Summary

You live in a world that is becoming more and more distracted. The frustration of meticulously planning one's day, only to be derailed by constant interruptions and digital distractions, is a common experience. Overcoming distractions is crucial for fulfilling one's purpose and aligning with God-given goals.

The alarming statistics of time spent on phones, television, and emails highlight the need for proactive measures to combat distractions effectively. Three main causes of distractions are identified: internal triggers, external triggers, and a lack of planning.

Internal triggers, such as discomfort and stress, lead individuals to seek relief through distractions like social media or TV. Strategies like the "10-minute rule" are advocated to overcome these triggers.

External triggers, such as notifications and interruptions, also contribute significantly to distraction. Proactive measures like organizing smartphone apps and implementing focused work sprints are suggested to mitigate these triggers effectively.

Lastly, the importance of planning to reduce distractions is emphasized. Creating structured schedules and prioritizing tasks can minimize idle time that often leads to distractions.

Developing a personalized distraction management plan is encouraged, emphasizing the long-term benefits of mastering focus and living intentionally. Proactive action is urged to reclaim valuable time for meaningful pursuits and take control of distractions for a more fulfilling life.

Takeaways

  • Distractions can sabotage our productivity and prevent us from accomplishing our goals.
  • Internal triggers, such as discomfort and stress, often lead us to seek relief through distractions.
  • Identifying and addressing our internal triggers is crucial for overcoming distractions.
  • External triggers, such as notifications and interruptions, can also distract us from our tasks.
  • Proactively setting up our smartphones, using focused sprints, and planning our days can help limit distractions and improve focus and efficiency.

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Transcript

Hey! It’s Jonathan McGinley. A Maxwell Certified Coach, Speaker, and Trainer and the Founder of Intentional Man - a company that exists to give Christian Men the tools, community, and coaching to pursue God sized Goals, live intentionally, and build lives of significance.

Have you ever had a time where you planned out your day in advance, you thought through everything you wanted to accomplish, blocked off time to work, and then distraction after distraction popped up and you got to the end of the day and realized you didn’t do anything you set out to do?

Or you sat down to knock out a specific task for an hour and found yourself scrolling social media 10 minutes later or checking emails?

We live in a world that is becoming more and more distracted. It is so easy to have your day completely sabotaged by interruptions, distractions, your phone, notifications, or other people. 

I believe that one of the greatest obstacles and challenges to being the man you were made to be and accomplishing the mission that God has given you are daily distractions.

So let me ask you this, do you have a plan for dealing with distractions?

Have you taken the time to proactively design your life in a way that limits the number of distractions each day?

If you are like most people, the answer is probably no. We talk about designing our schedules all the time, but we don’t often talk about designing our distraction plan.

There are so many things fighting for our time, resources, and attention all of the time. If we don’t have a plan for how we want to deal with distractions, we can easily fall into them and waste our time and our potential.

So today, I want to talk about Overcoming Distractions - The cost of distractions and how to attack them

Ask almost anyone how life has been lately and the answer is almost always…busy

Ask almost anyone for a reason they have been putting something off that they know they should be doing and the answer will be…I don’t have time

Busyness and the lack of time to do the things that we say are priorities in our lives are issues that I continue to see plague a lot of the men that I work with.

We have so many responsibilities and seemingly never ending to-do lists that we do not have time for distractions. And if we actually got a good grip on them and developed laser like focus in our lives, I believe it would open the door to spending time on the things that matter most to us and getting time to rest and recharge.

We live in an increasingly distracted world. Everyday we are bombarded with thousands of messages, alerts, emails, texts, phone calls, social media messages…there are so many ways we can be distracted

  • The average person in America is spending 7 hours on their phone each day. 7 HOURS!
  • The average person in America is watching 3 hours of Television every day.
  • And the average office worker gets about 100 emails everyday. If you say it takes about 2 minutes per email, that is 200 minutes of our time spent on email…which is a little under 3.5 hours. And that is being conservative because it doesn’t account for the time it takes to get refocused after checking email.
  • So if we add up the 7 hours of phone time, the 3 hours of tv, and the 3.5 hours of email, that is a total of 13.5 hours of our 24 hour day that is being spent on just those three things alone. You take out 7 hours for sleeping and all you are left with is 3.5 hours of your day…no wonder we all feel busy. No wonder we all feel like we don’t have time 

But here is a better way to look at this…if you can be proactive and develop a plan for overcoming your distractions and if you can develop the skill of focus and efficiency, you will pretty much have a superpower. 

