Indistractable by Nir Eyal


Indistractable is a book that reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction and shares a 4-step model to become “indistractable.” The book talks about the devastating effects that technology, our indispensable devices, and the urge to procrastinate have on our life. By optimizing the way we work, balancing our lives, and combating distractions, we can become more productive while still having time for self-care.

The main themes of the book are:

  1. Mastering internal triggers
  2. Making time for traction
  3. Hacking back external triggers
  4. Blocking out distraction

The book overturns conventional wisdom and describes why distraction at work is a symptom of a dysfunctional company culture and how to fix it. It also explains what really drives human behavior and why “time management is pain management.” The book provides practical, novel techniques to control your time and attention, helping you live the life you really want.

What I Liked

The book is so tactical. It was one of the most useful books that I’ve read in a while. I immediately implemented his timeboxing recommendations and will stick to it. In a space where other books give a cursory list of banal tips, I think he actually tackled the underlying causes.

What I Did Not Like

I think this guy is a walking contradiction. He is literally one of the guys who pioneered the attention economy and the strategies to trap too many people in a world of fragmented, shredded attention. He also wants to argue that being indistractable is completely up to us. I do not know what to believe…whether this guy sold Silicon Valley startups a bunch of fraudulent lies or if he’s selling consumers a bunch of fraudulent lies.

It’s like if the guy who helped install a world where you can’t walk anywhere came out with a book about how getting 10,000 steps per day is completely within everyone’s grasp if they just look for way to integrate into their life.

That’s not to say he’s wrong about any of these tactics…it’s just annoying.

Chapter Takeaways

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.

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.”

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.

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.

Chapter 22: The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. Plan ahead 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.”

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.

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.

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.

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