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A Focused Place

“Finding a very focused place to do your work rewards you many times over.”-Seth Godin

“The opposite of ‘distraction’ is ‘traction.’ Traction is any action that moves us towards what we really want. Tractions are actions done with intent. Any action, such as working on a big project, getting enough sleep or physical exercise, eating healthy food, taking time to meditate or pray, or spending time with loved ones, are all forms of traction if they are done intentionally. Traction is doing what you say you will do.” – Nir Eyal

Perhaps it was a week of chaos and distraction that made Eyal’s statement grab me by the shoulders and focus my mind on the truth of the matter. Distraction is diluting my moments of clarity, and this simply won’t do. It isn’t just the noise from mobile devices and televisions or the crush of emails and requests from people near and far. It’s also that noise within that shakes you from sleep or makes you not hear what was just said on that Zoom call you participated in.

If our best moments are when we’re fully alive, what does fully alive mean anyway? I believe it to mean being fully engaged in the moment, aware of the world around you, and embracing your part in it. Keeping promises to yourself to do what you intended to do. This isn’t just habit formation, it’s traction formation. Honoring intention with intentional focus.

Eyal takes aim at one of my go-to habits for getting things done: the to-do list. His issue with to-do lists is that things just continue to get added to the list. There’s no intention to is until you block off time in your calendar and honor the time commitment to work on it. Even if you don’t finish you’ve done what you said you’d do, which establishes trust in yourself. As Eyal puts it, you can’t be distracted from something if you didn’t have an intended action (traction) that it was pulling you from.

Today happens to be the last day of a very busy work week. I thought about that to-do list and the things that aren’t completed yet and felt the tension raise up inside me. But then I thought about the work that was completed this week, the actions done with intent, and felt the tension melt away a bit. However you measure it, the pile of done should be especially satisfying. And the pile of undone shouldn’t be a cruel demon whispering in your ear. The path to removing that demon is in knowing what your intentions are, and honoring them as best you can in the time you’ve allotted.

That focused place to do the work isn’t a place; not really. It’s a block of time and a commitment to yourself to do what you said you were going to do. Promises kept, one block at a time.

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