August 19, 2020

How to Banish Distractions and Do Great Work - Tips from Best Selling Author Nir Eyal

As a founder of two tech companies since 2003, Nir found the sweet spot between tech, business and psychology and ended up writing two books that drastically changed how we build impactful products and be more productive at work. His latest book Indistractible was a huge success in 2019 indeed. Nir is also an investor in habit forming technology companies like Eventbrite and ProductHunt.

We invited Nir on our productivity and engineering podcast and had a fascinating conversation on managing distractions and leaving work at work in order to have a happy life.

Understanding distraction

Nir explains distraction as follows:

"The best place to start to understand distraction is to really start with the term. What is that term even mean distraction and the best place to understand what distraction is is to understand what distraction is not?

So the opposite of distraction if you ask most people they'll say it's Focus, but I don't think that's true. The opposite of distraction is not focused the opposite of Traction is traction.

So traction and distraction come from the same Latin root for Hari which means to pull and you'll notice they both end in the same six letters acti ons Bells action.

So traction by definition is any action that pulls you towards what you really want helps you live out your values be the kind of person you want to be the opposite of traction is distraction any action that pulls you away from what you plan to do anything that you are not doing with intent anything that pulls you away from your values in the person you want to be."

Stop escaping discomfort

We tend to think that our distractions most likely are out of our own control even in the lingo we use on a daily basis. "Oh sorry I got distracted" you say. Nir challenges this assumption and reveals that we get distracted because of our tendency to escape discomfort.

He illustrates: "Real source of the problem the real source of the problem is always the same thing. It's a desire to escape discomfort. I didn't overeat I wasn't clinically obese because McDonald's makes delicious food. I overate because I was eating my feelings. I was eating when I was lonely. I was eating when I was upset. I was eating when I was mad at myself for overeating and that's exactly the same reason why people spend too much time on email right, you know there. Or are too much time at work when they want to be with their kids or too much time on the news when they want to be doing work, whatever it is you are doing instead of doing what you really want to do. There's nothing wrong with you. You're not broken. You're not dysfunctional."

Learn to acquire the tools and habits to fight distractions

It's not all black and white. Nir emphasizes that once you get grasp of the tools and habits you will indeed become indistractible:

 "You can use Google Calendar any calendar tool and what want to do is to stop and ask yourself first and foremost. How would the person you want to become spend time on themselves? Because remember you are at the center of these three life domains. You're the most important person in your life. If you can't take care of yourself, you can't take care of anybody else. So how would the person you want to become spend their time investing in themselves? So how much time would that person spend exercising? How much time would they spend getting proper? Rest, right. Do you have a bed time? We tell our kids you have to get to bed on time and yet somehow when we get older we don't keep our own bedtimes. We're Hypocrites, right?

You need a bed time.

We know that the that that proper rest is absolutely critical to your psychological and physiological well-being. So put that in your calendar as  well how much time with the person you want to become spend in meditation in prayer and contemplation in strategy. Whatever it is that you want to do with your time including video games. If you want to spend time playing video games do it. There's nothing wrong with it. If you like to spend time on Facebook or Instagram or whatever ESPN I don't care make Time in your schedule literally put it in as an appointment with yourself, whether it's to go to the gym meditate play video games, whatever it is put that time in your calendar."

Listen to the full episode with our CEO Emna Ghariani on your favorite podcast platform.