Reading Time: 2 minutes
My book review is on Nir Eyal’s book, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
His thesis is that we are distracted when we are seeking to relieve ourselves of discomfort (he likes to call it pain). So time management is really about managing our pain or discomfort. We need to examine and identify the internal triggers or the feelings of discomfort that are causing us to get distracted. Is it frustration, lack of clarity, physical pain, or exhaustion? Look for the root cause. It’s not your co-worker, or your phone, or the pop-up ads that are the root cause, though you may need to deal with them too. Noteworthy takeaways include:
Begin with your values. “According to Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, values are ‘how we want to be, what we want to stand for, and how we want to relate to the world around us.’ They are attributes of the person we want to be. For example, they may include being an honest person, being a loving parent, or being a valued part of a team. We never achieve our values any more than finishing a painting would let us achieve being creative. A value is like a guiding star; it’s the fixed point we use to help us navigate our life choices.” (p. 54)
According to Eyal, we are hard-wired, after centuries of evolution, to not be content, and always be doing more. He quotes from the Review of General Psychology, “If satisfaction and pleasure were permanent, there might be little incentive to continue seeking further benefits or advances.” (p. 28)
There are four psychological factors that keep us from being totally content.
We just don’t like being bored.
The negativity bias is quite strong.
We tend to ruminate, or to keep thinking about bad experiences.
Hedonic adaptation – or, the notion that highs and lows don’t last. We have a tendency to return to our stable level of contentment or happiness.
Mindset is important. What we think about our ability to focus, our level of willpower, or our ability to control ourselves matters. Try simply reimagining the internal trigger that you noticed, the task at hand, or your temperament for more success.
Time is one resource you can control. Align your time with your values. “Johann Wolfgang von Goethe believed he could predict someone’s future based on one simple fact. ‘If I know how you spend your time,’ he wrote, ‘then I know what might become of you.'” (p. 53)
A workplace full of easily distracted employees is a sign of dysfunction. Work towards making your team indistractable. That might mean making sure you have communicated the why behind a task, or a clear scope.
The book is full of suggestions for making indistractability your superpower.