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Last Updated on November 26, 2020

How To Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics

How To Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics

Distractions are all around us. From modern technology to interactions with our friends, family and coworkers, they are practically unavoidable. And this makes it very hard to focus, especially for a sustained period of time on a specific task.

And, it’s not going to decrease anytime soon with advances in technology. So, there is no better time than now to learn the best strategies to help you defeat distractions head on. Remember, many distractions may be out of your control, but you can learn to take charge of whether or not they take control of you.

In this article, you’ll learn not only why distractions are so distractions are so destructive, but also why they exist in the first place, and a powerful technique that can help you get rid of them for good.

What is a Distraction?

The definition of a distraction is such: “a stimulus or task that draws attention away from the task of primary interest.”

Meaning, they draw our attention away from whatever it is that we want to do, such as looking at your phone each time a notification comes up, chatting with people who stop by your office space while you’re working, checking social media or emails. These are all distractions!

Here’s an example of how a distraction got in the way of something really important to me. One day my only child and I were working on an activity book, which was designed to bring fathers and daughters together. One of the activities was to ask each other, “If you could have any superpower, what would it be?” Unfortunately, I can’t recall my daughter’s answer, because I let a distraction get in the way of our quality time together. “Daddy?” she asked. “Just a second,” I impatiently mumbled, “I need to respond to one thing.” I was focusing at the time only on my phone. When I was finished and finally looked up, she was gone.

At that moment, I realized that my special moment with my daughter was gone because I had let a distraction take that time from me. had just blown a special moment with my daughter because I had allowed something on my phone to distract me–and this wasn’t the first time something like this has happened. I knew I had to make a conscious decision to change the way I viewed distractions, and I’m going to help you do the same so you can fully enjoy your life just as you envision.

Traction: The Opposite of Distraction

So, we’ve come to the conclusion that distractions are bad, and we don’t want those. What we want to achieve is the opposite: traction. now, you won’t find this listed as any true antonym for distraction if you look to a thesaurus or dictionary; yet, I propose it so as by definition traction is any action that moves us towards what we really want.

Traction is an action that you fully engage in with intent–following through with what you say you will do.

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    The Reasons for Distraction

    When we talk about distractions, we’re talking about human behavior and reactions to the distractions themselves. And, all human behavior is marked by external or internal triggers.

    External triggers are cues that we take from our environment which tell us what to do, such as pings from our phone or computer that prompt us to look at whatever the alert is announcing: an instagram update, an email, a text from an old friend. When you boil it down, these external triggers become in competition for our attention with whatever task we’re ultimately trying to focus on. Sometimes the mere presence of an object itself, such as having your phone nearby, can prompt you to give it attention.

    As well, there are Internal triggers, which are simply cues that come from within, such as hunger, anxiety about an upcoming event, or feeling cold.

    All human behavior is prompted by external or internal triggers; therefore, traction and distraction both originate from the same source.

    How to Become Indistractable

    Distractions can easily take over your life, but below I outline 4 simple tactics to take back your control and become indistractable. This concept I am sharing with you now draws from my book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

    1. Master Internal Triggers

    To overcome distractions, you first need to understand what motivates, or drives, your behavior to become susceptible to distractions. Humans have a natural tendency to want to escape discomfort. Even at times where we are going after pleasure and positive events, our drive often revolved around freeing ourselves from the discomfort of wanting.

    So, in truth, we will turn to social media, emails, video games, Netflix not necessarily for the pleasure that they provide, but because of how they free us from psychological discomfort within. While it provides temporary relief, it is an unhealthy way to deal with your life. Even though you can’t control all outside situations and occurrences, you can control how you react to those circumstances.

    Various studies show that when humans don’t give into an urge, craving or impulse, it can trigger rumination and make the desire grow even stronger. So, when you eventually give in, your reward is increased, which can turn quickly into an undesired habit.

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    Dr. Jonathan Bricker, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, developed a set of steps to take when we are faced with a tempting distraction.[1]

    Identify the Feeling or Thought Behind Your Urge

    When you find yourself wanting to give into your distraction, stop and become familiar with the internal trigger. How are you feeling? Is it anxiety, overtired, or maybe you’re underprepared for the task at hand?

    Write Your Feelings Down

    Bricker advises using a log and writing down the time of day and what you were doing, along with the feeling that accompanies it. Doing so will help you link your own behaviors with your internal triggers, which will help you better notice the thoughts and feelings that precede certain behaviors and better manage them.

    Get Curious and Explore Your Feelings and Sensations

    Bricker advises having a sense of curiosity towards the feelings. Notice of you have butterflies in your stomach, or a tightening in your muscles. He recommends the “leaves on a stream” method. To do this you simply imagine yourself beside a stream, on which leaves gently float by. Place each thought and negative feeling on individual leaves and watch them float away.

    In addition to Bricker’s steps, I have several other solutions that can be used to master any internal triggers leading to distraction.

    2. Make Time for Traction

    Planning is so critical to beating distractions, because if you don’t plan your day, surely someone else will! When you’re not clear on how you want to do with your time, anything and everything becomes a potential distraction.

    First, you need to turn your values into time. Of course many of us want to spend more time with things that matter most to us: our family, friends and hobbies, but oftentimes we fail to do so. Why? Because we don’t make time for them in our day.

    So, you must acquire the attributes and values of the person you want to become.

    Examples might include being a contributing member of a team, a loving and caring parent, a fair and loving partner, continuing education, becoming physically fit, or giving back to your community. SO many of us wish to subscribe to these values, but without making the time to take actions to live them out, they’re simply empty aspirations.

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    Timebox Your Schedule

    Timeboxing is, in my opinion, the most effective way to ensure time for your values. Timeboxing is the process of deciding what you’re going to do and exactly when you’re going to do it. You simply create a daily calendar template for how to spend your time, so that you have no white space in your day. It isn’t important what you have planned to do, as long as you stick to it. So, if you feel a need to scroll through social media, just make sure you have planned appropriately for it.

    This gives you power to decide exactly how much time you want to devote to each area of your life, and you can plan it out according to your own values. Once you do this, you will then create a weekly calendar template for your ideal week. You can check out this helpful template on my website.

    Be sure to include 15 minutes per week to reflect and refine your calendar–improving it week by week. You can ask yourself: When did I do what I said I would do, and when did I get distracted?

    At times where you became distracted, note what triggered it and come up with a strategy to use the next time the distraction or urge arises. Also ask: Are there changes I can make to my calendar that will give me the time I need to better express my values?
    This helps you to change the day so that your calendar will be easier to follow next week.

    Synch Your Schedule with Others

    Once your ideal week has been planned, be sure to notify others of importance in your life. Make a clear intention to stick with your plans and involve those who matter most with regards to your agenda. This could be related to sharing household responsibilities, altering your boss to your timeline intentions at work, or even scheduling a date with your partner.

    3. Combat External Technical Triggers

    Tech companies are really adept at using external triggers to hack into our attention. There are countless ways they do so, but our smart phone use is fueled by many of these triggers.

    Research shows that ignoring a call or message can be just as distracting[2] as responding to one! If used properly, though, you can take control and rely on these external triggers to remind you to follow through with what you planned.

    To do so, simply ask whether the external trigger is serving you, or are you serving it. If the trigger leads you to traction, keep it; if it leads you to distraction, get rid of it. A few things to consider:

    1. Remove any and all apps you no longer need.
    2. Remove any apps that you enjoy, but you can use on your computer instead.
    3. Reduce the clutter on your home screen by rearranging the apps on your phone.
    4. Remove notification settings for each app that you don’t need updates on (social media, etc.)

    4. Make a Pact to Prevent Distractions

    Forethought is the antidote to impulsivity. So, I urge you to make a “precommitment”—which means that you are removing a future choice—in order to overcome distraction. Some of these precommitments are advanced healthcare directives, retirement accounts that penalize us for early withdrawal, and “until death do us part” marriage vows.

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    We cement these decisions far in advance of any temptations and distractions that may come our way. This should only be undertaken after you have followed the other three steps and learned to manage internal triggers, make time for traction, and reduce external triggers.

