Indistractable by Nir Eyal


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❗Immediate Action Items:

  • Adjust iPhone based on article: How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You
  • Start Timeboxing – Identify values / intentions and put them on a calendar
    • Low hanging fruit is read, write, meditate, and exercise.
  • Record distractions during productive hours (write them down, what happened, what time, etc.)
  • Stop telling myself will-power is a finite resource. Instead, it’s like an emotion that ebbs and flows.
    •  Stop using “it’s the end of the day” as an excuse to veg out in front of the TV for 2 hours.
  • Implement Price Pacts for really important things that I want to accomplish.
    • i.e. Give Dia $520 and ask for $10 back per week I successfully send a SunShakSunday Newsletter. If I fail once, she gets to spend it all on clothes. 

?Major Lessons:

The Indistractable Model

  1. Master Internal Triggers
  2. Master External Triggers
  3. Seek Traction
  4. Avoid Distraction

For hundreds of years, we’ve believed motivation is driven by reward and punishment. However, the drive to relieve discomfort is the root cause of all our behavior. Everything else is a proximate cause. For example: Blaming a smartphone for causing distraction is like blaming a pedometer for making someone climb too many stairs. 

4 Factors That Make Satisfaction Temporary

  1. Boredom – people prefer doing to thinking, even if what they’re doing is unpleasant. 
  2. Negativity Bias – bad is stronger than good. We can recall bad memories more easily than good ones.
  3. Rumination – Our tendency to keep thinking about bad experiences. Defined as passive comparison of one’s current situation with some unachieved standard. 
  4. Hedonic Adaptation – Our tendency to quickly return to baseline level of satisfaction, no matter what happens in life, fortunate or unfortunate. 

Re-imagine the Internal Trigger: Handle Your Intrusive Thoughts:

  1. Look for the discomfort that precedes the distraction
    • Internet page loading is slow, reach for phone
    • Lull in conversation, go for cigarette
  2. Write down the trigger
  3. Explore your sensations
    • What are you feeling (physically / emotionally) the moment before distraction?
  4. Beware of Liminal moments
    • Transition time between two tasks. You may check your phone while at a red light. 2 minutes later you’re texting and driving.

Ego Depletion: 

The belief that self-control is limited. The belief that we only have so much willpower available to us. Many psychologists believe 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. 

For addicts: mindset matters just as much as any physical dependency. Addicts’ beliefs regarding their powerlessness was just as significant in determining whether the would relapse after treatment as their level of physical dependence. 

Talk to yourself the way you might talk to a friend. Be supportive and kind.

Make Time For Traction:

Timeboxing – deciding what you’re going to do, and when you’re going to do it. Success is measured by whether you did what you planned to do. 

Three Domains of Life – You, Relationships, Work. In that order. Behave Accordingly. 

Hack Back External Triggers:

Apps like Instagram and Facebook are social-validation feedback loops, exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. 

How to Configure Your iPhone to Work for You, Not Against You

Implement Pacts:

Precommitment AKA Ulysses Pact – Remove a future choice in order to overcome impulsivity. Powerful because they cement our intentions while we’re clear headed and make us less likely to act against our best interests later. 

Effort Pacts – prevents distractions by making unwanted behaviors more difficult to do. Find an accountability partner. 

Price Pact – Putting money on the line to encourage us to do what we say we will. 3 Groups of smokers were studied. Control Group offered educational material. Second group offered $800 to stop smoking. Third Group made a precommitment deposit of $150 and only if they reached their goal, would they get their money back + $650. First group saw 6% success. Second saw 17% success. Third group saw 52% success. Loss Aversion: People are typically more motivated to avoid losses than to seek gains. 

Identity Pact – Our self-image has a sizable imact on our behavior. Conventional wisdom says our beliefs shape our behaviors. However, the opposite is also true. You can build the self-image you want through taking action. Share your identity with others. 

Making the Workplace Indistractable

Two particular conditions predicted a higher likelihood of developing depression at work: High job strain and effort-reward imbalance. High job strain occurs when employees are expected to meet high standards, yet lack the ability to control the outcome. An effort-reward imbalance happens when workers don’t see much return for their effort, be in through increase pay or recognition. 

How to Raise Indistractable Children

Avoid convenient excuses: Sugar highs, rebellious teenager, etc. Convenient myths about devices are just as dubious as sugar highs, teenage attitudes, etc.

Screen time and depression are correlated only in extreme cases where screen time exceeds 5 hours per day. Blaming the device is surface level answer to a deeper question. 

Human Psyche requires three things: Autonomy, Competence, and Relatedness. 

Studies show children give up control of their attention when it’s always managed by an adult. Kids can be conditioned to lose control of their attention and become highly distractable the more teachers and parents try to control the child’s attention. It makes them want to turn to environments where they have freedom (internet, games, screens, etc.)

Technology (especially social media and games) do a better job making a child feel competent than standardized testing

Spontaneous socializing isn’t happening nearly as much as it used to. Kids who don’t feel included in their immediate environment are going to seek connection through people they can identify with on the internet. 

Walk before Run: Nokia before iPhone. 

Sleep > Screen

✏Quick Tips: 

  • Study found that receiving a cell phone notification and NOT replying is just as distracting as responding. The mere presence of a smart-phone may impose a brain drain. Remove phone from field of view. 
  • Set predetermined blocks of time to check email / social media
  • Eliminate unwanted messages (unsubscribe from emails / mute group chats)
  • Use “Do Not Disturb” features during productive hours on all devices. 
  • Browser Extensions: Newsfeed Eradicator for Facebook, Newsfeed Burner for LinkedIn, DFTube for Youtube


  • Tech companies know that in order to make money, they need to keep us coming back – their business models depend on it.
  • Living the life we want requires not only doing the right things; it also requires we stop doing the wrong things that take us off track.
  • Distraction is simply an unhealthy escape from reality. 
  • The untutored mind does not like to be alone with itself.
  • You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it’s distracting you from.
  • What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.


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