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Indistractable Book Summary – Nir Eyal

What you will learn from reading Indistractable:

– How to identify and master your internal triggers. 

– Actions you can take right now to reduce the amount of distractions you will encounter.

– How to use distraction pacts to motivate you to avoid distractions.

Indisctractable Book Summary:

Indistractable book summary is the go-to guide for dealing with distraction in modern life. With practical guidance and advice, this book is the best resource on stopping un-productive habits. 

It begins by understanding what triggers distraction and how attacking the problem at the source will prevent the problem for good. 

Nir Eyal spent years working out how to get people ‘Hooked’ on tech. Now he’s trying to get people un-hooked. Read on if you want to know how.


Master Internal Triggers:

What motivates us really – Even when we think we’re seeking pleasure, we’re are actually driven by the desire to free ourselves from the pain of wanting.

All motivation is a desire to escape discomfort. If a behaviour is previously effective at providing relief, we’re likely to continue using it as a tool to escape discomfort.  

Therefore, anything that stops discomfort is potentially addictive, but that doesn’t make it irresistible.


What are common forms of discomfort? 

If distraction cost us time, then pain management is time management.

‘People prefer doing to thinking, even if what they are doing is so unpleasant that they would normally pay to avoid it’ – People don’t like being alone with their thoughts. 

Feeling bad isn’t actually bad; it’s exactly what survival of the fittest intended. 

Reimagine the trigger –  

  1. Look for emotion preceding the distraction
  2. Write down the internal trigger
  3. Explore the negative sensation with curiosity instead of corrupt
  4. Be cautious during liminal moments

Reimagining the task (Bogost and Fun) Exploration for job design 

Bogost  says ‘ fun is the aftermath of deliberating manipulating a familiar situation in a new way’ 

‘We can use the same neural hardwiring that keeps us hooked to media to keep us engaged in an otherwise unpleasant task’ 

Operating under constraints, is the key to creativity and fun. 

’The cure for boredom is curiosity, There is no cure for curiosity’ 

Reimagine your temperament – 

Addicts belief in their powerlessness was just as significant indicator of whether they would relapse as their level of physical dependence. Mindset matters as much as dependence. 

Self-compassion makes people more resilient to letdowns by breaking vicious cycle of stress. Talk to yourself the way you would a friend. 

You can’t call a something a distraction unless you know what it’s distracting you from.

Limitations give us a structure, a blank schedule and mile long to-do list torment us with too many choices. 


Control the inputs not the outcomes:

The one thing we control is the time we put into a task.

The positive results of the time we spend doing something is a hope, not a certainty. 


Hack back External Triggers:

Today much of our struggle with distraction is a struggle with external triggers. 

Receiving a notification but not replying to it was just as distracting as responding to a message or call. 

The critical questions – ‘is this trigger serving me, or am I serving it?’ 


To receive fewer emails, we must send fewer emails. 

Total time spent on email (T) = number of messages received (n) x the time spent on each message (t) 


You’ll be amazed how many things become irrelevant when you give them a little time to breathe. 

By asking other party to wait, you’ve given them the chance to come up with an answer for themselves. Or like many other things, time for the problem just to disappear under the weight of some other priority. 

Complex matters should be done in person or over phone rather than email. 

Group chat should be avoided for important topics as these need to be communicated with mood, tone and non-verbal signals. 

Also need to be picky with who is in the group to reduce chaos. 

The primary objective of meetings should be to gain consensus around a decision, not giving the meeting organiser a forum to think aloud. 

There should be an agenda of problem, then give best shot at solution, then a discussion. 


Hack back the Smartphone: 

Remove: Uninstall the apps you no longer need 

Replace: Shift where and when you use distracting apps. Watch so not using phone for time. 

Rearrange: Move any apps that may trigger mindless checking from home screen.  

Reclaim: Change the notification settings for each app. Do no disturb settings. 


Hacking back the Desktop:

Removing unnecessary external triggers from our line of sight declutters our workplace and frees the mind to concentrate on what’s really important.

The brain has limitations on its horsepower, the more concentration a task requires the less room it has for anything else. 

However, we are perfectly capable of processing multichannel inputs.  

Crossmodeal attention – it allows our brains to place certain mental processes on autopilot while we think about other things. 

“As long as we’re not required to concentrate too much on any one channel, we’re able to do more than one thing at a time.” 


Prevent Distraction with pacts: 

Effort pacts:

Make unwanted behaviours more difficult to do.

Social pressure exists, use it to make sure you stay on task at hand.


Price pacts: 

More effective when you can remove external triggers  

Distraction is temporary 

Difficult to start as you’re scared 

Self compassion should be prerequisite. 


Identity pacts:

By aligning our behaviours to our identity, we make choices based on who we believe we are.

An identity pact is a pre-commitment to a self-image.

Become a noun – Call yourself something and believe it, how do they act? Call your followers something positive.

Teach others, reinforces identity. 


Adopt rituals – mantras, routines and behaviours. 


In distractable relationships and workplace: 

Successful teams most important dynamic is psychological safety. 

Three sets to psychological safety. 

  1. ‘Frame the work as a learning problem, not an execution problem’ – Future is uncertain, empathise that everyone needs to have their brains and voices in the game.
  2. Acknowledge your own fallibility – managers need to let people know that know one has all the answers.
  3. Leader must – Model curiosity and ask lots of questions.