    The 3 Types of Pacts

    Effort Pact

    This is a kind of precommitment which requires you to increase the amount of effort towards something you would rather not do. Increasing your effort forces you make the decision as to whether the distraction is really worth it or not. Some great apps that can help you with this include SelfControl, Forest, and Freedom.

    Price Pact

    This pact puts money on the line, whereas if you follow through with your intended behavior, you get to keep your money, and if you get distracted, you lose your funds.

    I committed to a price pact when finishing the first draft of my book, promising an accountability partner $10,000 if I failed to finish my draft by the set deadline. This was an incentive for me to finish writing my book, and keep my money.

    Identity Pact

    Is the method of using your self-image to impact on your behavior. By deciding on and undertaking on a new identity, you will empower yourself to make decisions based on who you believe you are. Think about vegetarians– they do not have to expend much willpower to avoid eating meat, because they have committed to that as part of their identity.

    So, to become a person who is indistractable, stop telling yourself you are a person with a “short attention span” or and “addictive personality”. Rather, tell yourself, “I am indistractable.” If you say to yourself that you are easily distracted, it instantly becomes a truth. Yet, if you commit to believing that you are indistractable, you will immediately begin to implement these strategies, which will empower you to conquer any distraction that comes your way.

    You Got This!

    To become indistractable, you need not have any superpowers. It’s truly as easy as following these few steps mentioned above. When you master internal triggers, make time for traction, dissolve any extraneous external triggers, and prevent distractions by creating pacts, you will reshape your entire life.

    More to Help You Stay Focused

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Nir Eyal

    Nir is a bestselling author of "Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products" and "Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life"

    How To Become Indistractable: 4 Powerful Tactics

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    Last Updated on January 12, 2021

    How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

    How To Protect Your Focus From Being “Robbed” By Notifications and Social Media

    Between a cell phone that’s always ringing, a plethora of social media apps vying for your attention, and a steady stream of text messages, it probably feels like you can never get a moment of peace.

    Think about how many times you’ve been working when a notification pops up on your screen. The message might be important, but more often than not, it’s just spam that pulls your focus away from your project.

    Imagine all the times you’ve been in a meeting and felt the distinctive buzzing of your cell phone. Putting a smartphone on vibrate doesn’t make it any less disruptive for its owner. You instantly divert your attention from the other human beings in the room to the device in your pocket.

    Distractions make you work harder

    Studies suggest that the average American worker is interrupted every three minutes and five seconds.[1] An estimated 6 hours of productivity are lost every day to distraction. When someone is interrupted, they not only have to deal with the disruption, but then they have to use even more time and energy to get back into their work.[2]

    It’s not only annoying to feel like you can never situate your mind on one task, but it also keeps you from doing your best work. The greatest ideas require time for mental processing. You have to do research and dig deep to come up with exciting ideas. If your focus is shallow, your ideas will never be able to develop to their fullest potential.

    Our concentration naturally fluctuates

    It would be nice if you could simply disconnect from the internet and have a consistent ability to concentrate, but that’s not how your brain works.

    If you were to visualize your concentration throughout an 8-hour work day, it might look like this graph.

    Throughout the day, you will experience peaks and valleys in your energy levels. You might feel a jolt of productivity after you go for a walk or have a cup of coffee, but there will also be points in the day–like right after lunch–where you’ll feel sluggish. You create your best work during periods of high energy and focus.

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    Protecting those peak periods ensures that you can maximize your work time. When you constantly shift your focus back and forth between your work and distractions, your brain has to work extra hard to get back on track. Opening your Facebook page or replying to your friend’s What’s App message is almost never worth the productivity cost.

    You will still have peak moments of productivity when you face interruptions, but the peaks will not be as high. This is because jumping between items wears you out. You lower your potential productivity every time you give in to distraction.

    To be successful, you have to root out anything that stands in your way. The inability to concentrate will affect your work performance, but you can take control of the situation.

    How to maintain focus in a sea of disruptions

    Being able to give your best at work doesn’t mean that you have to disconnect from the world entirely. You can still enjoy the connections you have through technology, but there are a few ways that you can keep them from having a negative impact on your work.

