If we know that creating good habits is in our own best interests, then why are they so damn hard to start? It's simple really, we don't want the habit. No one really wants to run. No one wants to eat well. No one wants to meditate. We want the end result. To feel healthier, more calm, and more whole. We crave the sense of wellbeing these habits produce, rather than the habits themselves. This really makes habits the final stumbling block before arriving at your desired state. This should be a comfort, because if you've arrived at the conclusion that what you're missing is a habit, then you're only one barrier away from what you're looking for. The key then is to make hopping over those barriers as easy as possible by reducing friction.
Friction is any force that resists action, and the goal with habits is always going to be taking action. To give an example, when I need to do something that requires focus (read, anything of importance) I make sure to keep my phone as far away as possible. I'm reducing the friction between me and doing my job, or writing for this blog, by cutting down on the largest source of distraction freeing me up to do the work.
The story doesn't stop there. As I've discovered and I'm sure you'll relate, it isn't always enough to keep the phone in a different room. Having the various apps available on your phone makes for temptation city every time you wake up and turn off your alarm, each time you take a break, and when you finish for the day. You'll find that "just five minutes" can turn into an afternoon in the blink of an eye. If you're a real addict like me you'll find that even deleting the apps won't work as they're still accessible via browser or worse, you'll find a reason in a few months to re-download and forget you ever intended to stop using them.
Rather than decrease the friction for my work, I needed to increase the friction between me and my distractions, and here's what I came up with. Google allows you to create and save randomized passwords for every site, which I've now down for every social media platform I have an account for. Now I can't type the passwords into the app or the web on my phone, as they aren't saved anywhere but on my laptop. This simple fix didn't make it difficult for me to log in on my phone, it made it impossible, and that has helped a great deal in cutting down on my screen time. James Clear offers up a more extreme tip that might garner even better results:
When Clear was writing Atomic Habits, he had his assistant (assistant not required, you can use a willing friend) change all his social media passwords at the beginning of every week, and not tell him what they were until the weekend. This simple step allowed him to dramatically increase his productivity and ironically write his productivity-boosting book, and you might find some success with it as well (I'm in the market for a password buddy if anyone has any leads).
Social media usage and other phone based distractions are only one example where you can remove friction and apply friction to get better results, but these concepts apply anywhere you're trying to improve. If you're struggling with a habit ask yourself: what are the ways I can reduce friction between me and my goal, and increase friction between me and my temptations?