Disclaimer: we got distracted 14 times while writing this text about (dis)traction.
What’s the opposite of distraction? Focus? Productivity? Traction? Whatever you name it, the idea behind it is the same – it’s an action that moves you closer to your goals and toward the life you want. We like the word “traction” that Nir Eyal uses in his book “Indistractable,” so we’ll be using that one here.
You will recognize traction as an activity you planned on doing. You will find it on your calendar or to-do list.
Traction doesn’t need to be anything productive. You can choose to relax or have fun and as long as it’s intentional it’ll still be the opposite of distraction.
For example, if you planned a 2-hour call with your friend, great, do it. That’s traction. But if you planned to clean up your home and you end up talking to your friend for 2 hours, well, that’s a distraction.
What’s interesting is that we often think of distractions as something external: TikTok is a distraction, Netflix is a distraction, a friend texting you is a distraction.
We think the same way of traction. We think that we need some sort of external motivation like reward, punishment, an accountability buddy or a deadline to stay focused.
External factors (external distractions or external motivators) matter, but the root cause of both distraction and traction is within you.
With distraction, the root causes are emotions, pains and dysfunctional beliefs that prevent you from going where you want to be. Things like feeling overwhelmed, bored, frustrated or incompetent when you need to get something done. These sensations trigger distractions and the urge to switch to a different task, one that wasn’t planned. That unplanned task is there to help you avoid pain and discomfort.
It’s the same with traction. Feeling optimistic, motivated and excited about something will help you stick to your plan.
You will know something is a distraction because it’s a by-product of negative emotions and it will further increase negative emotions. It’ll make you feel bad about yourself because you’re not doing what you said you would be doing. You’ll feel powerless and out of control.
On the contrary, traction will make you feel happier and more fulfilled. Doing what you said you would be doing makes you feel like you control your life.
Distractions are inevitable and we all get pulled away by them. Acknowledge this and try to understand what emotion causes distraction. That’s the first step towards traction.