How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
Life gets busy. Has Indistractable been on your reading list? Learn the key insights now.
Do you ever feel like the world has too many distractions? Is that a resounding Yes?
Research highlights that being able to stay focused gives you a competitive edge in life and work. But, with so many demands on your attention, how can you enjoy using technology without it negatively affecting you? Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable can help.
People now recognize internal and external factors that trigger distraction. Additionally, psychological realities underline the various approaches to handling discomfort. Indistractable empowers readers to gain control over factors that reduce productivity. These factors distract them from their values, damage relationships, and diminish their well-being. In the current age, your brain is easily manipulated. This happens through time-insensitive diversions. You are manipulated, particularly if you don’t equip yourself to control and manage distractions. You plan to do something but never fulfill it. Unfortunately, corporations are unlikely to produce less-distracting products. Still, humans can adapt to the threats.
In his book Indistractable, Nir Eyal provides a conceptual model for achieving this. He also gives many practical and efficient guidelines and examples. These help readers put in place the strategies and overcome their struggles. These include the procedures for becoming indistractable.
After going through the book’s eight key ideas, you will understand what actions you need to gain control over your attention and life.
Let’s explore the key ideas to becoming indistractable.
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About Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal is a bestselling author. One of his best-known books is Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. He is also a public speaker, writer, teacher, and business consultant.
Eyal graduated from Emory University and Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He also taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design. He was once the CEO of a renewable energy company. In addition, Eyal was a lecturer and associate with Boston Consulting Group. His articles have appeared in Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, and TechCrunch.
StoryShot #1: Distractions Begin From Within
Technology is the top reason why we are prone to distractions. If you’ve ever tried to let go of digital gadgets and devices, you’ll know that giving them up doesn’t necessarily stop your procrastination. The brain will always invent other forms of distraction.
To know what happens when you get distracted, you need to understand triggers. These stimuli push us into action or direct us to do something. There are two forms of triggers:
- External triggers from the outside world—for example, pop-up notifications on the laptop
- Internal triggers from within, such as feeling stressed or bored.
These triggers usually lead to either distraction or traction. Traction pulls you forward and pushes you to pursue your ambitions and goals. Distraction accomplishes the opposite. It drags you away from your goals.
We can’t blame technology alone for distraction. The truth is that distraction is usually caused by internal sources. It always involves escaping discomforts. These could be marital issues, a rumbling stomach, or job dissatisfaction. Technology is a vehicle rather than a root cause. People blame others for their lack of ability to complete tasks, or when they fail to consider the underlying issue.
However, discomfort is what has driven our evolution. Our ancestors kept growing, learning, and ultimately surviving. They weren’t content with what they had. That heritage appears in our nature. We tend to view things negatively and ruminate on negative experiences. Plus, we quickly become bored with new situations. This leads to increased vulnerability to distractions. But the good news is that no one has to bow to their negative feelings; you can easily harness them.
StoryShot #2: Master Internal Triggers
We are usually motivated by the desire to avoid suffering and free ourselves from the pain of wanting. So you’ll usually find ways to divert yourself from priority jobs. This happens if you don’t address the underlying causes of your distractions. Motivation often comes from a desire to avoid discomfort, so anything that relieves discomfort can be addictive. How you react to undesirable internal triggers will lead to either positive traction or negative diversion.
Learn to address the discomfort instead of trying to escape it through distraction. Stop attempting to suppress urges, as this only makes them stronger. Instead, observe them and give them time to dissolve.
By changing your view of distractions from within, you’ll find it easier to control them. You need to equip yourself with new techniques. These will enable you to handle intrusive thoughts instead of trying to fight the urge to be distracted. You can do this by following these steps:
Reimagine your internal trigger
Look for the negative emotion that precedes the distraction.
Note it down, including details such as the time of the day, the things you were doing, and how you gave up on them.
Focus on the negative sensation through curiosity instead of contempt.
Beware of liminal moments, the transitions that move you from one thing to the next throughout the day. For example, opening a new tab because you got irritated at how long the previous tab took to load.
Reimagine your task
Rather than trying to run away from your discomfort, try to pay attention to the task. Find new issues you didn’t see before. Make it more fun by treating it like a game. Break through the monotony and boredom. Find the variability and discover hidden beauty.
Reimagine your temperament
In most cases, addicts believe they are powerless, so they often relapse. Mindset is just as crucial as dependence.
Don’t tell yourself you failed because you are deficient. Be kind to yourself when faced with setbacks. Self-compassion allows people to become more resilient to challenges. You can achieve this by breaking the vicious cycle of discomfort and stress. Talk to yourself as you would a friend.
StoryShot #3: Make Time for Traction
Traction is what you want more of. It pulls you toward the good things you’re seeking. The best way to make traction is to follow a time-boxed routine to prevent distractions. Focus on influencing the outcomes instead of the results. Outcomes are the broader, overarching goals we strive to achieve, while results are the specific steps we take to reach those goals. Detach from the pressure of achieving specific results and instead focus on taking the actions that will ultimately lead to your desired outcomes.
