Photo Credit: Pixabay
Being distractable is one of my character flaws…I guess. For awhile, I had decided it was a super-power. In that, I could jump from activity to activity or person to person, and still somehow be fully present…at least for the moment. Sigh… Interruptions or a busy schedule were not problems for me. In fact, they made for a fun and energizing day. Or so I thought.
There was a time in my life, before marriage, that my closest friends even did an intervention on me. Seriously. Maybe it was because I over-scheduled life like a crazy person (meaning that I actually believed people wouldn’t be put off by my having three different activities, with three different groups of people, in one evening).
So now I’m older and wiser. Chuckle, chuckle. I have the time but not the energy for over-packing my schedule. Nor do I have the mental capacity for deep focus in the face of all the “pings, dings, and rings” of life.
In Eyal’s book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, he removes technology as the distractor in our lives and points to the emotional states that actually drive us. Those uncomfortable emotions (boredom, loneliness, uncertainty) that we hope to silence by simply exiting whatever we’re doing at the moment and take up a different, potentially mind-numbing activity. Like scrolling through social media.
Distractability may make us feel better for the moment, but it doesn’t help us become the persons we want to be. It is a soother but not a life-sorter. It is a behavior, and what needs changing is less the behavior than what’s behind it – identifying the triggers that move us to be distractable and applying new habits to help us stay focused. . We want to be people others can trust to do what we say we will do…to have genuine integrity. How we grow in this area is the point of his book.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
Eyal’s identity pact is an intentional reflecting on the person you want to be, and then using that identity as its own motivator. For me to say, “I’m a writer” requires a certain measure of discipline, with habits in place to help me actually write. If we begin using the language of identity, an accountability is applied that helps us be the person we say we’re becoming. “I am not as distractable as I once was”. “I am not side-lined by negative emotions anymore.” “My values include majoring on family, so I focus on my work at work, in order to be all there at home”.
“Only by setting aside specific time in our schedules for traction (the actions that draw us toward what we want in life) can we turn our backs on distraction. Without planning ahead, it’s impossible to tell the difference between traction and distraction.” – Nir Eyal
Lastly, I’ll mention Eyal’s use of time-boxing over a to-do list. He doesn’t deny that a to-do list is helpful, but it has its own fails built in. We default to finishing what’s easy or urgent, and, in fact, rarely are as productive as we might think we should be with a to-do list. Also, there is always this guilting about what we didn’t complete.
He actually fills a time-box calendar with what he wants to accomplish in a day. He includes things we might not consider in a to-do list like prayer, fitness, reflection, time with family, etc.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
When we have a time allotment (not just how much time something should take but when we will work on it), we are more apt to focus on just that. Eyal does encourage multi-tasking, but only if it is done using “different sensory channels”. By this, he means bundling activities that can actually be done together without diminishing either. An example is watching TV (or listening to a podcast) while on a treadmill. We have a neighbor who reads while walking. That has always impressed me, but it can be done.
Fitness coach David Rosales does a great service (to those of us who haven’t yet tackled all of Eyal’s prescriptions) by giving his own takeaways from Indistractable (including a few I mentioned above):
- Don’t rely on willpower – put systems in place to help you succeed.
- Timeboxing – rather than a to-do list, block out time on your calendar for specific tasks.
- Do Not Disturb as Default –put in place practices that keep you from being distracted by your phone.
- Batch everything – batch actions (and distractions) to avoid having your flow disrupted. [From email to Instagram]
- Ulysses pact – set up an app or timer or work out an arrangement with someone to help you be accountable.
- Take a growth mindset – bit by bit, you are learning how not to be foiled by distractions. It is a process.
- Identify pacts – start identifying yourself in ways that communicate you are not distractable. Make the decision of what kind of person you are determined to be, and decision fatigue is removed. You learn to just say “no”.
What do you think about all this? Maybe you are a person of focus. Please, if you are, comment below on how you make that happen.
Nir Eyal on Taking Control of Technology to Become “Indistractable” [25-minute video]
Read James Williams’ excellent review and critique of Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable.