How to Be Indistractable: Build a Schedule

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Indistractable" by Nir Eyal. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why is scheduling crucial to becoming indistractable? How do you make an Indistractable schedule? What three responsibilities should you build your schedule around?

According to Nir Eyal, one of the most essential things you must do if you want to know how to be indistractable is to build a schedule around your values. Those three values are yourself, your relationships, and your work.

Continue below for instructions on how to build your Indistractable schedule.

Nir Eyal on How to Be Indistractable 

Want to know how to be indistractable? Part of becoming indistractable is learning to schedule your day around traction-supporting activities—that is, activities that pull you toward what you want to do and who you want to be. 

Why Scheduling Is Essential to Indistractablity

Two-thirds of Americans report that they don’t plan out their days. Although an unplanned day might make you feel that you have more freedom over how your day is spent, it actually creates less freedom—instead of controlling your day, your day controls you. When your time isn’t structured, it’s all too easy to give it up to distractions that feel urgent or necessary. You get to the end of the day having done a lot, but none of the things you meant to do. 

Often, people try to add structure to their days by creating to-do lists. This is one of the worst ways to plan your day, for several reasons:

  • It’s easy to move unfinished tasks to the next day, then move the next day’s unfinished tasks to the next day, and so on. The tasks never get done and continue to loom over you. 
  • As your tasks get bumped from day to day, the list expands as you think of new tasks that need to be done. This creates ample opportunity for distraction—you’re likely to choose the easiest tasks on the list instead of buckling down and completing the bigger and more difficult tasks. 

The natural solution to distraction-filled days and the “I’ll do it later” mindset is creating a schedule and sticking to it

Consider Your Values and Responsibilities

You should build your schedule around the three responsibilities that take up all of your time—you, your relationships, and your work—and your values in each. Your values represent what’s important to you and who you want to be. 

  • Your values may look like: mindfulness and learning for yourself, equality and presence in your relationships, and creativity and variety at work. 

It’s crucial to build your schedule around them because mismanaged values trigger distraction. The values in different parts of your life usually won’t quite intersect, so you must consciously balance them. If you accidentally concentrate too much on the values in one part of your life, your values elsewhere will suffer from neglect.

  • For example, focusing too much on your work can cause you to miss out on time with your spouse or may cause you to miss family dinners. 

When your values are unbalanced, you become stressed or feel that you’re “not enough.” These feelings of stress or dissatisfaction will drive you to distracting habits—leaving you with even less time for fully living your values. 

Your values become easier to live—and balance—when you consciously track how your time is spent on each responsibility. On a schedule, you can not only visualize the balance between your values but can also better distinguish between traction and distraction. Any behavior that happens at a time it’s not scheduled is a distraction, even if it feels productive.

  • For example, you make time for playing with your kids at the park on Saturday afternoon. During that time, you ended up answering a few work emails—a distraction from what you meant to do with your time, though it may have felt productive.

Through the rest of this article, we’ll examine how each of your three responsibilities should show up in your life, then discuss how to build and maintain an indistractable schedule. 

Responsibility 1: You 

Taking care of yourself and meeting your personal values is the core of your life. If you’re suffering in the “you” department, your relationships and work will suffer, so it’s crucial that your personal values are scheduled first instead of squeezed around other activities. Spending time on yourself looks like:

  • Taking care of yourself with exercise, healthy eating, and good hygiene 
  • Spending time on things that you enjoy, such as your hobbies or entertainment, or taking a “day off.” 
  • Engaging in spirituality or mindfulness
How to Schedule “You” Time

There are two parts to building meaningful “you” time into your schedule. First, schedule time for meeting your basic needs such as sleeping, eating, and grooming. You may think scheduling basic self-care is unnecessary, but you’ve likely sacrificed sleep for spending time on social media or healthy eating for ordering takeout. When you have these basic needs on your schedule and compare them with what happened in reality, you can more easily see unhealthy patterns of distraction. 

Second, think about who you want to be and the qualities you want to have, and what value-aligned activities you can schedule. 

  • For example, if one of your values is “mindfulness,” you might schedule 15 minutes of gratitude reflection in the morning. If one of your values is “staying healthy,” you might schedule an hour-long walk every morning. 

