We all have a lot going on every day. Life, work, family, friends, social media – we’re surrounded by the actions we want to take and the distractions that get in the way. In order to accomplish what we need to get done, we think we need focus. But, as Nir Eyal writes, the opposite of distraction isn’t focus at all – it’s traction. Understanding traction, what makes it and what maintains it, can be a competitive edge in our own lives and of those we work for and with.
We can prove focus isn’t the opposite of distraction by thinking about how focused we get on our distractions. We may not be proud of our ability to block the world out while we stream another video or scroll through our endless social media feeds, but there is no doubt we get laser-focused when we get sucked into those black holes. We need focus, just on the right things.
The word “traction” is derived from “trahere” and “tractio,” which means “to draw or pull.” Think of it as “tractor + action.” We have traction when we are drawing or pulling on something. We are experiencing a distraction when something is drawing or pulling on us. In both cases, we can be focused. The key, always, is maintaining an awareness of who is in control.
We create value, for ourselves and others, when we identify what we want to accomplish, what we have control over, and where to place our focus. We can get distracted if we aren’t clear about the goals and objectives, or if we aren’t clear about which aspects of the task we do or do not have control over. When we can define those details, we have defined what matters.
When we gain and maintain traction, we don’t do just any work, we commit to doing the work that matters.