabinet, pulled out our grilling case, opened the latches, and slotted the grilling spatula into its place. Then I put everything away. The whole process took all of 30 seconds.
Why did I wait until the 15th time?
This is what friction does.
It doesn’t take much friction to slow a process down jusssst enough to stop the forward movement of things.
For me, having to put the spatula into the grilling case was annoying. Leaving it on the counter for a week was even more annoying, but I didn’t think about it consciously and rationally. I just didn’t put it away.
Intangible business processes operate exactly the same way. Tasks pile up at friction points, and we don’t always consciously notice where it’s happening or why.
It could be a bill that needs to be paid, or a call back to a company with specific office hours we keep missing, or a website page we can’t decide how to fix. Just like my brain would see the spatula, be annoyed, and then dodge over to something more straightforward like cleaning off the table, your brain might be putting off tasks at the threshold of small friction points. You might not consciously decide ‘I’m not going to do this’ – more likely, your brain sees the difficulty and makes the decision below your conscious awareness.
The good news? It can be easier to see your friction points when you look for the more visible task piles – bottlenecks, delays, projects that are piling up on each other. Once you know what the friction looks like, it gets a lot easier to decide what to do next. Maybe there’s another way to accomplish the same outcome, or a way to delegate the task, or maybe that one annoying step is one you can cut altogether.
If you notice the bills piling up on your desk, maybe automatic bill pay is an option. If you get annoyed every time you see a voicemail from someone you need to call back, you could add a time to call them on your calendar. If you keep moving the website project from one sticky note to another, you can brainstorm with a friend to get more clarity.
For me, I’m giving up on the grilling case. We’ll live quite well without it.
I’d love to hear what you find for yourself too!