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You’re Probably Supposed to be Doing Something Else Right Now

This article was originally published in the LearnThenApply newsletter.

The Challenge

I am so freakin’ distracted. I am constantly doing anything except the work I’m supposed to be doing.

It’s at a point where I’ll be scrolling Facebook while on a 1-on-1 meeting.

Resources

📘 Indistractable by Nir Eyal

I initially came across Indistractable because my buddy Bryan Wish was helping Nir Eyal with the book launch.

I listened to the audiobook and even got a signed copy from Nir himself!

Now I’m revisiting the book because my distractions are keeping me from doing the things I want to do — leaving me feeling guilty and angry with myself.

Insights

The first part of the book is focused on mastering internal triggers.

We distract ourselves because we want to avoid pain.

That sounds a little extreme, right? Most of us are pretty well off and comfortable. We’re not in pain.

But that pain could be anxiety. It could be restlessness. It could be feelings of incompetency.

Let’s say you want to publish an article online.

  • You could feel uncertain about how exactly to present your ideas. 🤪 You go watch a YouTube video instead.
  • You could get anxious about people saying mean things after you publish. 🤪 You go clean your room instead.
  • You could be overwhelmed by the quality of content online and feel like your ideas aren’t worth putting out there. 🤪 You fire up the Xbox instead.

If we want to make better use of our time, then we have to deal with our pain first.

Discover the Root Cause

Unless we acknowledge the root cause of our pain, “blocking” distractions is not going to do us any good.

If you’re feeling stressed at work, blocking social media is not going to suddenly enable you to “power through”. You’ll likely just end up reading, cleaning, or cooking instead.

Those things seem productive, but they’re still moving you away from your goal (finishing your work). It’s still a distraction.

Nir recommends becoming familiar with the internal triggers by using a distraction tracker like this.

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Act like an outside observer.

“He’s feeling tension right now, so he’s reaching for his phone.”

Write down the trigger (regardless of if you succumb to the distraction or not). Then take notes on how you’re feeling.

Next, you can try to think of ideas on how to deal with that distraction. Here are some strategies:

1. The 10 Minute Rule

You can do whatever you want to do as long as you wait 10 minutes.

If you still want to do it after 10 minutes, go ahead.

2. Reimagine The Task

Making something a challenge makes it new > which can make it fun > which captures our attention.

Can you place constraints on your task (less time, less money, etc.) to make it more challenging?

  • “I’m going to challenge myself to finish this article in 45 minutes.”
  • “If I finish this report before lunch, I’ll order a cookie with my meal.”

3. Be Kinder To Yourself

When this strategy was mentioned in the book, I was tempted to skip it because it’s about “feelings”.

But self-limiting beliefs are real.

People who believe they can change are much more likely to do so.

You can be a person who does what they say they want to do when they say they’re going to do it!!!

I find myself often saying self-deprecating things when I get frustrated by how little I am getting done.

In moments where you start to belittle yourself, you can repeat one of these things:

  • I am exactly where I’m supposed to be at this point in my life
  • Obstacles are a part of the process of growth
  • I can’t get better without practice
  • I’m on my way

Read Part 2 of this series on Indistractable.

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Written by

A young professional taking action on the content he reads and documenting it on learnthenapply.com (+ tweeting bad jokes at twitter.com/learnthenapply)

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