Responsibility 2: Your Relationships 

It’s essential to schedule your relationships because they’re easily ignored when something urgent or important comes up, meaning your loved ones get your leftover time, not your dedicated time. Make time for non-negotiable commitments to your relationships with your family and friends every week.

Commit Time to Family 

Schedule regular indistractable time with your kids. This time is a commitment, not something that can be pushed aside for another activity or interrupted by your email or social media. 

  • For example, you might dedicate several device-free hours every Saturday afternoon doing an activity of your child’s choosing.  

It’s important to schedule time with your partner, too. This may not make sense to you because you live with your partner—you already spend plenty of time with them. However, it’s likely that much of this time together isn’t aligned with your values. 

  • For example, you might be having dinner together every night but watching television in silence instead of enjoying each other’s company.

Schedule deliberate time together, such as date nights, projects you want to work on together, or tech-free outings. 

Commit Time to Friends

Friendship is incredibly important to your well-being, yet is easily overshadowed by the everyday wants and needs of your partner, children, and work. Without maintenance, your friendships easily dissipate, and it becomes harder to reconnect. 

Your plans with friends need to be regular, set events in your schedule, not “someday” items on a to-do list. Otherwise, it becomes too easy to prioritize something else—like a weekend project nagging at you—or flake out for unimportant reasons—such as simply feeling too lazy to go to that dinner party. 

  • For example, you might organize a weekly potluck with a small group of friends that rotates between houses. This dinner should be a set commitment among your friends. Because this event happens every week as a group, members can occasionally miss it if they must—the rest of the group can get together without them, and they can rejoin the next week.

Responsibility 3: Your Work

It’s crucial that the way you’re spending your time at work is well-aligned with what you want to do and who you want to be—otherwise, your workday can easily become disorganized and distracted by constant emails, people coming into your office, last-minute meetings, and so on. All these distractions make your work feel overwhelming and unfulfilling, or they pressure you to spend more time on work than on yourself or your relationships. 

A schedule lets your manager understand your distractions, see how your time is spent, and help you balance your values both inside and outside the office. 

How Your Schedule Balances Values at Work

Your schedule gives your manager a clear idea of how your time is being spent, which helps them contextualize problems such as late projects, a slump in productivity, and so on. 

With this information and an understanding of your values, they can suggest areas where you might reprioritize your tasks or cut out activities that aren’t serving your goals and theirs. 

  • For example, you may be taking on too many projects and offering to mentor many people because you’ll be seeking a promotion within the next few years. This is making you increasingly frazzled and disorganized. When your manager understands your motivations and looks at your schedule, they can explain that spending more time on boosting your sales and less time on mentoring would be more helpful to their goals and won’t hurt your chances of promotion.

When your manager helps you define what’s important and what’s not important, it becomes easier for you to say “no” to things that would distract you, disorganize you, or cut into the time meant for your other responsibilities. 

How Your Schedule Balances Values Outside of Work 

Your work-related schedule should note any non-negotiable commitments that happen outside the workplace. This helps your manager know when it is and isn’t appropriate to ask you to do extra work or stay late. 

  • For example, if your weekly schedule shows Thursday night blocked off for family, your manager understands that it’s not reasonable or appropriate to ask you to stay late. However, if there are no non-negotiables on your Wednesday night schedule, your manager could reasonably ask to cut into that time if a project is truly urgent. 

This system works best when you make it a priority to check in regularly with your manager about your schedule. 

  • If you can plan your schedule weekly, schedule a 15-minute meeting every Monday morning to go over it together, and align on your expectations for the week. Your manager can suggest places to reshuffle priorities and note when they can and cannot interrupt you—at work and at home.
  • If you have a schedule that changes every day, meet with your manager for five minutes at the beginning of the day. 

(Shortform note: Read our summary of Daring Greatly to learn how focusing on the gap between your aspirational values and your practiced values can benefit you, your relationships, and your work.)  

How to Be Indistractable: Build a Schedule

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Nir Eyal's "Indistractable" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Indistractable summary :

  • How to become indistractable in a world full of distractions
  • Why your schedule should be based on your values instead of tasks
  • How to start driving your life instead of letting its distractions drive you

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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