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This was a useful short book about the most up-to-date science of distraction and how to combat its place in our lives. There were a number of differences the author brings up related to the newest research and how it differs from some long-held beliefs about distraction.

Two Interesting Points

Two points I found interesting...

  • Technology isn't to blame. We certainly have more access to information than ever before, but the author shows how every technology leap that has occurred has led to parents fearing for their children and societies expecting to crumble under the weight of the new systems... books and radio included! It's an interesting and different take than we hear most times. I do think technology still leads to some issues, but I've come to his side that it doesn't increase or decrease our level of distraction.
  • Beating distraction is related to managing pain. The old research shows how we get distracted to increase our pleasure OR to decrease our pain. It turns out it's almost entirely on the pain side. You reach for your phone while you need to write a paper because this thinking is difficult or because you are nervous about your boss reading it. It's a failure at managing the psychological pain associated with your current task... so we reach for a way out to avoid that pain or discomfort. What a cool way to think about it! If we borrow a powerful tool from ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy) we should just sit with the discomfort and examine it for what it truly is rather than allowing ourselves to be distracted.

4 Key Tenants

The book is organized around 4 key tenants to beating distraction.

  1. Master Internal Triggers - This relates to the second point above about learning to deal with the discomfort that drives us to distraction. Find out why you are uncomfortable and work on how to learn to live with it rather than reaching for something to avoid it.
  2. Prevent Distraction - Use pacts to avoid it. He talks about money pacts (you lose money if you get distracted), social pacts (tell someone you will finish X by time Y, so you lose face if you don't do it), effort pacts (locking your phone in a time-locked jar during a 2-hour period when you need to focus), and others.
  3. Make Time for Traction - Traction is the opposite of distraction even though it's not a word style we often see. He recommends a rigorous schedule and review system to make sure you've provided time for things you want to do, including surfing Social Media. You can do it if you've made time for it. Plan your time according to your goals, then stick to the plan and review / update your plan each week.
  4. Hack Back External Triggers - This is a really great section that gives some solid work tips around getting more work done and preventing work related triggers from distraction. This section is completely full of great tips, many of which I'd like to implement in our teams.

Overall, I recommend the book. It's a short read or listen and is worth the time.

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