Action Item: How to become indistractable
We break down Nir Eyal's system for turning down the noise and getting work done
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Welcome back to Action Items a series of articles where we condense and extend each of our interviews into actionable bullet points — only for paid subscribers.
Today’s Action Item is 996 words or 5 minutes of actionable insights.
Let’s dive in!
🧠 What is distraction anyway?
Nir thinks that the biggest problem in getting work done is distraction. But he has a unique definition for it: distraction is doing anything that you didn’t plan to do.
He thinks that the opposite of distraction is not focus, but traction: traction is doing what you planned to do, and therefore anything that moves you closer to what you want to accomplish.
He’s developed a cohesive 4-step strategy framework to increase traction in your life:
- Master internal triggers
- Make time for traction
- Hack back external triggers
- Prevent distraction with pacts
🤓 MY REACTION
The thing that appeals most to me about Nir’s framework is that he removes the expectation that any of this should be easy, or that there are one-size fits all solutions to productivity problems. Sometimes work is just hard—and the way to solve for being productive again varies from person to person, and situation to situation. The key is to have a toolbox of strategies that work for you—and that’s what Nir is contributing.
🙅🏾♀️Step One: Master Internal Triggers
Most of distraction is caused by internal triggers — distraction is our default response to uncomfortable feelings like boredom, loneliness, fatigue, and uncertainty.
Nir thinks that the first step to mastering distraction is to master our internal triggers. He’s developed a toolbox to deal with these uncomfortable feelings. Here are a few of his tools:
- 🧘♀️ Get comfortable with discomfort: When you’re struggling with negative feelings that are driving you toward distraction, learn how to examine them with curiosity, and watch them rise and fall. A solid meditation practice can be helpful here.
- 🔧 Set process goals: Don’t measure outcomes, measure process. If you want to write more don’t write 1,000 words a day—just make sure you’re spending 2 hours a day at the computer trying to write. Time is an input you can control, make it your friend.
- ⏲ Use the 10-minute rule: If you have the urge to Google something while you’re trying to focus, write down the question on a piece of paper and set a timer for 10 minutes. Usually by the time the 10 minutes are up, whatever you needed to look up won’t feel as relevant.
📕 Read More: I talked about process goals in this Member’s Only essay, You Have to Get Good Before You Get Better.
☀️Step Two: Making time for traction
Once you have the tools to master your external triggers, you have to plan your time.
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The Everything bundle now has 10 paid newsletters including Superorganizers. Here are a few articles from around the bundle that you should pay attention to:
- Can Political Betting Markets Predict Election Outcomes?, by Conor Durkin in Napkin Math
- Glenn Greenwald Goes Independent Following Biden Story Dispute, by Li Jin in Means of Creation
- Writing as a Way of Being, hosted by Rachel Jepsen of The Long Conversation (I’ll be there live too!)