When we talk about skills to develop for the future, I think this is one of the absolute most crucial skills that you can develop to separate yourself from everyone else. If everyone else is distracted and spending 13.5 hours a day and things that might not necessarily be helping them, you can quickly separate yourself. 

So I want to quickly identify 3 Causes of Distraction for you, and give you some possible exercises or tips to overcome distraction, and then get you a resource to help you make your plan for distractions!

You READY!? This is going to be fun! Let’s Dive in! 

 

Internal Triggers

When we think of distractions, we typically just think of some sort of device or notification or some sort of external trigger that causes a distraction, but there is actually usually a deeper cause. There is a usually some sort of internal trigger.

What I mean by internal trigger is that there is usually something going on deep inside of us that is causing us to turn to distractions for relief. One of the biggest motivators for humans is pain avoidance. We are driven to avoid pain unlike any other driver. We are driven to avoid or relieve discomfort. And its this drive to relieve discomfort that is the root cause of almost all of our behavior.

For example, when you are working, you come up on something that is challenging, maybe you don’t know the answer, or it’s a big problem that is going to take time to solve, or there is a chance that you are going to make a mistake if you keep going, so you quickly pull out your phone and start scrolling social media or a news app. 

Or, it could be something even deeper where you are feeling unhappy in your current situation or you are experiencing a lot of stress and so you turn to binge watching TV to get your mind off of it. 

Oftentimes, it isn’t just our smartphones fault that we are distracted…a lot of times it is something that is going on within us that drives us to use distractions as a way to avoid pain and discomfort. 

Oftentimes, distraction is a mechanism to escape reality. 

And the more that we go to something that gives us relief from pain, the more our brain is trained to go to that thing and it can become highly addictive. It can become a habit.

Every time you face a challenge at work and decide to check your phone instead of push through, you are training your brain to want that relief when you face something difficult.

Every time you avoid a difficult conversation that you know you need to have and go watch a sports game instead, you are training your brain to crave that reward of watching TV when you are faced with a difficult circumstance.

So you can see how absolutely important this is. More important that dealing with external triggers, we must know and understand what are the internal triggers and pains that we are avoiding with distraction

How we learn to deal with the internal triggers in our lives will dictate if we spend our time on distractions to escape reality that are unhealthy, or if we spend our time on things that are beneficial.

Ok so how do we deal with this? This is something you can really think through and decide how you want to attack it, but I want to give you a couple things you can do to help get you started.

The first is to actually start Identifying the Discomfort that happens before the trigger

What I mean by that is to actually start writing down what discomfort you felt when you find yourself engaged in a distracting activity.

If you picked up your phone at work and started scrolling, rewind the clock a little bit and ask yourself, “what discomfort was I avoiding by picking up my phone?”. Then write down the answer to the question. 

We can’t fix anything if we don’t identify for them. So step 1 is to start paying attention to the pain you are avoiding when you start to do a distracting activity

The next technique is something called the 10 minute rule. I got this from the book Indistractable by Near Eyall

When you feel the urge to do something distracting, like turn on the TV, look at social media, scroll the internet, you give yourself permission to do it but you have to wait 10 minutes until you do.

So you don’t do it immediately, but you give yourself 10 minutes to stay focused on what you are doing and then give yourself permission to do that activity in 10 minutes

You will find two things from this

  1. Most likely, in 10 minutes, you will no longer have the urge to do that activity. It will likely go away

And 2. You will start to train yourself to not immediately gratify the urge for relief in the middle of something that is uncomfortable. You can start training your brain to actually push through and develop some resiliency.

If you are going to start working on overcoming distractions, my greatest encouragement would be to start working on these internal triggers first. Without addressing these, it will be hard to stay consistent with the others.

 

External Triggers

Alright, the next cause of distraction is the one we are probably most familiar with and that would be External Triggers 

These are the notifications, dings, alerts, phone calls, text messages, colleagues and other external forces that come into our life and distract us from wheat we are doing. 

Whereas the internal triggers are things that you do - you pick up your phone, or the tv remote, or go to email, external triggers are things that happen to you.

I think we can all think of a time where we had great intentions of getting something done, only to get a notification on our phone, take a look at it, and next thing you know 30 minutes have gone by and we haven’t done anything we planned on doing. 

A lot of distraction today comes in this form

And the more and more we react to these triggers, the more we train our brains to continue to react to them. The more notifications that you immediately respond to, the harder it is going to be to ignore the next time it comes in

You might be thinking that just ignoring the notifications, texts, alerts, or phone calls is a good strategy, but there was actually a recent study that showed you hearing a notification go off and then not doing anything about it, actually takes just as much brain power and energy away from your current activity as if you picked it up in the first place.