Similarly, you’ll have low-quality output when you have no time to maintain your mental and physical health. Stop stressing over things you can’t control and focus on the inputs. To generate traction, Eyal recommends you take the following steps:
- Turn your values into time. Create a time-boxed day with a schedule template.
- Revise your schedule as often as possible and commit to it once everything is set.
- Create a calendar reflecting your values. Also, ensure you schedule a weekly time to reflect and refine your actions.
- Schedule time for yourself while planning the inputs. The positive outcome will naturally follow.
- Schedule time for critical relationships. Include household roles and time for your loved ones. Ensure this is a regular schedule.
- Synchronize your calendar with stakeholders to ensure no distractions with excessive jobs.
A time-boxed schedule creates trust and understanding between employees and employers. Scheduling and time-boxing your plans are essential steps to becoming indistractable. Ensure you do the critical things and disregard those that aren’t crucial.
StoryShot #4: Hack Back External Triggers
In today’s fast-paced world, distraction is a struggle with our external triggers. For example, getting a notification without replying to it is just as distracting as responding to a call or message.
The best strategy to reduce external triggers is expressing little tolerance for distractions. This can motivate people to reflect on their actions before disturbing others. Eliminating external triggers is disarmingly simple. Whenever you experience any external trigger, ask yourself a critical question: Is the trigger serving you or are you serving it? Does it lead to distraction or traction? If it’s the latter, it’s serving you.
Hack back emails
You must send fewer emails to receive fewer emails. You’ll be surprised how many things become irrelevant when you limit them. Delaying a reply gives the sender time to come up with an answer for themselves. The issue may even disappear under the heavier weight of other priorities. When you check your emails, tag each mail with when the reply is needed and respond at the set time.
Hack back group chat
It’s crucial to schedule a time during the day to catch up on group chats. But try to avoid having long, time-consuming conversations. A short discussion suffices.
You can also have private meetings. The primary aim of these should be to achieve a consensus around a decision. They should be something other than a forum for the organizer to think aloud. People schedule frequent meetings to avoid dealing with a problem on their own. Make it hard to schedule meetings. If there’s no agenda, there’ll be no meeting. Meetings are usually for consensus-building instead of problem-solving.
Hack back your smartphone
Rearrange: Move from your home screen any apps that may cause mindless checking
Remove: Uninstall the mobile apps you no longer use or need
Replace: Plan a set time to use distracting mobile apps instead of allowing them to distract you during scheduled activities
Reclaim: Change the notification settings for each app
Hack back your desktop
Eliminating unnecessary external triggers from your line of sight declutters the workplace. Plus, it frees your mind to focus on what’s crucial.
The brain has limited horsepower. The more concentration is required, the less room it offers for anything else. But humans are perfectly capable of handling multi-channel inputs.
Articles and feed
It’s not advisable to immediately read a new article in your web browser after it flashes. Instead, adjust the time to set how and when you read online pieces. This will make it easy to read within a short time. Use multichannel multitasking approaches like reading while conducting meetings.
Save online articles or other interesting content in apps like Pocket. This helps you to listen to or read at a scheduled time.
Avoid unnecessary news feeds. Use free feed-eradicator apps that help cut external triggers.
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We rate Indistractable 3.8/5.
How would you rate Nir Eyal’s book based on this summary?
Select Quotes from Indistractable
“Dissatisfaction and discomfort dominate our brain’s default state, but we can use them to motivate us instead of defeat us.”
“The only way to handle distraction is by learning to handle discomfort.”
“A technique I’ve found particularly helpful for dealing with this distraction trap is the “ten-minute rule.” If I find myself wanting to check my phone as a pacification device when I can’t think of anything better to do, I tell myself it’s fine to give in, but not right now. I have to wait just ten minutes. This technique is effective at helping me deal with all sorts of potential distractions, like googling something rather than writing, eating something unhealthy when I’m bored, or watching another episode on Netflix when I’m “too tired to go to bed.”
“People who did not see willpower as a finite resource did not show signs of ego depletion.”
“Many people still promote the idea of ego depletion, perhaps because they are unaware of the evidence that exists to the contrary. But if Dweck’s conclusions are correct, then perpetuating the idea is doing real harm. If ego depletion is essentially caused by self-defeating thoughts and not by any biological limitation, then the idea makes us less likely to accomplish our goals by providing a rationale to quit when we could otherwise persist.”
“You could smash the container with a hammer or run out and buy more cookies, but that extra effort makes those choices less likely.”
“Every time I want to make an effort pact with myself to avoid getting distracted on my phone, I open the Forest app and set my desired length of phone-free time. As soon as I hit a button marked Plant, a tiny seedling appears on the screen and a timer starts counting down. If I attempt to switch tasks on my phone before the timer runs out, my virtual tree dies. The thought of killing the little virtual tree adds just enough extra effort to discourage me from tapping out of the app—a visible reminder of the pact I’ve made with myself.”
“A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research tested the words people use when faced with temptation. During the experiment, one group was instructed to use the words ‘I can’t’ when considering unhealthy food choices, while the other group used ‘I don’t.’ At the end of the study, participants were offered either a chocolate bar or granola bar to thank them for their time. Nearly twice as many people in the ‘I don’t’ group picked the healthier option on their way out the door.”
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