Book Summary: Indistractable – How to Control Your Attention And Choose Your life By Nir Eyal
Indistractable – How to Control Your Attention Indistractable – How to Control Your Attention
Introduction: From Hooked to Indistractable
In the future, there will be two kinds of people in the world: those who let
their attention and lives be controlled and coerced by others and those who
proudly call themselves “indistractable.” By opening this book, you’ve taken the
first step toward owning your time and your future.
Indistractable – How to Control Your Attention Indistractable – How to Control Your Attention
Chapter 1: What’s Your Superpower?
I love sweets, I love social media, and I love television. However, as much as I
love these things, they don’t love me back. Overeating a sugary indulgence after
a meal, spending too much time scrolling a feed, or indulging in a Netflix binge
until 2 am were all things I once did with little or no conscious thought—out of habit.
• We need to learn how to avoid distraction. Living the lives we want
not only requires doing the right things but also necessitates not doing
the things we know we’ll regret.
• The problem is deeper than tech. Being indistractable isn’t about
being a Luddite. It’s about understanding the real reasons why we do
things against our best interests.
• Here’s what it takes: We can be indistractable by learning and
adopting four key strategies.
Chapter 2: Being Indistractable
• Distraction stops you from achieving your goals. It is any action that
moves you away from what you really want.
• Traction leads you closer to your goals. It is any action that moves
you toward what you really want.
• Triggers prompt both traction and distraction. External triggers
prompt you to action with cues in your environment. Internal triggers
prompt you to action with cues within you.
PART 1: MASTER INTERNAL TRIGGERS
Chapter 3: What Motivates Us, Really?
Only by understanding our pain can we begin to control
it and find better ways to deal with negative urges.
• Understand the root cause of distraction. Distraction is about more
than your devices. Separate proximate causes from the root cause.
• All motivation is a desire to escape discomfort. Ifa behavior was
previously effective at providing relief, we’re likely to continue using
it as a tool to escape discomfort.
• Anything that stops discomfort is potentially addictive, but that
doesn’t make it irresistible. Ifyou know the drivers ofyour behavior,
you can take steps to manage them.
Chapter 4: Time Management Is Pain Management
• Time management is pain management. Distractions cost us time,
and like all actions, they are spurred by the desire to escape discomfort.
• Evolution favored dissatisfaction over contentment. Our tendencies
toward boredom, negativity bias, rumination, and hedonic adaptation
conspire to make sure we’re never satisfied for long.
• Dissatisfaction is responsible for our species’ advancements as
much as its faults. It is an innate power that can be channeled to help
us make things better.
• If we want to master distraction, we must learn to deal with
Chapter 5: Deal with Distraction from Within
• Without techniques for disarming temptation, mental abstinence
can backfire. Resisting an urge can trigger rumination and make the
desire grow stronger.
• We can manage distractions that originate from within by
changing how we think about them. We can reimagine the trigger,
the task, and our temperament.
Chapter 6: Reimagine the Internal Trigger
• By reimagining an uncomfortable internal trigger, we can disarm it.
• Step 1. Look for the emotion preceding distraction.
• Step 2. Write down the internal trigger.
• Step 3. Explore the negative sensation with curiosity instead of
• Step 4. Be extra cautious during liminal moments.
Chapter 7: Reimagine the Task
• We can master internal triggers by reimagining an otherwise
dreary task. Fun and play can be used as tools to keep us focused.
• Play doesn’t have to be pleasurable. It just has to hold our attention.
• Deliberateness and novelty can be added to any task to make it fun.
Chapter 8: Reimagine Your Temperament
• Reimagining our temperament can help us manage our internal
• We don’t run out of willpower. Believing we do makes us less likely
to accomplish our goals by providing a rationale to quit when we could otherwise persist.
• What we say to ourselves matters. Labeling yourself as having poor self-control is self-defeating.
• Practice self-compassion. Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a
friend. People who are more self-compassionate are more resilient.
PART 2: MAKE TIME FOR TRACTION
Chapter 9: Turn Your Values into Time
• You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is
distracting you from. Planning ahead is the only way to know the
difference between traction and distraction.
• Does your calendar reflect your values? To be the person you want
to be, you have to make time to live your values.
• Timebox your day. The three life domains of you, relationships, and
work provide a framework for planning how to spend your time.
• Reflect and refine. Revise your schedule regularly, but you must
commit to it once it’s set.
Chapter 10: Control the Inputs, Not the Outcomes
• Schedule time for yourself first. You are at the center of the three life domains. Without allocating time for yourself, the other two domains suffer.
• Show up when you say you will. You can’t always control what you
get out oftime you spend, but you can control how much time you put into a task.
• Input is much more certain than outcome. When it comes to living
the life you want, making sure you allocate time to living your values is the only thing you should focus on.
Chapter 11: Schedule Important Relationships
• The people you love deserve more than getting whatever time is
left over. Ifsomeone is important to you, make regular time for them
on your calendar.
• Go beyond scheduling date days with your significant other. Put
domestic chores on your calendar to ensure an equitable split.
• A lack of close friendships may be hazardous to your health.
Ensure you maintain important relationships by scheduling time for regular get-togethers.
Chapter 12: Sync with Stakeholders at Work
• Syncing your schedule with stakeholders at work is critical for
making time for traction in your day. Without visibility into how you
spend your time, colleagues and managers are more likely to distract
you with superfluous tasks.
• Sync as frequently as your schedule changes. If your schedule template changes from day to day, have a daily check-in. However, most people find a weekly alignment is sufficient.
PART 3: HACK BACK EXTERNAL TRIGGERS
Chapter 13: Ask the Critical Question
Today, much ofour struggle with distraction is a
struggle with external triggers.
• External triggers often lead to distraction. Cues in our environment
like the pings, dings, and rings from devices, as well as interruptions
from other people, frequently take us offtrack.
• External triggers aren’t always harmful. Ifan external trigger leads
us to traction, it serves us.
• We must ask ourselves: Is this trigger serving me, or am I serving
it? Then we can hack back the external triggers that don’t serve us.
Chapter 14: Hack Back Work Interruptions
• Interruptions lead to mistakes. You can’t do your best work if you’re frequently distracted.
• Open-office floor plans increase distraction.
• Defend your focus. Signal when you do not want to be interrupted.
Use a screen sign or some other clear cue to let people know you are indistractable.
Chapter 15: Hack Back Email
You’d be amazed how many things become irrelevant
when you give them a little time to breathe.
• Break down the problem. Time spent on email (T) is a function ofthe
number ofmessages received (n) multiplied by the average time (t)
spent per message: T = n × t.
• Reduce the number of messages received. Schedule office hours,
delay when messages are sent, and reduce time-wasting messages from reaching your inbox.
• Spend less time on each message. Label emails by when each
message needs a response. Reply to emails during a scheduled time on your calendar.
Chapter 16: Hack Back Group Chat
• Real-time communication channels should be used sparingly. Time
spent communicating should not come at the sacrifice oftime spent
• Company culture matters. Changing group chat practices may
involve questioning company norms.
• Different communication channels have different uses. Rather than
use every technology as an always-on channel, use the best tools for the job.
• Get in and get out. Group chat is great for replacing in-person
meetings but terrible if it becomes an all-day affair.
Chapter 17: Hack Back Meetings
• Make it harder to call a meeting. To call a meeting, the organizer
must circulate an agenda and briefing document.
• Meetings are for consensus building. With few exceptions, creative
problem-solving should occur before the meeting, individually or in
very small groups.
• Be fully present. People use devices during meetings to escape
monotony and boredom, which subsequently makes meetings even worse.
• Have one laptop per meeting. Devices in everyone’s hands makes it
more difficult to achieve the purpose ofthe meeting. With the
exception ofone laptop in the room for presenting information and
taking notes, leave devices outside
Chapter 18: Hack Back Your Smartphone
• You can hack back the external triggers on your phone in four
steps and in less than one hour.
• Remove: Uninstall the apps you no longer need.
• Replace: Shift where and when you use potentially distracting apps,
like social media and YouTube, to your desktop instead ofon your
phone. Get a wristwatch so you don’t have to look at your phone for the time.
