You sit down at your desk to work on an important project, but a notification on your phone interrupts your morning. Later, as you’re about to get back to work, a colleague taps you on the shoulder to chat. At home, screens get in the way of quality time with your family. Another day goes by, and once again, your most important personal and professional goals are put on hold.
What would be possible if you followed through on your best intentions? What could you accomplish if you could stay focused and overcome distractions? What if you had the power to become “indistractable”?
International best-selling author, former Stanford lecturer, and behavioral design expert, Nir Eyal, wrote Silicon Valley’s handbook for making technology habit-forming. Five years after publishing Hooked, Eyal reveals distraction’s Achilles’ heel in his groundbreaking new book.
In Indistractable, Eyal reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction. He describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off our devices: Abstinence is impractical and often makes us want more.
Eyal lays bare the secret of finally doing what you say you will do with a four-step, research-backed model. Indistractable reveals the key to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of us.
A quick read with a useful approach to countering distraction. I agree with the author that we like to blame the thing that distracts us; to overcome distraction, we have to face the root of our distraction — basically, discomfort. He breaks his approach into four chunks:
- Internal triggers
- External triggers
- Make opportunities for traction
- Prevent distraction with pacts
This book is broken into parts composed of very short, focused chapters, each closing with a bulleted list of key takeaways. I think I liked the format? But sometimes the brevity of the chapters left them feeling hollow of content.
I skipped the section on kids and some of the work chapters.
The curse is not that Tantalus spends all eternity reaching for things just out of reach, but rather his obliviousness to the greater folly of his actions…Tantalus’s curse is also our curse. We are compelled to reach for things we supposedly need but really don’t.
Distraction, it turns out, isn’t about the distraction itself; rather, it’s about how we respond to it… Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality.
To deal with internal triggers: when you notice you’ve gotten distracted, notice what made you feel uncomfortable, the time of day, and what you were doing.
“It’s a curious truth that when you gently pay attention to negative
emotions, they tend to dissipate—but positive ones expand.” — Oliver Burkeman
Willpower is a self-fulfilling prophesy — if you think you don’t have it, you won’t
Start with your values to design your schedule. How much time should you spend on yourself, relationships, and work to match your values?
The people you love deserve more than getting whatever time is left over.
External triggers: “Is this trigger serving me, or am I serving it?”
Tips and Tricks
“Surfing the urge” – let the desire sit for 10 minutes before letting yourself do it, you can do it if you still want to after 10 minutes
Be careful of transitional moments between activities
Play doesn’t have to be “fun” – turn anything challenging into play
“multichannel multitasking” – mix low-effort activities that use different senses
“temptation bundling” – combine something you like with something you don’t, e.g. only listen to your fav podcast when you’re exercising
“Identity pact” – a pre-commitment to be the kind of person we want to be – shift “I can’t” to “I don’t”
Reinforce (helpful) identity through ritual
Sort your apps into three categories: “Primary Tools,” “Aspirations,” and “Slot Machines” – only have shortcuts to tools and aspirations