Distracting you with a review of “Indistractable”
It took 2 afternoons to write this book review. Thanks to the endless number of distractions that come up from the news cycle tracking the state of Singapore’s COVID measures. Stuck at home, many of us are bombarded endlessly by our ceaseless notifications. How might we get anything done?
As part of the bounty by 1729, I thought it would be a good chance to try and eliminate a distraction or two by applying some principles from the book. Well here goes nothing!
Master internal triggers.
The idea here is to eliminate your urge to be distracted.
Your distractions have to come from somewhere. These are usually motivated by an emotion or some sort of urge that makes your mind wander. However there might be some ways to remove that urge altogether which takes out the source of wanting to be distracted.
- Identify the feeling or thought behind your urge: Urge to go out and meet friends, to eat out, to see this pandemic end.
- Write it down: Well…I haven’t picked up a pen in months. Finding one took surprisingly long but I did.
- Explore the sensation: I realised it was the hope that restrictions would be lifted that kept my mind half-heartedly plugged into the news. Its almost Pavlovian where we’ll wait for news around 6–7PM or whenever the three letters MOH (Ministry of Health) comes up.
Actionables: Schedule moments to catch up with friends over a call so that the psychological effects of the restrictions are not so severe.
Make time for traction.
If you don’t block time for it, it will never happen.
- Turn your values into time: I’ve actually started colour coding my calendar to block out time with my loved ones, friends, learning etc. That way I make sure I don’t miss out on things I care about. You can check out the benefits of colour coding your calendar here. There’s lots of tips on choosing your colours, and even includes some handy ways to make the colours memorable and meaningful!
- Timebox: After that, I’ve tried to allocate time in my calendar for exactly these things. What you end up with is a better understanding of how much time you really have and also a disincentive to be distracted more. If you’ve never done timeboxing before, here’s one way to start. Timeboxing is basically the technique of setting a fixed time for a task of your choice. After you have blocked out your calendar, you must treat it like a meeting and follow your schedule! This way you can ensure that you will have enough time for your commitments and stick to the person you would like to grow into.
- Sync with stakeholders: We’ve actually had this conversation at work before! I remember the quote was “just because my calendar is empty doesn’t mean it’s free”. I think setting some ground rules is quite important because having one’s calendar completely filled with meetings would mean there’s no time to do actual work!
Hack back external triggers.
Your devices are distractions. Control them before they control you.
- Hack back your smartphone: that took awhile. Had to dig into the notification settings to clear out unwanted notifications…
- Hack back your feeds: I don’t really have feeds! This wasn’t a problem.
Prevent distraction with pacts.
Strike a deal with yourself. Stake something that matters and penalise if you don’t do it or reward if you do.
I find that the best type of pact is identity pacts. When you say you will do something, tell that to as many people as you can. Because I value reliability greatly, my entire being is on the line! That’s how I got myself to even do the Gitcoin Green NFT Hackathon (from 11pm-5am!).
This entire exercise is to ensure that you hold yourself accountable. Even though you might have started off excited to set off on your work, your motivation might wane very quickly because:
- You did not set a deadline for yourself
- Your initial idea wasn’t fully described and you’re not sure what you really want
- You don’t know where to start
There are an infinite amount of excuses you could set for yourself. What you need to do is to set for yourself tangible consequences for not following through. That way you can hold yourself accountable for the choices you make.
Applying this to the bounty
I’m quite a fan of meta scenarios. So here’s how I applied techniques featured in Indistractable to the 1729 bounty and got it done in 2 afternoons!
Master your internal triggers
That particular weekend I was waiting for my vaccine registration in Singapore. The format is quite simple. Nationally, anyone can register for a vaccine but first you need to pre-register, then you get a message to register, and finally you get to choose a place to go for the jab. Naturally I’d be anxious to see if I got my registration notice the entire weekend!
One idea I had was to try and find the average waiting time. Turns out that varied quite a lot! Also my friends were getting their vaccination registration notices too. So I was expecting mine quite soon.
That internal trigger wasn’t easy to eliminate. In the end I decided to just disable message notifications so I wouldn’t be able to be distracted anyway. (skipping ahead to hack back external triggers).
Make time for traction
Usually I spend my weekends filled with reading or watching shows. This time I wanted to try and make something more out of it. I gave myself a weekend to work on this, predicting that it shouldn’t take too long. Afterall, how long should it take to do a review of a book? Reading the book though, that took much longer and required constant bits of effort throughout the week. Luckily it was a smooth read and the ideas were clearly communicated.
Hack back external triggers
To prevent myself from getting distracted by notifications of various sorts, I did most of my writing on paper first. That way, it was almost impossible, short of someone knocking on my room door, from being distracted by others. It was somewhat effective, thanks to the assortment of snacks and cups of tea I had prepared.
Prevent distractions with pacts
Finally, to make sure that there were consequences for not finishing this, I told a few friends of the bounty that I was working on. They were somewhat surprised that such a bounty even existed but shirked at the idea of having to read an entire book for it. Even then, the deal was set. I would have to finish this bounty and send them the article I wrote.
Reclaim your time so that you can direct them where you want to go. Hopefully I’ve become just a little bit more indistractable. To my surprise, the tips included in this book would not take much to implement. It just took… well an undistracted mind to even start implementing these habits. I suppose herein lies the irony of it all. It’s hard to not be distracted especially with the pace of change. Perhaps an alternate view would be to make use of these distractions instead and get ‘distracted’ by other productive tasks!