• Rearrange: Move any apps that may trigger mindless checking from your phone’s home screen.
• Reclaim: Change the notification settings for each app. Be very
selective regarding which apps can send you sound and sight cues.
Learn to use your phone’s Do Not Disturb settings.
Chapter 19: Hack Back Your Desktop
• Desktop clutter takes a heavy psychological toll on your attention.
Clearing away external triggers in your digital workspace can help you stay focused.
• Turn off desktop notifications. Disabling notifications on your
computer ensures you won’t get distracted by external triggers while doing focused work
Chapter 20: Hack Back Online Articles
• Online articles are full of potentially distracting external triggers.
Open tabs can pull us offcourse and tend to suck us down a time
wasting content vortex.
• Make a rule. Promise yourselfyou’ll save interesting content for later by using an app like Pocket.
• Surprise! You can multitask. Use multichannel multitasking like
listening to articles while working out or taking walking meetings.
Chapter 21: Hack Back Feeds
• Feeds, like the ones we scroll through on social media, are designed
to keep you engaged. Feeds are full ofexternal triggers that can drive us to distraction.
• Take control of feeds by hacking back. Use free browser extensions
like News Feed Eradicator for Facebook, Newsfeed Burner, Open
Multiple Websites, and DF Tube to remove distracting external
PART 4: PREVENT DISTRACTION WITH PACTS
Chapter 22: The Power of Precommitments
• Being indistractable does not only require keeping distraction out.
It also necessitates reining ourselves in.
• Precommitments can reduce the likelihood of distraction. They
help us stick with decisions we’ve made in advance.
• Precommitments should only be used after the other three
indistractable strategies have already been applied. Don’t skip the
first three steps.
Chapter 23: Prevent Distraction with Effort Pacts
• An effort pact prevents distraction by making unwanted behaviors more difficult to do.
• In the age of the personal computer, social pressure to stay on task
has largely disappeared. No one can see what you’re working on, so
it’s easier to slack off. Working next to a colleague or friend for a set period oftime can be a highly effective effort pact.
• You can use tech to stay off tech. Apps like SelfControl, Forest, and Focusmate can help you make effort pacts.
Chapter 24: Prevent Distraction with Price Pacts
• A price pact adds a cost to getting distracted. It has been shown to be a highly effective motivator.
• Price pacts are most effective when you can remove the external
triggers that lead to distraction.
• Price pacts work best when the distraction is temporary.
• Price pacts can be difficult to start. We fear making a price pact
because we know we’ll have to actually do the thing we’re scared to do.
• Learn self-compassion before making a price pact.
Chapter 25: Prevent Distraction with Identity Pacts
• Identity greatly influences our behavior. People tend to align their
actions with how they see themselves.
• An identity pact is a precommitment to a self-image. You can
prevent distraction by acting in line with your identity.
• Become a noun. By assigning yourselfa moniker, you increase the
likelihood offollowing through with behaviors consistent with what
you call yourself. Call yourself“indistractable.”
• Share with others. Teaching others solidifies your commitment, even
ifyou’re still struggling. A great way to be indistractable is to tell
friends about what you learned in this book and the changes you’re
making in your life.
• Adopt rituals. Repeating mantras, keeping a timeboxed schedule, or
performing other routines reinforces your identity and influences your future actions.
PART 5: HOW TO MAKE YOUR WORKPLACE INDISTRACTABLE
Chapter 26: Distraction Is a Sign of Dysfunction
• Jobs where employees encounter high expectations and low control
have been shown to lead to symptoms of depression.
• Depression-like symptoms are painful. When people feel bad, they
use distractions to avoid their pain and regain a sense ofcontrol.
• Tech overuse at work is a symptom of a dysfunctional company
• More tech use makes the underlying problems worse, perpetuating
a “cycle of responsiveness.”
Chapter 27: Fixing Distraction Is a Test of Company Culture
• Don’t suffer in silence. A workplace where people can’t talk about
technology overuse is also one where people keep other important
issues (and insights) to themselves.
• Knowing that your voice matters is essential. Teams that foster
psychological safety and facilitate regular open discussions about
concerns not only have fewer problems with distraction but also have
happier employees and customers.
