The real reason you turn to your smartphone (DW#905)

Yesterday we spoke about the external triggers in our environment that cause us to lose focus.

Today let us discuss internal triggers.
Eyal begins by asking a very important question: "What motivates us, really?". What prompts us to do anything?
He answers his own question by citing Epicurus: "By pleasure, we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul."
"Simply put", Eyal explains, "the drive to relieve discomfort is the root cause of all of our behavior, while everything else is a proximate cause."
Root causes vs. Proximate causes. The smartphone? Television? Video games? Chocolate? Excessive shopping?
Those are not the ROOT cause of your distraction. They’re simply the PROXIMATE causes.
The root cause, he says, is our inability to deal with emotional discomfort in our lives.
Just reflect on this for a moment. Just before you reach for the phone, the chocolate or the TV remote, what are...
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The Indisctractable Model (DW#904)

Eyal developed a 4 point model to master focus in our lives.

Here are the four steps:

  • Master Internal Triggers
  • Make Time for Traction
  • Hack Back External Triggers
  • Prevent Distraction with Pacts.
Eyal uses the Fogg Behavior Model to explain that for a behavior (B) to occur, three things must be present at the same time: motivation (M), ability (A), and a trigger (T). Or B = MAT.
In order to do anything, we need motivation and ability – both the desire to do something and the ability or energy to do it. It also means that the easier something is to do, the more likely we are to do it and the harder it is to do, the less likely we will do it (unless we have really high motivation and discipline that is).
Eyal explains, however, that when people have sufficient motivation and ability, they are only primed for certain behaviour or ready to take action. According to him, without the critical third component, which is the trigger, the behavior will not occur....
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Traction vs. Distraction (DW#903)

All of us are familiar with the term distraction. Eval discusses a very interesting concept regarding the opposite of distraction.

Here is how he introduces it:  

"Imagine a line that represents the value of everything you do throughout your day. To the right, the actions are positive; to the left, they are negative.

On the right side of the continuum is traction, which comes from the Latin trahere, meaning ‘to draw or pull.’ We can think of traction as the actions that draw us toward what we want in life. On the left side is distraction, the opposite of traction. Derived from the same Latin root, the word means the ‘drawing away of the mind.’ Distractions impede us from making progress toward the life we envision".

So, Traction means "to draw or pull." In other words turning towards the kind of life you want.

And distraction? Distraction, means "drawing away of the mind."

In other words, you intend something,...

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Who is going to manage our attention? (DW#902)

When I was writing Parenting in the Age of Facebook back in 2016, I got mixed reactions from people. While some were encouraging and wanted to know more about how we could manage technology and social media from negatively impacting our families, there were many who thought the task was insurmountable.

For some, the personal and family dependence on technology was such that they could not even see another possibility. They had already resigned themselves to a life where they would have a more intimate relationship with their smartphone than with those around them.

And then there some who thought that if the news was truly so damaging, "somebody" would have done something about it. Surely if tech was impacting our children in the way that I had expressed in the book, government and corporate regulators would do something about it?

Nir Eval’s book Indistractable is an answer to such concerns.

He says that in the future, there will be two kinds of people in the world:...

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Becoming indistractable (DW#901)

We have been chatting about how important it is to focus. Being able to keep our attention where we intend it to be is the key to productivity at work, our personal emotional and mental wellbeing and fulfilling relationships with others.

And yet modern life is perfectly designed to keep us in a state of distraction and "continuous partial attention". ALL THE TIME.

By some estimates, modern humans are subject to more inputs in a day than our forefathers encountered IN THEIR ENTIRE LIFETIME.

It is not surprising then, that we find ourselves in a state of increased anxiety and agitation. Our brains find it extremely challenging to focus while there are so many opportunities to mentally chase the next shiny object.

I have just finished exploring a very interesting book on the subject: Becoming indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal and will be sharing some insights and learnings from this over the next few days.

Nir Eyal is a former...

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The human need for connection (DW#900)

Paying attention to our loved ones is the lifeblood of our relationships. The yearning for connection and communication runs deep in the human soul and nothing can take its place.

And given the modern tendency towards distraction and multitasking, it is now more challenging than ever to give our significant others our full attention.

Our go-to relationship expert Dr. Gottman has found that happy couples respond to each other’s need for attention by responding to "bids for connection".

According to Dr. Gottman, "it’s not the depth of intimacy in conversations that matters. Maybe it doesn’t even matter whether couples agree or disagree. Maybe the important thing is how these people pay attention to each other, no matter what they’re talking about or doing."

In other words, successful couples are attentive. They listen, and they put their phones down when the other person wants their attention.

So one of the simplest ways to improve our relationships is by ...

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Continuous partial attention (DW#899)

The lack of ability to focus does not only impact our work lives of course.

Many of us today are living (and working) in a state of continuous partial attention. Instead of giving our attention to the one thing that’s most important right now, our attention is effectively in radar mode — we are constantly scanning our environments for "the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment," as Linda Stone of The Attention Project describes it.

And switching from task to task and scanning our environment can be exhausting and stressful.

And there is also something bigger at stake here …

Our attention is the conduit that connects us to our life and work, to what’s happening in this moment. It allows us to witness our own lives, so to speak.

And when our attention is divided — whether by multitasking, by falling into this state of continuous partial attention, or by simple distractions — our...

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Flow and boring work (DW#898)

Now it’s true that the state of flow is often associated with doing something you enjoy. But that’s not what it’s all about.
Just think: Have you ever done something that you really love, but you weren’t in flow while doing it? Maybe your mind was actually occupied with thoughts of something else the entire time, so you "missed" a moment that should have brought you great joy? Of course. We all have.

On the other hand, have you ever been able to just "lose yourself" while doing something that you really don’t love to do?

I can think of many things: accounts, billing, actually anything to do with numbers, sorting socks after laundry and a whole host of other things.

I do not enjoy of any of the tasks above but I find that when I stop running from them,  just "settle in" and do what needs to be done, I can actually enjoy it. Of course I do not think that "I wish I could do this every day!" but I...

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But emails are so important for my work! (DW#897)

One of the biggest reservations that come up with the concept of time blocking are from those of us who are accountable to others for our time.

This sounds something like this:

My boss expects instant answers to emails

Emails contain important information for me to get my work done.

Here’s the thing: when our workday is run by external forces, it is so easy to lose sight of our own goals.

Here is how Cal Newport would address these common concerns:

Periods of open-ended reactivity can be blocked off like any other type of obligation.

Even if we are blocking most of our day for reactive work, for example, the fact that we are controlling our schedule will allow us to dedicate some small blocks (perhaps at the beginning of the day) for deeper pursuits and meaningful work of high quality, whether it is learning, self-growth or content creation.
In other words, we are being intentional about being available to others, bosses, clients and other stake holders at...
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The problem with open ended (DW#896)

We have been discussing how time blocking can help us focus and be more productive.

A huge benefit of focus and time blocking is that it helps counteract perfectionism.

Those of us who have tendencies towards perfectionism will be able to relate.

We can keep working on projects and never deliver them, ship them or press send.

And open-ended timelines are a perfectionist’s worst enemy. With more time, we can always tweak and improve what we are working on and this results in spending way more time on a single project than is optimal. In fact, we can end up in a situation where nothing is ever done because it is never perfect.

Perfectionism also prevents us from sharing our work out in the world where it might actually do some good rather than sit with us and endure endless iterations.

Do you know what I am talking about?

With time blocking we give ourselves a set time to work on something. Once the time is up, we have to say "good enough", "ship" the product, share the content...

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