Lecturer and investor Nir Eyal’s debut book, Hooked, taught technologists how to build addictive products. He now offers strategies to consumers of those very devices, as well as apps to help them regain control of their time and attention. Eyal explains how susceptibility to distraction emerges from psychological discomfort, and he provides techniques to manage it. He suggests ways to reduce external distractions and explains how individuals can “precommit” to behaviors that make them less distractable. His tips will help anyone who is struggling to focus in a world that constantly diverts attention.
Learn to cope with the underlying discomfort that makes you seek distraction.
Distraction is a coping mechanism the human brain evolved to alleviate pain. Since human beings are never happy or satisfied for long, distraction is ever-present.
Distraction can make you feel powerless over your behavior. Instant gratification is an important component of a distraction’s appeal. Planning ahead will help you control your attention and choices. Overcome distraction by better managing unpleasant feelings. Learning to manage your time means learning how to manage your pain.
Make tasks less vulnerable to distraction, and cultivate self-compassion.
Trying to actively suppress a compulsion or distraction may make it more powerful. The practice of acceptance and commitment therapy outlines a four-step approach. First, identify the internal sensation that prompts the need for distraction. What unpleasant thought or feeling are you trying to soothe, repress or avoid? Second, jot down that thought or feeling, tagging it with a date and time. Third, deliberately explore the sensation of how it feels to experience that internal trigger. Notice your increased ...
Lecturer and investor Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, has taught at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute.