Book review: Indistractable

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life: Eyal,  Nir: 9781948836531: Books
Indistractable book

I read the book by Nir Eyal to focus on building good discipline and focus. I would give this book a 2/5. It is a good book if you are unable to focus and get distracted all the time because of social media, news feeds, email and other activities.

Here is the summary and notes.

If you are not equipped to manage distraction, your brain will be manipulated by time-wasting diversions. According to the book, in the future, there will be two kinds of people in the world: those who let their attention and lives be controlled and coerced by others and those who proudly call themselves “indistractable.”

The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. Planning ensures you will follow through.

Living the life, you want, requires not only doing the right things; it also requires we stop doing the wrong things that take us off track. Distractions impede us from making progress toward the life we envision.

Nir Eyal on becoming indistractable in the age of tech | productboard

All behaviors, whether they tend toward traction or distraction, are prompted by triggers, internal or external.

Internal triggers cue us from within.

External triggers, on the other hand, are cues in our environment that tell us what to do next, like the pings, dings, and rings that prompt us to check our emails, open a news alert, or answer a phone call.

Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.

Master Internal Triggers

Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality.

Understand the root cause of distraction. Distraction is about more than your devices. Separate proximate causes from the root cause.

• All motivation is a desire to escape discomfort. If a behavior was previously effective at providing relief, we’re likely to continue using it as a tool to escape discomfort.

• Anything that stops discomfort is potentially addictive, but that doesn’t make it irresistible. If you know the drivers of your behavior, you can take steps to manage them.

As is the case with all human behavior, distraction is just another way our brains attempt to deal with pain. If we accept this fact, it makes sense that the only way to handle distraction is by learning to handle discomfort.

Four psychological factors make satisfaction temporary.

Let’s begin with the first factor: boredom.

The second psychological factor driving us to distraction is negativity bias, “a phenomenon in which negative events are more salient and demand attention more powerfully than neutral or positive events.” Studies have found people are more likely to recall unhappy moments in their childhood.

The third factor is rumination, our tendency to keep thinking about bad experiences.

But a fourth factor may be the cruelest of all. Hedonic adaptation, the tendency to quickly return to a baseline level of satisfaction, no matter what happens to us in life, is Mother Nature’s bait and switch.

“Every desirable experience—passionate love, a spiritual high, the pleasure of a new possession, the exhilaration of success—is transitory.”

Dissatisfaction and discomfort dominate our brain’s default state, but we can use them to motivate us instead of defeating us. Dissatisfaction is responsible for our species’ advancements and its faults. It’s good to know that feeling bad isn’t bad; it’s exactly what survival of the fittest intended.

Time management is pain management

Distractions cost us time, and like all actions, they are spurred by the desire to escape discomfort.

• Evolution favored dissatisfaction over contentment. Our tendencies toward boredom, negativity bias, rumination, and hedonic adaptation conspire to make sure we’re never satisfied for long.

• Dissatisfaction is responsible for our species’ advancements as much as its faults. It is an innate power that can be channeled to help us make things better.

If we want to master distraction, we must learn to deal with discomfort. At the heart of the therapy is learning to notice and accept one’s cravings and to handle them healthfully. It turns out mental abstinence can backfire. Well-established techniques are effective at stopping physical dependencies to nicotine and other substances, then they can certainly help us control cravings for distraction.

Without techniques for disarming temptation, mental abstinence can backfire. Resisting an urge can trigger rumination and make the desire grow stronger. • We can manage distractions that originate from within by changing how we think about them. We can reimagine the trigger, the task, and our temperament.





Liminal moments are transitions from one thing to another throughout our days.

A technique I’ve found particularly helpful for dealing with this distraction trap is the “ten-minute rule.” Every time you have a craving, you need to wait just ten minutes.

“Surfing the urge.” When an urge takes hold, noticing the sensations and riding them like a wave—neither pushing them away nor acting on them—helps us cope until the feelings subside.

They recondition our minds to seek relief from internal triggers in a reflective rather than a reactive way.

By reimagining an uncomfortable internal trigger, we can disarm it.

• Step 1. Look for the emotion preceding distraction.

• Step 2. Write down the internal trigger.

• Step 3. Explore the negative sensation with curiosity instead of contempt.

• Step 4. Be extra cautious during liminal moments.

“We fail to have fun because we don’t take things seriously enough, not because we take them so seriously that we’d have to cut their bitter taste with sugar. Fun is not a feeling so much as an exhaust produced when an operator can treat something with dignity.”

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Today, I write for the fun of it. Of course, it’s also my profession, but by finding the fun I’m able to do my work without getting as distracted as I once did.

Fun is looking for the variability in something other people don’t notice. It’s breaking through the boredom and monotony to discover its hidden beauty.

The last step in managing the internal triggers that can lead to distraction is to reimagine our capabilities.

We can master internal triggers by reimagining an otherwise dreary task. Fun and play can be used as tools to keep us focused.

• Play doesn’t have to be pleasurable. It just must hold our attention.

• Deliberateness and novelty can be added to any task to make it fun.

The way we perceive our temperament, which is defined as “a person’s or animal’s nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior,” has a profound impact on how we behave.

The study claimed that participants who had sipped sugar-sweetened lemonade demonstrated increased self-control and stamina on difficult tasks.

People who did not see willpower as a finite resource did not show signs of ego depletion. Ego depletion is essentially caused by self-defeating thoughts and not by any biological limitation. Willpower is not a finite resource but instead acts like an emotion. Just as we don’t “run out” of joy or anger, willpower ebbs and flows in response to what’s happening to us and how we feel. individuals who believed they were powerless to fight their cravings were much more likely to drink again.

Self-compassion makes people more resilient to letdowns by breaking the vicious cycle of stress that often accompanies failure.

Instead of accepting what the voice says or arguing with it, remind yourself that obstacles are part of the process of growth. We don’t get better without practice, which can be difficult at times. A good rule of thumb is to talk to yourself the way you might talk to a friend.

We can cope with uncomfortable internal triggers by reflecting on, rather than reacting to, our discomfort. We can reimagine the task we’re trying to accomplish by reimagining our temperament to help us manage our internal triggers.

• We don’t run out of willpower. Believing we do makes us less likely to accomplish our goals by providing a rationale to quit when we could otherwise persist. What we say to ourselves matters. Labeling yourself as having poor self-control is self-defeating.

• Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend. People who are more self-compassionate are more resilient.

Traction draws you toward what you want in life, while distraction pulls you away.

The trouble is, we don’t make time for our values.

You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it’s distracting you from.

The most effective way to make time for traction is through “timeboxing.”

Nir Eyal on becoming indistractable in the age of tech | productboard

Is your schedule filled with carefully timeboxed plans, or is it mostly empty? Does it reflect who you are? Are you letting others steal your time or do you guard it as the limited and precious resource it is?

You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from.

Planning is the only way to know the difference between traction and distraction.

• Does your calendar reflect your values? To be the person you want to be, you must make time to live your values.

• Timebox your day. The three life domains of you, relationships, and work provide a framework for planning how to spend your time.

• Reflect and refine. Revise your schedule regularly, but you must commit to it once it’s set.

The one thing we control is the time we put into a task.

Best Free Schedule Maker Tool + Productivity Guide by Expert

Schedule time for yourself first.

You are at the center of the three life domains. Without allocating time for yourself, the other two domains suffer.

• Show up when you say you will. You can’t always control what you get out of time you spend, but you can control how much time you put into a task.

• Input is much more certain than outcome. When it comes to living the life you want, making sure you allocate time to living your values is the only thing you should focus on.

Family and friends help us live our values of connection, loyalty, and responsibility.

The people we love most should not be content getting whatever time is left over. Everyone benefits when we hold time on our schedule to live up to our values and do our share. This is how friendships die—they starve to death.

The people you love deserve more than getting whatever time is left over. If someone is important to you, make regular time for them on your calendar.

• Go beyond scheduling date days with your significant other. Put domestic chores on your calendar to ensure an equitable split.

• A lack of close friendships may be hazardous to your health. Ensure you maintain important relationships by scheduling time for regular get-togethers.

Using a detailed, timeboxed schedule helps clarify the Keep a central trust pact between employers and employees.

Syncing your schedule with stakeholders at work is critical for making time for traction in your day. Without visibility into how you spend your time, colleagues and managers are more likely to distract you with superfluous tasks. • Sync as frequently as your schedule changes. If your schedule template changes from day to day, have a daily check-in. However, most people find a weekly alignment is sufficient.

It’s time for us to hack back. In tech speak, “to hack” means “to gain unauthorized access to data in a system or computer.” Similarly, our tech devices can gain unauthorized access to our brains by prompting us to distraction.

External triggers often lead to distraction. Cues in our environment like the pings, dings, and rings from devices, as well as interruptions from other people, frequently take us off track.

• External triggers aren’t always harmful. If an external trigger leads us to traction, it serves us. • We must ask ourselves: Is this trigger serving me, or am I serving it? Then we can hack back the external triggers that don’t serve us.

