Klaus Breyer Tech Leadership, Product Delivery & Startup Strategy.

Indistractable, Nir Eyal, 2020

Nir Eyal, the same author who wrote “Hooked” on creating addictive products, now explores how we can fortify ourselves against such hooks and take control of our lives - again.

In his book “Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life,” he argues that technology isn’t to blame for our distractions. Rather, our internal desire to escape discomfort leads us astray. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Distraction as an Internal Struggle: Distraction stems from our inability to manage discomfort, be it boredom, anxiety, or stress.

  2. Planned Time to Waste is Not Wasted Time: Allocating specific times to let your mind wander isn’t necessarily unproductive—it’s a form of recharging.

  3. Pain Management Equals Time Management: Since most distractions are attempts to escape discomfort, managing your pain effectively equates to better time management.

  4. Acceptance of Unhappiness: Recognizing that dissatisfaction is part of the evolutionary process can help you handle discomfort without seeking immediate escape.

  5. Tackling Distraction: Eyal suggests a method to address distractions:

    • Identify what internally triggers the distraction.
    • Write it down.
    • Reflect on the feelings associated with the trigger.
    • Allow yourself to feel the dissatisfaction for a moment (e.g., 10 minutes) before deciding how to respond.
  6. Resilience Through Self-Compassion: Stress can be mitigated with self-compassion, breaking the cycle of stress and distraction.

  7. Living by Values: Values should serve as guidelines, not strict goals. They shape who we are and how we engage with the world and others.

  8. Strategic Planning: Eyal stresses the importance of planning for both personal and professional life, ensuring that time is allocated meaningfully, not just filled with leftovers.

  9. Behavioral Formula: Behavior is a function of Motivation, Ability, and Trigger (B = MAT). Understanding and manipulating these factors can change behavior patterns.

  10. Managing Team Dynamics: Effective teams prioritize psychological safety and structure. Problems should be framed as learning opportunities to foster growth.

Eyal’s insights reveal that mastering distractions is less about eliminating them and more about understanding and managing our responses to discomfort. This understanding can lead to a more focused and fulfilling life.