As someone who has played guitar for over 30 years, I can tell you that the secret to regular practice isn't teeth-grinding discipline. It isn't external rewards or penalties. It isn't even the dream of rocking a stadium for adoring fans. The truth is, the regularity of practice--and the progress than ensues--is often driven by convenience.
Simply put, the easier it is to pick up my axe, the more I play. If my guitar is leaning against the living room couch, I'll pick it up regularly and wail away. On the other hand, if my guitar is upstairs in a case, the short and seemingly painless act of going to grab it has a marked impact on my amount of practice. When it's easy to grab, I grab it. When there's an extra step or two (even small ones), performance suffers.
Think of the short walk upstairs and the six seconds to open a guitar case as "friction". Not a gigantic barrier, but that small amount of friction has a dramatic impact on results.
We all work so hard in both our business and personal lives to achieve significant results, but often fall short by failing to recognize and utilize friction to our advantage.
If you sell a product or service, think about all the steps your customers must go through to do business with you. Every extra choice, document, meeting, phone call, click, or decision in the sales process creates friction. And for every single point of friction, your batting average and closing speeds decrease. If your competitor has a worse product at a higher cost, yet makes the buying process dead-simple, you may be losing customers that should be yours.
What about internal friction in your organization? Every extra step, check-box, needed approval, and unwarranted meeting creates friction which slows you down, diminishes productivity, and damages morale. In business -and life- the less friction that exists, the better the results will be.
You can also use friction as a driver to avoid doing impulsive behavior. If you put your pack of cigarettes inside five different Tupperware containers and leave them in a closet in the basement, you'll be far less likely to grab a smoke than if they're in your front pocket. If you're getting distracted at work by checking Facebook too often, install free software that requires you to enter a complicated password every time you have the urge to log on. If you want to stop doing something, add some friction and you're in-the-moment decisions will be much easier.
Think of friction as a lever that you can move up or down depending on your desired outcome. If you want more of something, remove friction and make it easy. If you want less, add extra steps.
It's as simple as that.