Have you ever had your phone on your desk and a text came in and you heard it, but tried to ignore it and keep working? For me when this happens, I am thinking about that text still a lot while I am trying to work…wondering who it’s from, if its urgent, struggling to restrain myself from taking a look 

I think we all have a pretty good understanding of these external triggers

So let me give you some exercises or things to think about trying to get a better grip on these. 

Let’s talk about our Smartphone first - you must get proactive with your smartphone and set it up in a way that limits distractions

These things were perfectly designed to keep you on them, so if you don’t take action to fight against it, it will be really difficult

This is a 4 step process from the book Indistractable by Near Eyal that I thought was really good.

Step 1: Remove

  • Take time to delete all the apps on your phone that you are not using and that you know do not serve you. Ask yourself the question, “Is that app serving me and my values? Or am I serving this app? If it’s not serving you, than remove it

Step 2: Replace

  • Find the best time and place to do the things that you want to do. So it is ok to look at social media. It is ok to check email, but are you habitually just checking these constantly, or do you have a planned time and place to look at them? If each time you check the time on your phone, you see a message and you get sucked in, maybe you should start wearing a watch on check the time there. Seek to come up with strategies that replace what you have been doing

Step 3: Rearrange

  • Arrange your phone in a way that serves you
  • The author suggests to come up with three buckets
  • Primary Tools 
  • Aspirations
  • Slot Machines
  • Label each of your apps in one of those three categories
  • Primary Tools and Aspirations apps go on the front page
  • Slot machines goes on the next page

Step 4: Reclaim 

  • You go proactively set your notifications for each app
  • More than 85% of people leave notification settings untouched so that means you are at the mercy of the people who designed the apps to keep you on them as much as possible
  • Turn notifications off where you can and limit others
  • Again ask yourself “Is this notification serving me? Or am I serving it?

My other tip is to do Focused sprints at work 

  • Keep your phone locked in a door and sounds off
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and work completely focused on one task
  • After 25 minutes take a 5 minute break
  • Then repeat for 25 more minutes
  • Only after 2 cycles can you check your phone…or better yet, only at your scheduled time on your calendar can you check your phone
  • As you get better at this, you can increase your sprint time

The last trigger of distraction comes from a lack of planning 

  • So many distractions get us in that time in between tasks or in between activities. 
  • If you don’t know what you are supposed to do next, chances are you will fall into some sort of distraction activity. 
  • You may think it’s only going to be a quick check but then it’s so easy to all of a sudden spend 20 minutes on it before you realize
  • Having a weekly schedule and a daily schedule that is time blocked will help you eliminate distractions
  • When you took time to plan every hour of your day the night before, there is no time in your day for distractions if you want to stick to the schedule
  • If you took time at the beginning of the week to plan out time with your family in the evenings, then you better work hard at work to get everything done in time to protect that family time

There is a quote from old Roman Philosopher Seneca that I thought was so interesting, he said “People are frugal in guarding their personal property, but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing which is right to be stingy.”

If you start to treat time as your most valuable resource and take the time to plan it well, you don’t leave margin for distractions.

So my excercises here are ones we have already done in Intentional Man

  • Set an optimal weekly schedule
  • Do weekly planning sessions according to that schedule
  • Do daily planning the night before or morning of

This is an amazing opportunity! Like I mentioned earlier, this could be the great separator in your life! If you can get a handle on distractions and lock in and focus on your work and the people you are with, you will have a skill that most people don’t have and you can be sure to live an alignment with your values. 

So I hope you look at today with great optimism and excitement. Don’t look at this as something you have to give up, but something that you can gain. Look at it as a chance to win back precious time that you can use to spend more time with the people most important to you, and a chance to have time to do the things that you enjoy, the chance to spend more time with the Lord.

This is something we must be intentional about and we must make a plan for growth in this area. We will not automatically improve unless we attack this. Honestly, we will most likely get worse with it if we do not get intentional with it. 

My challenge to you is to take some time this week to come up with your distraction game plan. Don’t listen to this podcast and then go back to how things have been in the past if you have found that distractions are interrupting your life way too often. Be proactive. Take action! You got this! 

You are doing this so that you can make time for the things that are truly important to you! It’s worth the work up front to save countless hours in the future.

Thanks for joining today. Now go live a life you are proud of by living intentionally!

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