Time and attention—are two precious resources we all struggle to handle in today's fast-paced digital age. If you're a freelancer, solopreneur, or self-employed, mastering your time and beating distractions is a game-changer.
Taming the Triggers of Distraction
All human behavior, the traction we aim for, and the distractions we fall for stem from internal or external triggers. External triggers, like that ping from your email, distract your attention from what you're doing. Internal triggers, feelings like stress or boredom, are actually responsible for 90% of our distractions.
However, here's the good news: you can control how you react to both internal and external triggers.
Distractions can feel like an escape, but they're often just short-term solutions to discomfort.
Beat Distraction in 4 Steps
1. Master Your Internal Triggers
Our feelings are taking the form of a sudden urge to browse social media, check emails, or lose ourselves in a YouTube rabbit hole.
It's our mind's way of escaping discomfort. Be it boredom, loneliness, insecurity, fatigue, or uncertainty. We subconsciously look for distractions to avoid these uncomfortable feelings.
Spot these internal triggers and change the response.
- Identify the feeling that's prompting you to get distracted.
- Write down this feeling, the time of day, and what you did when you felt it.
- Explore that sensation. Calmly acknowledge it and let it pass.
- Schedule time for later to reflect on it and reframe it into something positive.
2. Make Time for Traction
Transform your values into time blocks. From personal life, relationships, or work, time-box them into your calendar.
Once you've got your plan, ensure you and the key people in your life are on the same page. This synchronization aligns expectations and prevents unforeseen distractions.
3. Hack Back External Triggers
External triggers are the dings, pings, and app notifications that interrupt our flow. But guess what? You control them!
Consider each trigger. Does it lead you to what you planned (traction) or away from it (distraction)? If it's the latter, modify or eliminate it.
4. Prevent Distraction with Pacts
Precommitments, or pacts, are promises you make to your future self. They work on the principle of forethought: deciding now to remove distracting choices later. Here are three types of pacts you can make:
Effort Pacts: Increase the effort needed to engage in distracting behavior. E.G., leave your phone in another room while working.
Price Pacts: Put money on the line. If you succeed, you keep it. If you falter, you lose it.
Identity Pacts: Embrace a new identity. Tell yourself, "I am undistractable." It's amazing how our behavior aligns with our self-image.
By using these steps, you're equipping yourself with a distraction-fighting toolkit.
Fuel Your Fight Against Distraction with Nir Eyal
The work of Nir Eyal inspires the above techniques and steps, and you can enrich your understanding further by watching below his podcast episode on The Diary of a CEO, where Nir dives into more strategies and insights on the topic that you can apply to your daily routine.
Identify your top three internal and external triggers for this week's challenge. This increased self-awareness is your first step to controlling how you react.
Remember, the goal isn't to completely cut distractions – that's impossible. Instead, it's about managing them, allowing you to live a focused, productive, and satisfying life.
Here are 3 bonus tools and resources I believe you'll find helpful as well:
- Supercharge your workflow with productivity tools like ClickUp that allow you to focus without distractions.
- Read how succesful solopreneurs stay disciplined by mastering the art of prioritization.
- UnDistracted is a free browser extension that blocks Social Media feeds, comments, or chats and let's you stay focused.
Until next week,
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