Being Indistractable is a Superpower
In order to be indistractable, you have to learn human behaviors. Being indistractable is a superpower. If you don’t learn to manage distractions, it’s easy to engage in mindless time-wasting activities.
Most people let distractions take over their life.
We already know what we have to do in life. But we don’t. We easily get distracted.
The tech is not the problem
The source of distraction is not technology and the growth in AI and algorithms. Distractions have always been a part of our life. But today’s distractions are different than the distractions that existed 100 years ago.
It’s easier than ever to seek distractions today.
Distractions have always existed and will exist forever. Managing them is solely our responsibility.
It’s easy to blame tech for the problem of distraction. But tech is not the problem. Sure the distractions around us are more than ever before. Algorithms and AI is trying to hack into our brains.
Distractions have always been a part of our life. But today’s distractions are different from what we had 100 years ago. Today it is easier than ever to seek distraction.
You can’t blame tech for being distracted all the time. There’s an inner source to the problem of distraction. While it is true that the external environment plays an important role.
Unless we take control of the inner cause of distractions, we can’t really be indistractable.
Don’t try to take control of the environment without understanding the root causes and tackling them. It will only make you miserable.
What is distraction
Distraction and traction are two opposite words. Traction is something that moves you forward toward your goal.
Distraction pulls you away. It deviates you from your goal.
Distraction hinders our progress while traction accelerates us.
The same activity can act as a distraction to one person and traction to another. It depends on your goals, and what you want to achieve.
If you do something and that something is not helping you to accomplish your goals, or if it is deviating you from your goal, that’s a distraction.
What Motivates us?
We have believed that rewards and punishment are what motivate us. But the new research has found that motivation has very less to do with reward and punishment.
Every behavior of humans is driven to relieve discomfort, pain, and suffering. This is the main cause while everything else is a proximate cause.
The reason why we are easily distracted is that it provides an easy escape from painful reality. And when one behavior is effective at relieving discomfort, we’re likely to continue using it as a tool to escape discomfort.
Why are our smartphones and social media so addictive? Because they are effective at relieving our discomfort, even if temporarily.
Time management is pain management
Distraction is a way our brain deals with pain. And if you want to deal with discomfort you have to learn to deal with pain.
You are meant to be unhappy
Most of us seek happiness throughout our life. But that’s not what we have evolved to do. We are living in the safest, healthiest, and most democratic time in entire human history, but still, why are we so restless and unsatisfied?
Because we are wired for dissatisfaction. And odds are that we are never going to be fully happy with our lives. There will be small spurts of happiness.
Happiness is nothing else than a drug-induced state of mind.
Being dissatisfied gives us a reason to move forward, work harder, improve ourselves, and evolve.
Dissatisfaction is completely normal. Feeling bad is not bad actually. It’s a survival mechanism. This mindset shift can be a little hard to take, but it can also be liberating.
Dissatisfaction is an innate power that can be channeled to make our life better.
Discomfort and dissatisfaction are our brain’s default state, but we can manage them to motivate us instead of defeating us.
There are four psychological factors that make satisfaction temporary.
- Boredom: People don’t want to be bored. They are constantly seeking something that stimulates their brain. But boredom is when Ideas come to our brains. That’s when the creative side of our brain peaks. A research study showed that people prefer doing to thinking, even if they are doing unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it.
- Negativity bias: Being negative was an evolutionary edge. It helped us survive. Good things are nice, but bad things can kill you. That’s why we pay more attention to negative things instead of the bad stuff.
- Rumination: Rumination is our tendency to keep thinking about bad experiences.
- Hedonic adaptation: It is the tendency to return to the baseline level of satisfaction, no matter what happens to us in life.
Dealing with distractions from within
Mental absistence can backfire while managing pain and discomfort. We need better techniques for managing our temptations.
Reimagine the internal trigger
We can’t control our feelings and thoughts. But we can control what we do with those thoughts. Use the following method to handle the thoughts
- Look for discomfort that preceded the distraction:
- The urge to do something else arises because you just want a diversion from the difficult task.
- The urge to use your smartphone and scroll on social media arises because you want to escape from the discomfort of doing a hard task.
