Link to Goodreads
🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences
- If you don’t take control of your time, someone else will.
- Time Boxing is a method to schedule what you’re going to do and when — Including making time for important relationships.
- We’re bombarded with distractions throughout the day, but there are tactics you can use to rid your life of them and focus on gaining traction.
This book was a really nice deep-dive into the world of distraction. Although I was familiar with many of the concepts, this book would be a great primer for someone unaware of how distracted they truly are.
As I mentioned, I knew many of the strategies mentioned in the book — such as time-boxing. But, Nir Eyal did a great job explaining the importance of actually using these strategies. I particularly liked how he handles his email — tagging emails as either “Today” or “This Week” — which helps you focus on those worth your time.
I would also recommend reading some of Nir Eyal’s articles on the Indestractable Tools page of his site, which delve into specific topics like being indistractable with online articles, social media, your phone, etc…
How I Discovered It
I’ve been following all works related to productivity and systems. Nir Eyal is a very popular author in the space, so it was hard to miss this one.
Who Should Read It?
Anyone looking to better understand how to combat distractions in their lives. Additionally, if someone truly wants to add a few new strategies to their arsenal to fight distraction.
☘️ How the Book Changed Me
How my life / behaviour / thoughts / ideas have changed as a result of reading the book.
- Clarified just how bad the problem of distraction is!
- Offered amazing strategies for handled said distraction — email, meetings, etc..
- Offered a method of Time-boxing that I’ve actually begun to use, where I previously didn’t.
✍️ My Top 3 Quotes
- Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.
- As is the case with all human behavior, distraction is just another way our brands attempt to deal with pain.
- The cure to boredom is curiosity. There is no cure to curiosity.
📒 Summary + Notes
What does being Indistractable mean?
Being indistractable means striving to do what you say you will do.
All behaviors — whether towards traction or distraction — are prompted by triggers, internal or external. Our superpower lays in understanding and controlling these triggers.
Traction (read: deep focus) is incredibly important as the jobs of the future are those that require creative problem-solving, novel solutions, and the kind of human ingenuity that comes from focusing deeply on the task at hand.
Imagine the types of jobs that will exist as automation becomes more applied…
Controlling Internal Triggers
When you become distracted, it’s always because you’re running away from pain. Distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality.
Epicurus said, ” By pleasure, we mean the absence of pain in the body and of trouble in the soul.”
There are four reasons we seek distraction:
- Boredom — we will literally shock ourselves to avoid boredom.
- Negativity Bias — Where negative events demand attention more powerfully than neutral or positive events.
- Rumination — Reliving an event or situation over and over again, unable to stop thinking about it.
- Hedonic Adaptation — The tendency to quickly return to a baseline level of satisfaction.
Dissatisfaction is responsible for our species’ advancements and faults. To harness its power, we must disavow the incorrect idea that if we’re not happy we’re not normal. In fact, the opposite is true.
When considering your Internal Triggers, there are four steps to reimagine the trigger itself:
- Look for the discomfort the precedes the distraction, focusing in on the internal trigger itself.
- Write down the trigger.
- Explore your sensations — consider the Leaves on a Stream method.
- Beware of Liminal Moments — Transitions from one task to another throughout the day. Don’t get caught in the “for just a second” trap that leads to another hour wasted. Instead, us the “ten minute rule”, where you cannot give in until ten minutes has past.
When it comes to being Indistractable with your tasks, forget what “fun” should feel like. Instead, try seeing the task in a new way — rather than running away from your pain, pay close attention to finding new challenges you didn’t see before.
Remember, operating under constraints is the key to creativity and fun. More importantly, remember that the cure to boredom is curiosity, and there is no cure to curiosity.
The greatest thinkers of history made discoveries because they were obsessed with discovery itself. The mystery pulls us in closer and closer to the problem at hand.
The quest to solve these mysteries is what shifts our focus from seeking distraction (to deal with the pain) to an activity we want to partake in.
Making time to be Indistractable
Before you can make time to focus on what’s important, you need to decide what is important. To do that, we need to determine what are values are.
A value is a guiding star in that it’s a fixed point used to navigate our life choices. By neglecting our values, we miserable, which increases the probability that we seek distractions.
Seneca said, “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time, they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”
The most effective way to ensure we’re protecting our time is using a method called Time Boxing — where you decide what you’re going to do, and when you’re going to do it.
The trick is that it actually doesn’t matter what you plan on doing. As long as you’re doing what you planned, you’re being successful.
The simplest method for using the Time Boxing method is to create calendar events on your calendar, and decide what will be done when. Then, schedule a fifteen-minute block at the end of the week to review, asking the following questions; 1) “When in my schedule did I do what I said I would do and when did I get distracted?”, and 2) “Are there changes I can make to my calendar that will give me the time I need to better live out my values?”
Remember, The one thing we can control is the time we put into a task…
When looking at the things to add to your calendar, start with yourself, as you’re at the core of everything else in your life — meditation, sleep, etc. There are three Domains to consider; You, Relationships, and then Work. Time Box in that sequence.
Once you’ve made time to take care of yourself (meditate, exercise, read), then you should make time for your important relationships. That’s right, actually schedule time on your calendar for spending time with the people you love, even if you live in the same house.
A seventy-five-year study came to a simple conclusion — “good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” Waldinger (the author of the study) went on to clarify, “It’s not just the number of friends you have… It’s the quality of your close relationships that matters.”
To have satisfying relationships, you need three things — somebody to talk to, someone to depend on, and someone to enjoy.
Hacking External Triggers to Stay Focused
The author goes into strategies for hacking different types of external triggers, such as email, meetings, articles, etc…
While there are great ideas for each — such as using apps like Instapaper to never read article that come up throughout the day or turning off auto-play next episode on streaming sites like Netflix or using Chrome Extension apps like the Newsfeed Eradicator for social media sites — my highlights only covered the email section.
Rather than replying to every email that comes through, the author has a unique approach — first thing in the morning, tag each email in your inbox as either “Today” or “This Week,” which puts each email into one of the two folders. Then, he schedules a daily time on his calendar to only respond to the emails tagged as “Today.” The “This Week” emails will be handled on Friday at a predetermined time.
Taking things a step further, the author also delays the message to the latest time possible (using a tool like Mixmax in Gmail), which reduces the volley of emails responded to. He asks a simple question, “When’s the latest this person needs to see this reply?”