In his book, Indistractable, Nir Eyal talks about how to stop distractions and take back your life. You know all those feelings of regret you have after repeating the same old bad habit? Or when you sit down to join a Zoom meeting but your mind wanders to a thousand other places?
I need to respond to that email and send my boss those data reports. But before that, I forgot to RSVP to my friend’s wedding invitation. I should probably check the registry while I’m at it.
The list goes on and on. Pretty soon, our lives are just a blur of half-completed projects and conversations with others where we’re only listening 50% of the time. We try to stay engaged, but our thoughts are elsewhere.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way?
Nir Eyal outlines several ways you can learn to find what’s making you distracted and how to break your internal and external triggers. First, you need to understand yourself and why you do what you do. Once you’ve identified your internal triggers, you’ll expect them before they come. Eyal suggests keeping a journal of when you feel the urge to eat a cookie or move on to the next task and write how you actually feel when this happens.
Something I really love about Indistractable is the 10 minute rule. If you feel the urge to grab a coffee, just tell yourself, I’ll make a coffee run in 10 minutes. Watch the clock and continue on with your current project. If you find yourself still wanting the coffee after that time, then go for it. More often than not, you’ll forget about what you wanted that distracted you in the first place.
I started using the 10 minute rule and found that it worked really well. I’d feel the need to stop the projects I was working on and just grab a snack. Once I told myself I could have the snack in just 10 minutes, I was able to fully complete the task I was working on. As it turns out I finished my tasks faster since I was looking forward to the reward.
Indistractable stresses the importance of managing your schedule and doing it well. Don’t leave large blocks of time completely open in your week.. Time is a precious resource, so as Eyal argues, why are we so easy to spend our time without being intentional about it?
If you plan your business meetings, you also need to plan the activities that are most important to you — time for close relationships such as family and friends, time to eat healthy and exercise regularly, time to spend on a hobby or going to church. No matter what it is you want to do with your life, prioritize those in your schedule so you have time for them.
I started being more precise with my schedule. Instead of using blocks that each represented a day, I used a schedule that outlined the hours in my day. Once I had more details, I noticed I was able to get more of the small tasks completed. Also, I started realizing how little time it took to complete tasks that I anticipated would take longer. For instance, instead of putting “go for a run” on my day calendar, I added a slot for a 45 minute workout in the morning at a set time. I decided to run three miles, which actually took less than 30 minutes. Sometimes tasks can seem more daunting when we have them on a schedule, but after breaking it down, you realize how it can be accomplished.
I greatly enjoyed reading Indistractable and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to learn to break old habits and take charge of their future goals. I think we can all benefit from learning how to manage our schedules and make time for the things we want in life. Going forward, I want to use Eyal’s challenges in this book to both know myself better, understand what distracts me and why, and take small steps each day to become completely Indistractable. I know I’ll thank myself for it.