Chapter 28: The Indistractable Workplace
• Indistractable organizations, like Slack and BCG, foster
psychological safety, provide a place for open discussions about
concerns, and, most important, have leaders who exemplify the
importance of doing focused work.
PART 6: HOW TO RAISE INDISTRACTABLE CHILDREN
Chapter 29: Avoid Convenient Excuses
• Stop deflecting blame. When kids don’t act the way parents want, it’s
natural to look for answers that help parents divert responsibility.
• Techno-panics are nothing new. From the book, to the radio, to video
games, the history ofparenting is strewn with moral panic over things
supposedly making kids act in strange ways.
• Tech isn’t evil. Used in the right way and in the right amounts, kids’ tech use can be beneficial, while too much (or too little) can have slightly harmful effects.
• Teach kids to be indistractable. Teaching children how to manage
distraction will benefit them throughout their lives.
Chapter 30: Understand Their Internal Triggers
• Internal triggers drive behavior. To understand how to help kids
manage distraction, we need to start by understanding the source of the problem.
• Our kids need psychological nutrients. According to a widely
accepted theory ofhuman motivation, all people need three things to
thrive: a sense ofautonomy, competence, and relatedness.
• Distractions satisfy deficiencies. When our kids’ psychological needs
are not met in the real world, they go looking for satisfaction—often in virtual environments.
• Kids need alternatives. Parents and guardians can take steps to help
kids find balance between their online and offline worlds by providing more offline opportunities to find autonomy, competence, and relatedness.
• The four-part Indistractable Model is valuable for kids as well.
Teach them methods for handling distraction, and, most important,
model being indistractable yourself.
Chapter 31: Make Time for Traction Together
• Teach traction. With so many potential distractions in kids’ lives,
teaching them how to make time for traction is critical.
• Just as with our own timeboxed schedules, kids can learn how to
make time for what’s important to them. Ifthey don’t learn to make
their own plans in advance, kids will turn to distractions.
• It’s OK to let your kids fail. Failure is how we learn. Show kids how
to adjust their schedules to make time to live up to their values.
Chapter 32: Help Them with External Triggers
• Teach your children to swim before they dive in. Like swimming in
a pool, children should not be allowed to partake in certain risky
behaviors before they are ready.
• Test for tech readiness. A good measure ofa child’s readiness is the
ability to manage distraction by using the settings on the device to turn
• Kids need sleep. There is little justification for having a television or
other potential distractions in a kid’s room overnight. Make sure
nothing gets in the way ofthem getting good rest.
• Don’t be the unwanted external trigger. Respect their time and don’t
interrupt them when they have scheduled time to focus on something,
be that work or play.
Chapter 33: Teach Them to Make Their Own Pacts
• Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to precommit and follow
through. Even young children can learn to use precommitments as
long as they set the rules and know how to use a timer or some other binding system.
• Consumer skepticism is healthy. Understanding that companies are
motivated to keep kids spending time watching or playing is an
important part ofteaching media literacy.
• Put the kids in charge. It’s only when kids practice monitoring their
own behavior that they learn how to manage their own time and
PART 7: HOW TO HAVE INDISTRACTABLE RELATIONSHIPS
Chapter 34: Spread Social Antibodies Among Friends
• Distraction in social situations can keep us from being fully present
with important people in our lives. Interruptions degrade our ability
to form close social bonds.
• Block the spread of unhealthy behaviors. “Social antibodies” are
ways groups protect themselves from harmful behaviors by making
• Develop new social norms. We can tackle distraction among friends
the same way we beat social smoking, by making it unacceptable to
use devices in social situations. Prepare a few tactful phrases—like
asking, “Is everything OK?”—to discourage phone usage among
Chapter 35: Be an Indistractable Lover
• Distraction can be an impediment in our most intimate
relationships. Instant digital connectivity can come at the expense of
being fully present with those beside us.
• Indistractable partners reclaim time for togetherness. Following
the four steps to becoming indistractable can ensure you make time for your partner.
• Now it’s your turn to become indistractable.
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life Nir Eyal
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