In my research and consulting work, I’ve heard countless people tell me how difficult it is to manage their time.
Yet, when I ask them what they got distracted from, that is, what they planned to do with any given moment in time, they have trouble answering the question.
What is a “distraction” anyway? The best way to understand what distraction is, is to know what it is not. What is the opposite of distraction? It’s not “focus.”
The Opposite of Distraction is Traction.
A distraction is something we do that moves us away from what we really want. Traction is an action that moves us towards what we really want. The difference seems obvious, but distraction has a sneaky way of tricking us.
At any given moment, it’s hard to tell whether we are moving towards or away from the very things we need to accomplish in our day. Checking your work email may feel productive at the moment, but when you really need to focus your attention on a big project, you are bound to regret the time you wasted cleaning out your inbox.
The Difference Between Traction and Distraction is Forethought.
Any action can be either a distraction or traction depending on what you intend to do with your time.
There’s nothing wrong with scrolling through your Facebook feed, watching YouTube videos or playing a video game, as long as that’s what you intend to do. Taking a break can be good for you. It’s when you do things unintentionally that you get into trouble.
When I ask clients to show me their calendar so I can see what they intend to do, instead of a timeboxed calendar reflecting their values and priorities, they often show me schedules full of white space. They don’t keep a detailed calendar and, as a result, get thrown off track by the whims of family members, colleagues, and friends.
They have prestigious jobs yet leave themselves unguarded against their most valuable asset—their time. What I observe when my clients start using a schedule maker is that they greatly reduce the number of distractions that take them off-track and start improving how they spend their time. As a result, they become more productive and satisfied—both at work and at home.
A schedule maker is a tool for building a weekly template for how you intend to spend your time. With a weekly template in hand, you’ll always know the difference between traction and distraction.
If you find yourself doing what you planned, that’s traction. Anything else is a distraction. Thankfully, there are free online schedule maker tools, like this one I whipped up, to help you build a detailed calendar in minutes.
If you take away just one thing, remember this:
You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from.
If you don’t schedule your day, you can’t possibly know the difference between what you intended to do and what was a distraction.
Top Distraction Articles
- How the Ancient Greeks Beat Distraction
- Researchers Say We’re Trapped in a “Cycle of Distraction.” Here’s How to Break Free.
- Tame Daily Distractions With a ‘Precommitment Pact’
- How to Escape the Vicious Cycle of Distraction
- What is the Opposite of “Distraction?” The Single Word that Will Change Your Life This Year
- Smartphone Too Distracting? Here’s How to Reclaim Your Focus
- “Tech Addiction” Is the New Reefer Madness
- Review of The Social Dilemma: No, Social Media Is Not “Hijacking” Your Brain
- This is How to be Less Distracted By Having Fun in Tedious Tasks
- 5 Ways to Distraction-Train Your Mind
- If Tech Is So Distracting, How Do Slack Employees Stay So Focused?
- Learn How To Avoid Distraction In A World That Is Full Of It
- The Truth About Kids and Technology: Jean Twenge (iGen) and Nir Eyal (Hooked) Discuss Tech’s Effect on Children’s Mental Health
- Kids’ Video Game Obsession Isn’t Really About Video Games. It’s About Unmet Psychological Needs.
- The Real Reason Apple and Google Want You to Use Your Phone Less
- How Bad is Tech Use for Kids, Really?
- How to Be Indistractable: Video by Nir Eyal
- How to Regain Focus at Work by Slaying the Messaging Monster
- Technology Is Not Hijacking Your Brain (video)
- When Distraction is a Good Thing
- Tech Companies are Addicting People! But Should They Stop?
- Technology is Distracting and Addictive. Here’s How to Fix It. (Video)
- Why Our Tech Obsession Might Be a Work Obsession
- How to Stay Informed Without Losing Your Mind
- Conquer Distractions With This Simple Chart
- Should We Worry About the World Becoming More Addictive? Q&A with Nir Eyal
- The Four People Addicting You to Technology
- Why People Check Their Tech at the Wrong Times (and the Simple Trick to Stop It)
- Who’s Really Addicting You to Technology?
- How to Clear Your Computer of Focus-Draining Distraction
- Un-Hooked: Increasing Focus in the Age of Distraction
- Latest Tech Trends: Products to Eliminate Distractions and Increase Willpower
- Email Habits: How to Use Psychology to Regain Control
- The Psychology Behind Why We Can’t Stop Messaging
- Is Some Tech Too Addictive?
- How to Break 5 Soul-Sucking Technology Habits
- The Real Reason You’re Addicted to Your Phone
- Our More Addictive World
- This Will Be the Last Article You Read
- Time for Digital Hat Racks
- Escape From Message Hell
- Strange Sex Habits of Silicon Valley