The Superpower of Indistractability

Sep 12, 2021

Confession Time:

While I fancy myself a “productivity aficionado,” I am, in truth, a Time Management junkie.

I LOVE exploring new methods to make myself more efficient – using either virtual technologies or offline (pen-and-paper) ones.

However, in my pursuit of greater productivity, I have found myself in the same disheartening cycle: find new method, get excited, establish new system with high hopes, tweak accordingly, use daily, discover holes in system, force myself to work around said “holes”, realize system won’t work for me and/or is not sustainable, and watch excitement fade. Rinse and repeat. While many of the systems puttered out or I evolved away from them, they served their purpose. Every time a system was rendered obsolete, I was left with greater clarity on what I needed.

To my delight, I believe I may have found it – I am learning to be what Nir Eyal has coined “indistractable” from his book, Indistractable: How to Choose Your Attention and Choose Your Life.

Being “indistractable” means “being the kind of person who’s striving to do what they say they are going to do.” Seems like a rather simple concept: you want to do X, so you allot time for X’s completion.

It is this same premise on which all things time management seem to be built.

But all too often, I am pulled away from X due to distraction and my focus is lost, taking with it my productivity and, eventually, my motivation.

Eyal’s dive into the world of distraction and our propensity to fall prey to it, is what spoke most deeply to me. The opposite of “distraction” is not “focus”, but rather “traction.” Traction is that which brings us toward our goals while distraction pulls us away from them. He explores the triggers that prompt distraction, both external and internal and how we can “hack back” our time. And it is not technology that is to blame for our constantly-wondering attention. Rather, our inclinations to be distracted have been around for a much longer time; it just seems all the more obvious because of our constant preoccupation with our smart devices.

So how did I start to make myself “indistractable?” First, I began with the person I want to be – my vision of myself. What are the things that are important to me? Spending time with family, vegging out, business planning, physical activity, etc. (Yes, you did see “vegging out” in the previous line. Everyone needs downtime and “vegging out” is not a distraction when there is dedicated time in my schedule to do just that.) I made a list of things Neelma 2.0 would do every day. Some of these items were broken down into only 20 minute-increments. As Nir says, it is not about intensity, but rather consistency. These were things that were accomplishable on a daily basis and, most importantly, aligned with my values.

And then I pulled out my planner. I started by blocking off scheduled appointments, as those were items to which I was already committed. And then I set to finding a space for each of these items. For example: My morning consisted of 30 minutes of physical activity, 20 minutes of news reading (usually the Economist and the New Yorker), 20 minutes of meditation, and then 30 minutes to get myself ready for the day. These are the items that are important to me – I need to take care of my body and mind first before I could tend to any other tasks.

Around my appointments I time-boxed 30 minutes for “personal development”, “business administration”, “business strategizing”, and “reading for fun” to name a few. Most importantly on my calendar, though, I set time aside for my girls and my husband. During this time, there is no technology – maybe we talk, or play a game, or just hold hands. Setting time on my calendar for them helps me to be intentional with those who mean the most to me.

Eyal believes, at the end of your planning, there should be no white space left on your calendar. Yikes! He also advocates building in some “reflection” time each week so you can take a moment to evaluate what worked/didn’t work for you this past week. And I make time every day to create my calendar for the next day. The first few days, I went to bed (at my scheduled bedtime) absolutely spent, but it was the best kind of tired. I had worked on me, spent dedicated time with my family, and handled both my household and business responsibilities. Nothing had been neglected. There were no regrets on those nights and no chastising myself for needing to do more in one area or another in my life. I felt complete.

This method succeeds in that it is not about completing a deliverable or having something to show as output for your intentional time block, rather is it about what you put into that time that matters. It is about clearing the path to accomplish what is outlined in your schedule (and aligned with your vision of yourself). I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to get done and the intensity and focus that I had for these tasks.

Planning with intentionality coupled with the notion that creating my days based on who I want to be, is where “distractability” succeeds for me. 

As a Life Coach, I work with my clients to ensure they align their lives to live their values. This alignment is integral to how they initiate change, maintain it over time, and stay true to themselves. 

To one person, a project going poorly or a relationship ending means they failed. To someone else, it is nothing more than another lesson on the path. By reframing to see the lesson instead of the mistake, you will ultimately learn more and move on to what’s next faster.


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