Jake Trent


By mastering ourselves and our environment, we can gain traction toward our goals.

Nir puts forward a framework of thinking about our goals and our distractions.

1st axis: Traction and distraction

Traction is all the movement we make toward our goals. We are living according to our values.

Distraction is all the movement we make that we don’t intend or that we give into. These are not forward/positive movements. They do not further our close-held desires.

2nd axis: Internal and external triggers

And then in terms of what to do about it and why we sometimes choose traction and at other times distraction, are the triggers, or things that spur behavior.

Internal triggers are those inside us. The main trigger is the avoidance of pain. When we feel uncomfortable, we given into distraction because it saves us from facing what is painful.

External triggers are those in the environment. They come from technology, places, people or anything.

Understanding ourselves

To find traction and avoid distraction, we must know ourselves. We must intuit what pains we try to avoid. We must steel ourselves against them. We don’t just avoid them, we probably can’t. We learn to deal with them. We can intellectualize them, observing ourself in action, surfing the urge. We see internal triggers for what they are. We anticipate locations or times that are harder for us to avoid distraction. We self-identify as someone who is strong, full of integrity, and acts according to his values.

Time tells all

To show what our goals really are, we can look at our schedules. We spend time doing it. Our values are most evident in our actions. We block out time for things that are valuable. Nir schedules every minute of his day. This is much different than time management methods like GTD. It’s interesting that time is a valuable resource that we are all gifted equally, as long as we have days to spend, but is also, therefore, extremely limited. Yet, we often fail to plan and spend it frivilously.

Shape our environment

Our internal controls are paramount, but we can help by preparing the field – an environment conducive to focus and traction toward goals. We can hack back the things that would distract us. We turn of notifications. We declutter. We engage in fewer, but more high-powered communications. For example, we demand agendas in our meetings, with focused lists of attendees and desired outcomes.

Promises with ourselves

As we come to know ourselves, we realize that we get what we want. Our values shape our actions, which lead to our destiny. We live in a free society – this is possible. We should give forethought to what we will really do in tempting circumstances. We can motivate ourselves to avoid unwanting behaviors, through lost money or making the wrong thing harder to do. We make a promise of what we will be and do. Self mastery is key.

Other applications

And of course, not only can we help ourselves with these principles, but those around us can benefit – those improvements will likely even make it full circle back to us. Our workplaces and children and others in our lives can be helped to be indistractable. Workplaces shouldn’t be “always on”. Instead, we should share goals clearly and work toward them with intention. Children are often distracted because of needs for things like autonomy, wanting to choose activities and outcomes; competence, wanting to feel good at something; and relatedness, wanting to associate with others. We can help them. These needs are real. Technology is not always the evil specter casing problems in this respect. It can merely be a symptom. And who of our acquaintance wouldn’t appreciate being focused on instead of the other things that often distract us?