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What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

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Podcast Episodes

What is behavioral economics? Why does it matter to you?

290. Finding Balance in a Distracted World: Nir Eyal’s Guide to Traction and Productivity

Dealing with distractions is a common challenge that many professionals face in their everyday lives. Traction (the opposite of distraction) is the force that drives us towards our goals and objectives, keeping us focused on the tasks that really matter. In order to combat distractions, it’s vital to create a plan that outlines the necessary steps for achieving success. This includes setting clear objectives and breaking down goals into manageable tasks, while also allocating specific time for relaxation or personal enjoyment. 

By doing so, individuals can achieve a balanced life that fosters productivity and happiness. During this conversation with host Melina Palmer, Nir Eyal emphasized the importance of distinguishing between distraction and traction. Contrary to popular belief, the opposite of distraction isn’t focus, but rather traction. Eyal explained that distractions are anything that pulls us away from our true goals, while traction is any action that brings us closer to achieving them. He urged listeners to create schedules that align with their values and to stick with them, ensuring that they devote the necessary time and focus to what truly matters.

  • Enhance concentration through gaining traction and structured planning to mitigate distractions.
  • Utilize technology with intention for peak productivity and enriching personal experiences.
  • Overcome internal triggers by comprehending the nature of discomfort and controlling urges.
  • Create value-driven schedules to bolster time management and sharpen focus.
  • Employ tactical tools and approaches to curb the influence of digital distractions.
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SHOW NOTES:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction,
    Melina Palmer introduces the episode and the guest, Nir Eyal, who is a behavioral designer. She talks about how Nir’s book, Indistractable, helps people overcome distractions and become more productive.
  • 00:04:30 – Personal Reason for Writing Indistractable,
    Nir Eyal shares his personal reason for writing Indistractable. He talks about how he was distracted by his phone while spending time with his daughter. Research and personal testing made him realize the problem was much deeper than just technology. He decided to explore the root cause of distraction and find an answer that actually worked.
  • 00:09:40 – Distraction is an Old Problem,
    Nir talks about how distraction is not a new problem and has been with us for at least the past 2500 years. He explains how people have always blamed various forms of entertainment and technology for distracting them, and how it’s lazy thinking to blame technology for distraction without understanding the root cause.
  • 00:11:14 – The Opposite of Distraction is Traction,
    Nir Eyal explains that the opposite of distraction is not focus, but traction. He defines traction as any action that pulls you towards what you want to do, and distraction as any action that pulls you away from what you plan to do. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the difference between the two.
  • 00:12:27 – Tools for Finding Balance,
    Nir Eyal talks about the importance of finding balance when it comes to using technology. He shares some tips and tricks anyone can use to help with this (a tiny sample of all the resources in his book).
  • 00:13:47 – Understanding Distractions and Traction,
    Nir Eyal explains that distraction is anything that pulls us away from what we planned to do and anything can be a distraction. Conversely, anything can be traction if we make time for it and plan it according to our values. Becoming indistractable means living with personal integrity and knowing why we got distracted.
  • 00:18:28 – The Root Cause of Distraction,
    Eyal identifies the root cause of distraction as our inability to deal with discomfort in a healthy manner. We use distraction as psychological pacification and escape uncomfortable emotions. To become indistractable, we must first learn to deal with the discomfort in a healthy way by fixing the source of discomfort or finding ways to cope.
  • 00:19:48 – Human Motivation,
    Nir explains that human motivation is not about the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain but rather spurred by discomfort. We have two neural circuits, the liking system and the wanting system. The purpose of the wanting system is to create discomfort to get us to act. Time management is pain management, and to master distractions, we must first master internal triggers.
  • 00:22:21 – Time Management and Addiction,
    Addiction isn’t just about substances or behaviors but is more about our need to escape from discomfort. We must fix the source of discomfort or learn to deal with it in a healthier way. Eyal shares the story of Dr. Zoe Chance, who became temporarily addicted to her pedometer as she was using it to escape her life.
  • 00:27:21 – The Evolution of Internal Triggers,
    Evolution has made us perpetually perturbed and hardwired for things like hedonic adaptation, rumination, and boredom to keep us searching for more. We are not designed by evolution to be satisfied, but to strive, search, want, and crave, which helped our species progress. The idea is to channel these uncomfortable sensations towards traction rather than distraction.
  • 00:29:21 – Mindset and Reimagining Temptation,
    Our brains are wired for mindset issues, and we need to reimagine our temperament to become indistractable. If we have an issue, we need to understand the root cause and channel our mindset towards traction instead of distraction. We can reimagine the task, trigger, or our temperament to master the internal triggers, which is crucial to becoming indistractable.
  • 00:32:00 – The Nuances of Technological Distraction,
    Our relationship with technology and other distractions is a nuanced discussion. Everything has unintended benefits and harms, and it is crucial to take a deeper look. We need to understand the good stuff that’s happened and not just the negatives. If something is not serving us, we should disconnect and use what we want with intent.
  • 00:35:23 – The Story Behind the Moral Panic,
    Every moral panic throughout the years has had a scapegoat, and this time, it’s technological distraction. It’s dangerous to believe in scientifically unsupported theories, which leads to learned helplessness. The evidence is scant, and the story is much more nuanced.
  • 00:41:33 – Why We Need to Become Indistractable,
    Nir Eyal talks about how constant interruptions from Facebook and the news distract us and how hacking back our phones and offices can help us become indistractable.
  • 00:42:14 – How Distractions Come from Colleagues,
    Eyal discusses how distractions from colleagues in open-office plans can impede work progress and how a simple explicit message can help.
  • 00:43:10 – The Role of Pre-Commitments,
    Eyal explains how pre-commitments can help prevent distraction and promote personal integrity.
  • 00:48:29 – The Antidote to Impulsiveness,
    Eyal emphasizes that the antidote to impulsiveness is forethought and how we should use our ability to see into the future to plan ahead.
  • 00:50:08 – Conclusion,
    Melina’s top insights from the conversation. What stuck with you while listening to the episode? What are you going to try? Come share it with Melina on social media — you’ll find her as @thebrainybiz everywhere and as Melina Palmer on LinkedIn.

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