zen habits : breathe

Frictionless Work: How to Clear Your Life of Non-Essential Tasks

“It’s not the work which kills people, it’s the worry. It’s not the revolution that destroys machinery it’s the friction.” ~Henry Ward Beecher

By Leo Babauta

How much of your day is spent doing administrative tasks, and not creating or doing other important work?

How much time do you spend responding to emails and IMs and social networks, making payments, doing paperwork, filing, sitting in meetings, driving, doing errands, and so on? How much of that could be cleared up for more important work?

Imagine this for a moment: you have no administrative tasks, only the core work that you love doing. Your day has been cleared for creating, building, doing high-impact projects. Isn’t it lovely?

Is this a pipe dream? Perhaps for some, who have little control over their work. But if you have a larger degree of control, let’s explore the idea of “frictionless work” or even “frictionless living”.

If you have little control, consider a change.

My Frictionless Business

I know I don’t have a typical job, but that didn’t happen overnight and I did this on purpose. Today, I have a few successful blogs and a handful of successful books.

Only a year ago, that required a lot of administrative work — so much so that I hired an admin assistant to help out, and outsourced other work.

But assistants, employees, delegating, and outsourcing are not hassle-free … each comes with work of its own: email or phone calls, following up, checking the quality of work, doing contracts, reviewing terms, clarifying, firing, searching for a better employee/contract company, paying, filling out tax info, and on and on.

The better solution is to simplify. Eliminate non-essential tasks. And so I did, slowly:

I now have almost no admin work to run my blogs: I write, and publish. Once a month I log into my Paypal account, send out affiliate payments, and transfer money to my bank account (and from there, my bills are automatically paid and money is automatically transferred to savings).

This is not to brag. I know I have it easy compared to most, but this has all been done gradually and on purpose. I created this frictionless work.

What Are Your Admin Tasks?

Take inventory of your work: what admin tasks take up your time? Add to this list over the course of the next couple of days, because you’re probably forgetting some.

Now ask yourself: which of these can be eliminated? Many of you will probably answer, “Very few”, because you’re used to the way things are done. “This is how things are done.” But that’s an artificial limitation — instead, ask yourself how it can be changed. How might it be possible? Think radically different.

To eliminate tasks, you might have to make major changes over time, but the beauty is that you’ll also be freeing up time. Consider some examples:

These are just a few ideas and questions to get you started, but you can see that by radically rethinking your work, you might be able to eliminate a lot of admin tasks.

And free up time for what truly matters.

Frictionless Life

This concept of eliminating admin work can apply to your personal life as well. Imagine your personal time with as few chores, errands, paperwork, and commitments as possible. You’d be free to … well, do what you love most.

I can’t claim to have done this completely, but I have made huge progress towards a frictionless life. Of course, I still have chores to do (washing dishes, laundry, etc.), but I’ve eliminated a lot of personal tasks:

There isn’t much else we have to do, except things with our kids and each other. The fun stuff. Much of the friction of living has been eliminated.

A Warning

It’s not always easy to change your work and your life to get rid of the friction of admin tasks, but once you do, it’s simply lovely.

However, there will likely be a temptation to fill up your freed time with more email, social networking, blog reading, and so on. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, but before you do, consider how you really want to spend your time. Do you want to remove the friction just to fritter it away with distractions?

I’m a big fan of doing nothing, of solitude and relaxing and playing. So if that’s how you use your freed time, I’m jumping with joy. You might, however, spend this time creating, and that’s one of the true wonders of creating frictionless work and a frictionless life. Spend your time doing what you love, living your passion, making something new and beautiful. You’ll be glad you did.

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” ~Frances E. Willard

Become a breath-taking reader: rss | email | twitter