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The String #9: Traction, Simplified Clarity & Intensity

Create traction to fuse power for focused work. Write like you talk and explore the possibilities of increased intensity to train smarter, not harder.

Jonas Achouri Sihlén
Jonas Achouri Sihlén
4 min read
The String #9: Traction, Simplified Clarity & Intensity

Focus Deeper - Traction

In the last issue we discovered the importance of timeboxing and the importance of creating a daily rhythm. When we want to focus there is usually some friction attached to it. Otherwise it would be peace of cake and the human species would probably have a few collonies on Mars already 🤷🏽‍♂️, who knows?

When it comes to deep work it is hard to avoid the fact that we need to minimize distraction. The more we have advanced in the digital space the more distractions we are exposed to.

In this issue we will focus on the opposite side of distraction. The energizing counterpart that can lead us to a joyful journey of learning:

Traction - the actions that move us towards what we truly want.

We can all gain traction through fundamental human habits. Such as getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, moving our bodies, spending time with loved ones are all universal. Traction can also be achieved by working on a cool project, playing an instrument, crafting a painting or playing a video game.

I had to tweet a thread regarding the power of creative side projects after I had a 1:1 call with one of the developers in my team.


Instead of focusing on the million ways to avoid distraction we can focus on what gives us momentum. Plus, it is a more joyful way to look at it even though I am a super-fan of the power of inversion.

Write Better - Simplified Clarity

When we start the process of writing we tend to fall into the complexity trap. Filling our texts with words we barely use in daily life. This automatically creates friction between the writer and the reader.

Let us explore the art of using the right words without making it too simple or too complex.


There is a distinction between written and spoken language. The written language is usually more formal and distant. The reader is put in a situation where effort is required and it is easier to drift away.

To avoid loosing the readers attention we can make it more informal. Like Paul Graham puts it: "Write like you talk".

There is of course a risk of loosing the right context by oversimplifying the language. Compare the below texts for example.

A. “Scientists are having a hard time being trusted because anyone with a blog or a Twitter account can claim to be the main source of discoveries."

Providing context around why scientists may have a hard time. All put in the same sentence.

B. “Scientists are having a hard time today."

Taking away the context makes the message poor and leaving the reader with lots of questions.

We want to get into a balanced state where we simplify complex subjects without making it trivial and loosing the context. At the same time we do not want to create a formal distance to our readers. This is one of the interesting parts of the craft of writing and the reason I love it so much. It is not too easy yet any literate person can start with it.

Since we are never alone in our journeys a valuable step to clarify our texts is to start the habit of asking for feedback.

Two main principles are universal and always true:

1. Your first drafts will always suck

2. Ask and/or attract feedback

You can start using your first draft and try explaining it to a friend, verbally. If you succeed delivering the same message to them, those are the words you will be using in your final draft.

Train Smarter - Intensity

We all know that consistency is key for incremental progress. No one questions the benefit of brushing our teeth every day.

This concept has also gained good traction in the fitness industry and the common knowledge of physical and mental health. The "10.000 steps a day" - culture has its good intention but we need to be honest here. We cannot compensate 6-8 hours screen time per day with 10.000 steps.

Last week we explored 4 parameters: Specificity, Intensity, Volume & Rest. Learning more about these can help us train smarter to advance our physical abilities.

Today we will explore one of these: Intensity.

As I explained in the last issue the goal we are after is to increase the amount of tension in the muscle. Be aware, though! To the extent we are able to perform a controlled movement without getting injured.

I have TWO straight-forward suggestions on how to increase the intensity.

1. Through slow, controlled movements.
Playing with the tempo and slowing down increases the intensity on the muscles involved a particular movement. As an example, squatting down counting to 10 is slightly harder than doing it in a haste.

3. Increase the resistance by adding more weights or through accomodated resistance.
We can all thank Isaac Newton for explaining to us how the 3rd law of motion works 💡 🤓
If we don't have the luxury of a fully equipped home gym with tons of weights with squat racks and bars we can use our loved ones as resistance.

If the loved ones are too small or you require more resistance, ask your friend. The goal is to create resistance through pushing against your direction of movement to make it harder.

Remember; train smarter, not harder! 💪 And don't forget to have fun!

That was it for today.

To citate Jake Belford, "feedback is fuel". I am forever grateful for any feedback you send across. You can simply hit reply to this email if you have any input on format, content or anything you are missing in these strings of knowledge.

Until next week!

🎧 The Sunday String Playlist 🎧