- Write down the trigger
- Write down the time of the day, what you were doing, and how you felt when you noticed the internal trigger that led to distraction behavior.
- Discuss the urges as if you are an observer, or a third party.
- Tell yourself something like, “I’m reaching for my phone because the task I’m doing right now is hard. I want to escape.”
- The better you are at noticing your behaviors, the better you’ll be able to manage them.
- Explore your sensations
- Stay with your feelings before you act on the impulse
- Your cravings and thoughts will automatically disappear as you wait.
- A powerful technique to handle your thoughts
- Imagine you are sitting near a stream. There are leaves that are floating down the stream. You sit there. And place each of your thought in those leaves. As those leaves float down the river, you just sit there and watch.
- Beware of liminal moments
- These are the small moments of transition from one task to another throughout the day.
- They seem to make no difference but these little moments are enough to get us off the track.
- Surfing the edge technique
- It is tempting to do anything. But telling yourself you can do it later, generally after 10 minutes, and writing it down somewhere can dramatically reduce the urge.
- This technique helps in stopping us from impulsively giving in to distractions.
Reimagine the task
Even a dreadful task can be changed into a fun and useful task. We can use the neural hardwiring that keeps us hooked us to media to keep us engaged in an otherwise unpleasant task. Any activity can be made fun of by following things:
- Add constraints
- Find novelty and curiosity
Reimagine your temperament
Reimagining our temperament can help us manage our internal triggers. You don’t have finite willpower. Believing so can make us less likely to accomplish our goals. And it gives us a rationale to quit when we could persist.
Saying you don’t have self-control means defeating yourself. Be self-compassionate.
Make time for traction
Turn your values into action
“People are frugal on guarding their peronal property, but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy”
Most of us wake up with no formal plans. We let others plan our days. Instead of doing what say we will do, we do what others do.
Ask yourself what you are doing. Ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing.
Work from calendar
We perform better under constraints. Limitations give us structure. Timeboxing technique can be used to make time for traction. It sets up an implementation intention.
Eliminate all white spaces in the calendar so you’re left only with a template for how you intend to spend your time each day.
Success can be measured by whether you did what you planned or not. It’s fine to be distracted by youtube and Netflix as long as you do what you planned to do.
At the end of each week book fifteen minutes and ask yourself if you did what you planned to do or not. Did you get distracted? What caused distractions? How will you handle those distractions in the future? Are there any changes that you can make to your calendar?
Being indistractable is about making time for traction each day and eliminating distraction that keeps us from living the life we want.
- Schedule time for yourself first. You are the center of the universe. Without allocating time for yourself, all other domains of your life will suffer.
- Make time for the people you love. They deserve your time.
Hack back external triggers
In today’s world, much of the struggle with distraction is a struggle with external triggers. We are always training our brains to respond to the external triggers pushing our brain into a never-ending stimulus-response loop.
To hack back the external triggers, you have to know whether the trigger is helping you or not. When you know that the trigger is not helping you in any way, you can remove those distractions.
Don’t let the interruptions in the environment distract you. Defend your focus. Let people know that you are working when you are working. Signal them that you are currently in an indistractable mode.
Prevent Distractions with pacts
- Use precommitments: Precommitment is a technique that involves removing future choices in order to overcome our impulsivity. They reduce the likelihood of distractions and make it easy to stick to our decisions
- Effort pacts: Effort pacts make unwanted behaviors difficult to do. Adding resistance to doing those tasks discourages us from doing those tasks.
- Price pacts: It is a technique that involves putting money on the line to encourage us to do what we say we will. You keep your cash if you stick to your schedule. You get distracted, and you lose it. This sounds harsh but works incredibly well. We are motivated more by the avoid losses than to seek gains. Losing hurts us more than winning feels good. Starting the price pact technique can be difficult to start because we know we have to actually do the things we’re scared to do.
- Identity pacts: What you think of yourself changes what you do. Instead of saying I can’t, say I don’t. By doing this you are enforcing a new identity on yourselves. The more we stick to our schedule, the more we reinforce the identity of indistractable.