How to Quit Bad Habits Right Now Using “Friction”

Dan Silvestre
7 min readMay 28, 2018

I run a newsletter on productivity and write about productivity. It’s something I like to talk with other people, understand how they work and design their lives. I’m fascinated by why we do what we do, how we do it and how we can change it.

To build new habits, a simple hack is to structure your environment in a way that makes it easier to start the desired habit. Want to start running in the morning? Put your running shoes next to the bed or sleep in your workout clothes.

But what about the opposite? Can you remove bad habits by making it harderto do them?

When friends seek me for advice on how to quit a bad habit, no matter what they want to quit, it always boils down to the same:

To remove a bad habit, make it so hard to do that even thinking about starting it leaves you exhausted.

Let’s say you want to check Facebook. For that, you need to go to a specific computer store, needing to walk 10 minutes (no other way of transportation possible) and there might be a line. The browsing costs $10. Oh, and you can only use it for 1 minute every day.

I’m pretty sure you know what would happen…

You would quit using Facebook, duh! But why? The app didn’t change, neither did the dopamine rush. But the downsides are enormous: walking ten minutes, waiting in line, and a massive dollar cost for one minute of pleasure. Totally not worth it.

Too much “friction”…

How Friction Can Save Your Life

In tech, friction refers to the steps a customer needs to take to perform a certain action. Too many steps and your funnel starts to leak.

Companies aim for a frictionless experience. Think auto-logins and 1-click checkout with PayPal. One click and you are done. What a world to live in!

You, on the other hand, want to add the amount of red tape.

This is crucial: the harder it is to perform a habit, the less you will want to do it. You want it to be as frictionful (yes, that’s a made up word) as possible.

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Dan Silvestre

Performance coach helping leaders get the right things done with less effort than anything they've tried before. Join 20k+ readers: newsletter.dansilvestre.com