The Problem of Distraction Is Not New
Becoming indistractable is the skill of this century. This is the macro skill that we need in order to be our best selves. Thereby, living out our values to be the kind of people that we want to become. To clarify, one way that we can think about becoming indistractable is to realize that this is not a new problem.
In fact, Socrates and Aristotle talked about the nature of a crossfire twenty-five hundred years ago. If they were talking about how distracting the world was back then- this is nothing new. Distraction is not a new problem.
The Opposite of Distraction Is Traction
Here’s what I came up with. We can think about distraction in the form of its opposite. The opposite of distraction is not focus, but traction. Therefore, now that we know the opposite of traction is distraction, we can ask ourselves what prompts us to either traction or distraction. The answer to that question relates to those external or internal triggers.
In my five years of research, I discovered that the most common source of distraction is not those external triggers. In fact, the most common source of distraction are those internal triggers. In order to get back on track, try to note the sensation that a trigger gives you. If you can understand what that emotion is, you’ll understand what is going on inside of you. Next, you want to get curious about that sensation- not with contempt but with curiosity. This allows you to be kinder to yourself and grow in self-confidence.
One other technique that I use every single day is called “surfing the urge”. For 10 minutes, let yourself dive into just that urge. Simply set a timer for 10 minutes and get curious about that sensation. You can also reimagine the trigger, or you can also reimagine the task. Thereby, reducing all those pain points into something much more manageable.
Make Time For Traction
Finally, you need to make time for traction. Basically, traction is any action that pulls you towards what you want with intent- distraction is the opposite of that. Statistically most of us don’t keep any sort of calendar. Therefore, you can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from. The fact is that in this day and age if you don’t plan your time somebody else will.
What we must strive to do is synchronize those tasks with our shareholders or stakeholders. We also want to make sure that we spend a lot less time communicating and more time concentrating. The average worker receives one hundred emails a day and attends two meetings. That takes up about 70 percent of your day. So we are constantly communicating and we have no time to concentrate but that, of course, is our work product. If we want to do good work, our job as knowledge workers is to come up with novel solutions to hard problems.
About the speaker
Nir Eyal is a bestselling author whose first book - Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products - focused on teaching design behavior in Silicon Valley product teams. His next book - Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life - provides a guidebook for getting the best of technology without letting it get the best of us. Prior to publishing these titles, Nir served as CEO at AdNectar and Sunshine Business Development. In addition, Nir lectured at Stanford's Graduate School of Business and Institute of Design. Nir holds an MBA from Stanford University and currently lives in NYC.