    One of the first things that you can do to minimize your distractions is set aside a time for them. Give yourself windows of time when it’s acceptable to look at Facebook or respond to messages.

    Start by listing out the things that most commonly distract you. Maybe you get sucked into the rabbit hole of Facebook if you get a notification. Perhaps you find that your friends texting you throughout the day pulls you from work. Whatever it may be, write it down.

    Then, set aside a time slot in which you are free to use the apps as you please.

    Plan to use your distracting apps during times when you need to restore energy. As you can see from the graph, times when you need to restore your energy are also times when you may not be as productive.

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    Instead of giving up peak energy times, sacrifice the time when you aren’t working well to engage with technology. When your recovery time has ended, jump right back into your work.

    It might seem counter-intuitive to make time for these distractions during your day, but if you create a schedule that protects periods of peak energy, you will actually boost your productivity. Instead of being inundated with notifications or thinking about the next time when you are allowed to check your messages, you’ll have designated times for that.

    Rather than shift your attention at random, you can focus fully on the task at hand until it’s your time to play on social media or check messages. Using this approach can help you regain a lot of your brain power because you won’t have to waste it on refocusing. You’ll simply do less important tasks during natural breaks in your day.

    Set up a system to limit distractions

    Just because you vow to check your messages and look at social media during certain times doesn’t keep distractions from happening. You’ll need to set up a system to keep disruptions at bay.

    You can’t always control when someone is going to send you a message or when you’ll get a notification. You can start by adjusting your settings. Most apps allow you to opt out of notifications. Stop push notifications from non-essential apps.

    For everything else, you need a different plan. We may be able to avoid opening social media tabs, but sometimes the messages still pop up on our phones. At the same time, most of us want to continue to use social media to stay connected and receive important information.

    Try planting some trees with your concentration

    The Forest app helps you train your brain to avoid distractions during work time. You can use Forest on your desktop or smartphone. The app works by enabling you to establish an amount of time during which you do not wish to be interrupted. You can adjust the amount of time from 10 minutes up to several hours.

    Refer back to the list of distractions that you made earlier. You can take the websites and apps that drain your time and add them to the Forest’s blacklist.

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      The amount of time that you wish to stay off of distracting websites and apps is called a “planting session.” When you decide that you want to “plant a tree,” the countdown timer starts. If you access a blacklisted website during the time when you are supposed to be working, the app will remind you that your tree is still growing. You will have to decide whether or not you want to kill your tree, which is harder than you might think.

        When you can successfully stay off of distracting sites for the allotted time, your tree grows, and you get coins. The coins will allow you to unlock other types of trees.

          As you continue with your work session, you can see a countdown timer and an animation of a tree growing from a seed to its full splendor. Usually Forest also includes an inspirational saying to keep you on track if your focus starts to drift.

            To make the impact of your efforts even greater, success in Forest also gives you the option to plant a tree in real life.

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            This simple visualization can help you break the bad habit of checking your phone or accessing websites that disrupt your thought processes. When Forest asks you if you would like to “give up” and kill your tree, most often you will realize that the reason you were heading to the blacklisted website wasn’t that important anyway.

            Sometimes you just need a small reminder to stay on task. Use Forest during your peak productivity times so that you don’t waste the most valuable parts of your day.

            You have to identify the distractions before you can stop them

            You may be wondering how much of your peak productivity time you are losing to mindless distractions. The only way to find out is to take a closer look at your habits. Notice the times when you seem to do your best work. Name the sources of notifications and interruptions that decrease your attention. After you have done this, use an app like Forest to cut out the distractions.

            Using Forest will not prevent you from being tired, and it won’t keep you from staring off into space, but it will make you think twice about wasting time on sites that distract you.

            When you are able to experience a distraction-free work environment, you’ll recognize how much more you are able to accomplish. You’ll be able to do your work more efficiently, and you won’t feel the fatigue of constantly re-centering yourself. Soon, your desire to stay focused will be stronger than the temptation to click on your notifications.

            Featured photo credit: Viktor Hanacek/ Picjumbo via picjumbo.com

            Reference

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