How to Schedule Your Day—The Indistractable Way

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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Do you want advice on how to schedule your day from Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable? What are the two essential elements of indistractable scheduling?

Indistractable author Nir Eyal says that in order to stay on task and reach your goals, you need to schedule your days. To do that effectively, you should use timeboxing and leave no blank spaces. It is also helpful to adopt some new mindsets in order to maintain your schedule.

Continue reading for Eyal’s advice on how to schedule your day from Indistractable.

How to Build an Indistractable Schedule 

If you want to know how to schedule your day, first reflect on how your three responsibilities (yourself, your relationships, and your work) show up in your life and ask yourself three questions:

1) “What is or isn’t working in my current schedule?” Think about responsibilities that are taking too much of your attention and values that are being neglected. 

  • For example, you’re spending too many late nights at work, which is cutting into your relationship value of being a present parent. 

2) “What activities would better align with my values?” Think about parts of your day where you sacrifice your values in one area for another, and imagine how activities would look different if you stuck to one responsibility at a time. 

  • For example, you might frequently check work emails while spending time with your children, instead of listening to their stories. Focusing on just your children would make you a more present parent. 

3) “How much time do I want to allocate to each of my responsibilities?” Think about the ways your ideal schedule would allow more time for some values and restrict others. 

  • For example, you might want an hour each day to work on your hobbies or ensure that your work responsibilities never interfere with your weekend. 

Your answers to these questions reveal how your time will ideally be spent. Next, build your ideal schedule using two essential elements of indistractable scheduling: timeboxing and no blank spaces

Element 1: Timeboxing

Timeboxing is a way of organizing your calendar by dedicating blocks of time to specific activities. For example, you might timebox “read to kids” or “go through emails.” Timeboxing serves two purposes:

1) It helps you balance your responsibilities. Limiting the time you can spend on an activity stops you from working on it “until it’s done” as you might with tasks on a to-do list. This prevents you from letting one responsibility take up too much of your time at the expense of another.

  • For example, you see how staying late at work to wrap up projects regularly cuts out your scheduled gym time, revealing how much you’re neglecting your personal values in favor of your work values.

2) It helps you stick to what you’re meant to be doing. Timeboxing creates what psychologists call an “implementation intention”—you decide what you’ll do and when you’ll do it, which can help you get tasks done instead of perpetually pushing them off. Additionally, timeboxing stops small, easy tasks from interrupting what you’re doing because you establish a specific time you’ll take care of them.

  • For example, if you’re in the middle of a difficult client proposal, you might think, “I’m so busy today—I’ll get in touch with Sheila and Bill tomorrow,” or “I should return Sheila’s call and email Bill now, before I forget.” A timeboxed schedule would help you avoid both of these mindsets: “I’ve blocked off an hour this afternoon for catching up on calls and emails. I’ll get in touch with Sheila and Bill at that time.”

(You can visit Eyal’s Indistractable website for a timeboxing tool.) 

Element 2: No Blank Space

You must schedule everything you do, because it’s the only way to accurately gauge your indistractability—that is, how often you do what you planned. It doesn’t matter so much what your schedule looks like—it matters that you stick to it. 

  • For example, if you plan to spend all morning on Reddit and do so, you were indistractable—doing what you planned to. On the other hand, if you planned to spend an hour watching television but answered a few work emails on your phone, you were distracted—not doing what you planned. 

How to Maintain Your Schedule

Keep in mind that the first schedule you create is ideal—your reality usually won’t match up on the first try. If you expect perfection, you’ll end up stressed or discouraged, which triggers more distracted behaviors. Two mindsets will help you optimize your schedule without stressing about it.

Mindset 1: Your Schedule Is a Constant Experiment 

It’s crucial that you continually reflect on how you spend your time in reality, identify strong and weak points of your schedule, and make edits. Each week, take 20 minutes to reflect on two questions:

1) When did I do what I planned to do? When did I become distracted? Reflect on this question while looking over your weekly distraction tracker so that you can easily pinpoint reasons for your distractions. 

  • You may find that internal triggers are worse at a certain time of day or that one colleague has a tendency to interrupt you.

2) What schedule changes might help me avoid distraction? Sometimes, distraction happens in your schedule as an unpredictable, one-time event—such as a major problem at work forcing you to miss family dinner three nights in a row. These types of distractions don’t usually warrant changing your schedule. 

On the other hand, many distractions happen because your schedule has a flaw or doesn’t allow for or circumvent a predictable event. In these cases, you need to make changes. 

  • For example, you scheduled quality time with your daughter on Friday nights from 6-7, but you forgot that she has karate practice—so you spend the time on your phone. To fix this, you’d move the quality time to another day or to the hour after karate.
  • Or imagine that you have a colleague who always interrupts you after she gets back from lunch to see what you need help with during the afternoon. You can fix this by timeboxing 10 minutes before lunch to email her updates and help requests. Let her know about this new system so she doesn’t come looking for you after lunch. 

By frequently reflecting on your schedule, you’ll become more aware of what parts of your day support traction or cause distraction. Over time, you’ll adjust your schedule and experiment with new ways to gain traction—eventually helping you create a refined schedule that meets all your values and truly works with your life.

Mindset 2: You Can Control Input, Not Outcome 

One thing that can be frustrating about making your schedule is that you sometimes don’t get the outcome you want, despite making the time for it. These setbacks can make you feel frustrated and stressed, throwing you off track.

  • For example, you set aside seven hours for sleep—but when you get in bed and turn out the light, you feel wide awake. You become so worried about not sleeping that you make yourself even more sleepless. You reach for your phone and start scrolling. 

Reduce the stress around your schedule by understanding that the outcome of your efforts won’t always be within your control—all you can control is the effort you put in. Your responsibility is to be in the right place at the scheduled time. Even if your body doesn’t cooperate with you, you’re at least providing the necessary input. 

  • For example, if you timebox 7 to 8 p.m. for work on an essay, you should be sitting at your desk at 7 p.m. with the document open in front of you. You might not have the motivation or inspiration to make much headway on it, but at the very least, you’re sitting at your desk as planned. 
  • On the other hand, imagine you didn’t control your input—7 p.m. rolls around and you’re in the kitchen making tea before heading to your desk. You don’t feel very motivated, so you scroll through your emails. The hour counts as a distraction because you weren’t sticking to your plan.

While the outcome may not be what you hoped, you can at least make sure you’re giving yourself the best possible chance to do what you planned.

How to Schedule Your Day—The Indistractable Way

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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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