Tag Archives: triggers

Monday Morning Moment – Indistractable…What?!

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.

Enter tech-savvy, habits guy Nir Eyal. I caught a 25-minute podcast with him speaking on how to become indistractable. It was illuminating.

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.

Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do. Indistractable people are as honest with themselves as they are with others. If you care about your work, your family, and your physical and mental well-being, you must learn how to become indistractable.” – Nir Eyal

Photo Credit: Pixabay

“LOOK FOR THE DISCOMFORT THAT PRECEDES THE DISTRACTION, FOCUSING IN ON THE INTERNAL TRIGGER”.Nir Eyal
Eyal talks about time management as being pain management. When we understand the discomfort which triggers us to try to escape, we can then build in a tripwire to short-circuit the distraction.
Photo Credit: Pixabay
“Ten-minute rule.” If I find myself wanting to check my phone as a pacification device when I can’t think of anything better to do, I tell myself it’s fine to give in, but not right now. I have to wait just ten minutes.” – Nir Eyal
Two of the many tools Eyal encourages are 1) effort pacts and 2) identity pacts. With the effort pact, he uses an app (the Forest app, for one) to help him keep commitments to himself. He also prescribes having coworkers, friends, or family members come alongside and help you press into a project or task until you’re finished. Accountability helps.
“Effort pacts make us less likely to abandon the task at hand. Whether we make them with friends and colleagues, or via tools like Forest, SelfControl, Focusmate, or kSafe, effort pacts are a simple yet highly effective way to keep us from getting distracted.”Nir Eyal

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):

  1. Don’t rely on willpower – put systems in place to help you succeed.
  2. Timeboxing – rather than a to-do list, block out time on your calendar for specific tasks.
  3. Do Not Disturb as Default –put in place practices that keep you from being distracted by your phone.
  4. Batch everything – batch actions (and distractions) to avoid having your flow disrupted. [From email to Instagram]
  5. Ulysses pact – set up an app or timer or work out an arrangement with someone to help you be accountable.
  6. Take a growth mindset – bit by bit, you are learning how not to be foiled by distractions. It is a process.
  7. 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 Website

Nir Eyal: Mastering Indistraction

Nir Eyal on Taking Control of Technology to Become “Indistractable”    [25-minute video]

Working Parents? Here’s How to Raise Indistractable Kids with Nir Eyal – Nir Eyal and Vanessa Van Edwards – excellent resource

Read James Williams’ excellent review and critique of Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable.

How to Do Timeboxing Right – David Sherwin

How Timeboxing Works and Why It Will Make You More Productive – Marc Zao-Sanders

The Tail End – Wait But Why – Tim Urban

Quotes from Nir Eyal’s Indistractable

PDF Summary – Indistractable – Nir Eyal

Family, Fights, & Friendship

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My older brother taught me how to fight. He won most of our battles and yet I would keep on coming. He was a formidable foe. Then…well into adulthood, I learned not to take the bait, and we became friends. None too soon, because short years later, he died, too young. Today I want to talk about him, and what I learned about fighting…and friendship…from him.

First, some background on how he stayed on my mind all day today, though he’s been gone seven years now. This morning, I found a fascinating article online from the Wall Street Journal. It is a timely piece entitled Family Meltdowns: When Everyone is Arguing and No One is Listening by Elizabeth Bernstein.

Bernstein reported on how holiday gatherings tend to push buttons with family members who already have issues with each other. Fights ensue and the day becomes another chalked-up disappointment. In these family fights, is there always a single culprit or do we each have a part to own in these conflicts?

If you are in such a family, Bernstein’s description of how the family gets embroiled in such a fight is all too familiar. She lists seven different roles in family conflicts. Take note if you see yourself in this mix.

The Trigger – the person who starts the uproar by getting offended by what another has said or done. [I actually think there may be co-triggers in a family argument. We know after years of growing up together what buttons to press with each other. We know sometimes exactly what it takes to get a reaction out of a sibling or parent, and when the time is just right, we strike. So like the bullied child who gets in trouble while the one who started the commotion looks wide-eyed innocent at the teacher, a family disturbance can proceed in the same way.

The Prosecutor – this is the family member who reacts, either in defense of the offended one or the one who did the offense. He is the accuser and is ready to call out the “trigger” for his own offending behavior.

The Defender or Peacemaker – she is the one who will try to calm down the two above. She may try to get each to see the other’s side, or she herself may side with one and try to convince the other. Finally, she may actually attack both the “trigger” and the “prosecutor” for spoiling the day for the family.

The Enablers – sometimes the parents try to stop the conflict without offering any real solution for those fighting with each other. Often the mom just wants it to stop, trying to salvage the holiday for the family, rather than dealing with the issues underneath the fight. The dad at times is more a passive enabler, disappearing in the noise of the battle.

The Deserter – lastly, there are the family members who feel most removed from this family history repeating itself. These are the usually (but not always) the in-laws who will actually remove themselves from the situation, taking the children with them.

The article is a quick read and fascinating in its familiarity with family dynamics – especially those that surface when faced with holiday pressures to have fun together. Bernstein gives counsel on how to prevent such family trauma on special days, or at least how to minimalize it.

My brother and I had no such helps during our years of fighting with each other. He was often a trigger in our family rows, and I was the tireless prosecutor. I feel, however, that we were all sometimes co-triggers because we just “waited” for him to start a ruckus. We didn’t have to wait long, and then we all did the usual.

I finally got a clue after years of this thanks to the wise words of two friends. They were often a part of our gatherings and they loved us all. It helps sometimes to have that extra set of eyes looking in onto family communication…especially eyes attached to a person who loves all involved.

One friend counseled me not to “take the bait”. When my brother took offense at something one of us said or did, a fight would begin and continue to escalate until someone left the room, or the house altogether. My role always was to react, but when I checked myself and didn’t, a strange and wonderful transformation happened (over time). He softened and didn’t pursue the offense or offender. He let it go.

The other friend reminded me of an old adage “Hurt people hurt people.” We’ve all heard this but when we feel attacked we also want to return the attack. My brother, over the course of his life, had experienced enormous losses – marriage, jobs, his health, the death of a child, his own helplessness, it seemed, to have close relationships with the rest of his family. These losses bent his heart, and dulled his thinking, and he struck out at the very people he loved most in the world.

Once my own thinking cleared, I stepped out of the “prosecutor” role, and began to just love my brother. Don’t get me wrong, I did not become a doormat for his abuses at all. If there was ever a time in life, I gave a person grace, it was in those (what would be the) last years of his life. We became friends. We learned to laugh together and share news instead of barbs. We both worked at understanding each other and actually looked forward to our visits together.

I thank God for this brother of mine. I was not the hero here…he was. He took a chance with me, and my sense is we both won. I know I did. Before he died, he rejoiced at time spent happily with our other two brothers. In the last moments of his life, he even began to reach out to his daughter, the one he loved the most and the one he most hurt…if there had only been more time.

One day there will be. My brother died on an operating room table, but he opened his eyes in Heaven. We will see him again, and all the pain of being part of frail, all-too-human families will be behind us. Every day will be like the Thanksgiving or Christmas we wanted. For now, we don’t give up…even though it’s tempting. For in not giving up on family, we may win a friend.

2007 SepOct 092

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. – Proverbs 14:29