Ever since the early 2010s, people have been warning of the “age of distraction.” It’s no longer a warning. We’re definitely living through the Distraction Age.
The start of the 2020s has shown all of us how draining it can be to deal with distractions.
It’s no surprise so many of us feel chronically drained. There’s so much information we have to process and so many things we have to adjust to.
On top of that, it seems like there’s even more uncertainty when it comes to the economy, health care, and the rising cost of living.
Let’s not talk about the things we can’t control. Let’s focus on the only thing that’s inside your control: You.
In this article, I’m sharing how I’ve adjusted my existing productivity strategy and how you can use these insights to improve yourself in an age of distraction.
1. Bigger emphasis on clearly defined goals
The world is full of uncertainty and complexity, which can lead to anxiety. If you don’t know what to do or where to start, you often get paralyzed.
There are two ways you can deal with that. You can renounce everything and live like a monk. Or, you can set clearly defined goals and diligently work on them. I pick the latter. And I guess you do too, otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this.
The more uncertain and complex the world becomes, the more clearly we need to define our goals.
Your goals will simplify the world and reduce uncertainty. When you have no goals but don’t live like a monk, you become an aimless vessel at sea. You’re at the whims of the ocean. When you navigate towards a specific place, you advance with purpose.
In today’s world, we need a bigger emphasis on our goals. We need to be clear in what we aim for. We need to work on our goals without expecting any result. This will propel you forward like no other force you’ve ever experienced.
2. Consistency over outcomes
When you set goals, it’s tempting to think about the outcomes you want for yourself. We want to earn more, get in better shape, travel to nice places, and have amazing experiences.
When we try hard to chase amazing outcomes, we sacrifice something along the way. When we chase money, it often comes at the expense of our relationships or mental health.
Because life is getting more competitive, it’s tempting to aim for those types of desirable outcomes. But chasing our impulses won’t get us to our goals. Instead of desiring outcomes, focus on consistency.
I’d rather publish a short article every week on my site or on Medium, where I publish a weekly column called The Stoic Letter than publish an in-depth guide to a particular topic because I assume that’s better for SEO.
I’d rather lift weights four times a week, and go for a walk every day, than lift weights daily and run several times a week and burn out after several weeks. When you’re forced to give up because you can’t take something anymore, mentally or physically, you haven’t optimized for consistency.
When you focus on being consistently productive, you’ve found an output level that works for you. That depends on your natural tolerance for work and your experience. I can write an article like this in an hour now. But when I started writing, this took several days.
3. Less content consumption
I think I never consumed so much content as I did in 2020 and the first part of 2021. There was so much going on in the world, whether that was about Covid, vaccines, politics, or the economy, you just couldn’t keep your eyes off the media.
These sneaky bastards are so good at capturing our attention. At some point, I noticed they negatively affected my mindset and productivity.
So I adjusted. I’m back to my normal habit of not caring much about the news. If something is important, I’ll hear it from family or friends. I still occasionally check the news about the economy and companies I invest in. But I no longer do it every day. Maybe once or twice a week.
It really saves you an hour or two per day. Instead of consuming content, do something active. I think it’s pretty corny to say stuff like, “Spend more time in nature.” But everyone knows that’s good.
I personally like to do something that’s not too taxing but is still mentally active like writing, learning a language, drawing, designing—things like that.
Make everything you do enjoyable
With so many opportunities in the world, you no longer have to do work you despise. The condition is that you must make an effort to learn new skills and adapt to the fast-paced economy.
Education is becoming more important the more complex everything is getting. When you make time to find useful things that actually love doing, you will have the best of both worlds. You will spend your time doing something you enjoy that you can also use in your career.
But you don’t necessarily have to change your career to enjoy your work more. You can make your existing career and work more enjoyable by changing how you work.
Earlier this year, I enjoyed work less than in the past. That was because I wasn’t working on things I truly enjoyed. And I was wasting too much time on non-essential things.
This is not something you can fake. You REALLY have to love what you do. And look, it takes time to figure out what you love. Don’t expect to instantly find the answer the moment you start working on this stuff.
Setting new goals is a great way to get started. It’s all about making progress and figuring out what aspects of that progress you enjoy. You’ll figure it out when you start moving. But that means you have to start.