I wanted to do this writing task, but it just didn’t happen

Convenience Filter


The Context

Everyone gets stuck between wanting to act and taking action. It happens to the best of us. Sometimes the tasks on our to do lists simply don't get crossed off. But the majority of the time, what stands in the way of getting our things done isn't as complex as we think it is. It's not that particular tasks are that difficult. It's not that we're fighting some psychological battle inside our heads. And it's not that there isn't enough time in the day to execute them. It's that, in the grand scheme of all of the other life demands, we didn’t do this thing. It's ordinary inertia. That's often the simplest explanation for our lack of action. We would have needed to go out of our way to do it, but since it's easier for us to continue doing what we're already doing, we don't do it. Period.

The Tool

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Convenience Filter

CONVENIENCE FILTER — Make it easier to do things by organizing your work in a way that minimizes unnecessary thinking

A body in motion stays in motion. Even if we know in our cells that we're capable of taking initiative, doing so would still be inconvenient to us, and require us to change our behavior. Screw that. Our to do list will remain uncrossed. Johnson writes about this struggle his great compendium of modern creativity research. He says that if an innovation helps customers do things they are already trying to do more simply and conveniently, it has a higher probability of success. But if your innovation only makes it easier for customers to do something they weren’t trying to do anyway, then it will fail. We can apply this same filter to our own efforts by asking ourselves a simple question. What would make this so convenient for me that not doing it would be nearly impossible? In essence, we organize our work in a way that minimizes unnecessary thinking. Doing this gives us fewer escape hatches.

Scott's Take

Scott's Take

The tool of the convenience filter is the reason I bought five pairs of yoga shorts and started keeping them in the locker in my studio. That surplus reduced my inconvenience. It knocked out a whole world of excuses for not practicing yoga on any given day. From not wanting to do laundry, to not wanting to carry around clothes, to not wanting to buy new clothes last minute, to not having the time or desire to stressfully run home before class, now there were way fewer obstacles in my way of doing yoga. Missing class simply isn't a thing anymore. How could you make more things so convenient for yourself that not doing them would be nearly impossible? Hell, even you're only creating the illusion of more convenience, that's often enough to motivate you.

The Rest

Remember, the story you're telling yourself about being more productive doesn't have to be true, it just has to be a useful imaginary world that you can slip into and have a positive effect on your behavior. You don't actually have to believe it, you just have to spend enough time thinking that way to get the result you need. Remember, ordinary inertia. It's part of life and it's not going away, so you may as well learn how to overcome it. How could you systematically make things more convenient to do?

The Benefits

Overcome the ordinary inertia of life
Reduce the number of excuses for not executing
Train your brain to take action despite mood or desire
Protect yourself from the frustration of missed deadlines

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