Interruptions lead to mistakes. You can’t do your best work if you’re frequently distracted.

• Open-office floor plans increase distraction. • Defend your focus. Signal when you do not want to be interrupted. Use a screen sign or some other clear cue to let people know you are indistractable.

Book outline and summary of each chapter


Chapter 1: Living the life you want requires not only doing the right things but also avoiding doing the wrong things.

Chapter 2: Traction moves you toward what you really want while distraction moves you further away. Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.

PART 1: Master Internal Triggers

Chapter 3: Motivation is a desire to escape discomfort. Find the root causes of distraction rather than proximate ones.

Chapter 4: Learn to deal with discomfort rather than attempting to escape it with distraction.

Chapter 5: Stop trying to actively suppress urges—this only makes them stronger. Instead, observe and allow them to dissolve.

Chapter 6: Reimagine the internal trigger. Look for the negative emotion preceding the distraction, write it down, and pay attention to the negative sensation with curiosity rather than contempt.

Chapter 7: Reimagine the task. Turn it into play by paying “foolish, even absurd” attention to it. Deliberately look for novelty.

Chapter 8: Reimagine your temperament. Self-talk matters. Your willpower runs out only if you believe it does. Avoid labeling yourself as “easily distracted” or having an “addictive personality.”

PART 2: Make time for traction

Chapter 9: Turn your values into time. Timebox your day by creating a schedule template.

Chapter 10: Schedule time for yourself. Plan the inputs and the outcome will follow.

Chapter 11: Schedule time for important relationships. Include household responsibilities as well as time for people you love. Put regular time on your schedule for friends.

Chapter 12: Sync your schedule with stakeholders.

PART 3: Hack back external triggers

Chapter 13: Of each external trigger, ask: “Is this trigger serving me, or am I serving it?” Does it lead to traction or distraction?

Chapter 14: Defend your focus. Signal when you do not want to be interrupted.

Chapter 15: To get fewer emails, send fewer emails. When you check email, tag each message with when it needs a reply and respond at a scheduled time.

Chapter 16: When it comes to group chat, get in and out at scheduled times. Only involve who is necessary and don’t use it to think out loud.

Chapter 17: Make it harder to call meetings. No agenda, no meeting. Meetings are for consensus building rather than problem solving. Leave devices outside the conference room except for one laptop.

Chapter 18: Use distracting apps on your desktop rather than your phone. Organize apps and manage notifications. Turn on “Do Not Disturb.”

Chapter 19: Turn off desktop notifications. Remove potential distractions from your workspace.

Chapter 20: Save online articles in Pocket to read or listen to at a scheduled time. Use “multichannel multitasking.”

Chapter 21: Use browser extensions that give you the benefits of social media without all the distractions. Links to other tools are at: Indistractable.

PART 4: Prevent distraction with pacts

Chapter 22: The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. Plan for when you’re likely to get distracted.

Chapter 23: Use effort pacts to make unwanted behaviors more difficult.

Chapter 24: Use a price pact to make getting distracted expensive.

Chapter 25: Use identity pacts as a precommitment to a self-image. Call yourself “indistractable.”

PART 5: How to make your workplace indistractable

Chapter 26: An “always on” culture drives people crazy.

Chapter 27: Tech overuse at work is a symptom of dysfunctional company culture. The root cause is a culture lacking “psychological safety.”

Chapter 28: To create a culture that values doing focused work, start small and find ways to facilitate an open dialogue among colleagues about the problem.

PART 6: How to raise indistractable children (and why we all need psychological nutrients)

Chapter 29: Find the root causes of why children get distracted. Teach them the four-part indistractable model.

Chapter 30: Make sure children’s psychological needs are met. All people need to feel a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. If kids don’t get their needs met in the real world, they look to fulfill them online.

Chapter 31: Teach children to timebox their schedule. Let them make time for activities they enjoy, including time online.

Chapter 32: Work with your children to remove unhelpful external triggers. Make sure they know how to turn off distracting triggers, and don’t become a distracting external trigger yourself.

Chapter 33: Help your kids make pacts and make sure they know managing distraction is their responsibility. Teach them that distraction is a solvable problem and that becoming indistractable is a lifelong skill.

PART 7: How to have indistractable relationships

Chapter 34: When someone uses a device in a social setting, ask, “I see you’re on your phone. Is everything OK?”

Chapter 35: Remove devices from your bedroom and have the internet automatically turn off at a specific time.