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Indistractable by Nir Eyal.
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Every one of your actions either reflects traction—moving in the direction of what you actually want, helping you accomplish goals—or distraction—moving away from what you actually want and your goals.

Today, with technology as an integral part of your world, it’s harder than ever to avoid the temptation of distraction. To keep moving in the right direction, you need to become indistractableable to understand and avoid your distractions and choose traction.

There are four elements of the indistractablity model:

  • Control your internal triggers.
  • Build your schedule around your values.
  • Reduce external triggers.
  • Create precommitments.

We’ll discuss these four elements and then examine different ways you can bring indistractable habits to your workplace, your children, and your relationships.

Part 1: Control Your Internal Triggers

The root of distraction is inside you. Humans are motivated by freedom from discomfort—mental and physical discomfort triggers you to find escapes.

  • This may look like escaping difficult homework by scrolling social media or escaping marriage problems by building a farm on Animal Crossing.

To get a handle on your distractions, you need to control their root cause—internal triggers.

Change Your Thinking Around Your Discomfort

Learning to control your internal triggers isn’t about trying not to think about them—this will just make you fixate on them more. It’s about learning to change how you think about them. Three exercises can help you examine and understand your internal triggers.

Exercise 1: Reflect on the Trigger

Rather than reacting to triggers with distraction, take four steps to meaningfully reflect on them and make more deliberate, traction-supporting choices.

  1. Identify the trigger. When you’re about to switch over to a distracting activity, ask yourself: “What discomfort or feeling triggered me to do this?” Usually, you’ll find that the source is a negative emotion like anxiety, boredom, or lack of control.
  2. Note the trigger. Keep a “distraction notebook” where you write down the details of your triggers—the time of day, where you were, your emotions, what you were doing when you felt distracted, and the distracting action you took. This step raises your awareness of your distraction patterns, helping you better control your actions in the future.
  3. Examine the feeling. When you experience internal discomfort, commit to fully exploring all of your mental and physical feelings. Trying to suppress feelings often makes them stronger, but approaching them with curiosity helps them dissipate.
  4. Look out for transitions. Distraction often happens when your brain is in the process of shifting from one activity to another. In these moments, tell yourself you’ll give in to the distraction in 10 minutes—usually, the urge passes by then.
Exercise 2: Reframe the Situation

Rethink the situation you’re in, finding a way to make it fun. “Fun” doesn’t always feel good—it often feels like challenge, discovery, or most importantly, freedom from discomfort. Making your situation engaging decreases internal triggers such as boredom and frustration, which curbs your urge to escape into distracting behaviors. This process has two parts:

  1. Dive deeper into the situation. Break the situation down into its smallest elements and examine them. This helps you find new perspectives and challenges. For example, if you’re bored at your job in a coffee shop, closely examine each element of making a perfect latté—espresso type, cream content, steaming temperature, and so on.
  2. Create play. Come up with different challenges. These should include limitations, which spark creativity and engagement. For example, if you have several essays to write, you might aim to write 3,000 words every day or set time limits to beat.
Exercise 3: Rethink Who You Are

Successfully becoming indistractable requires you to rethink two ideas about yourself: your willpower and your labels.

Willpower: Many people believe they have finite willpower that becomes depleted. We often use this as an excuse for unhealthy behaviors—for example, you binge-watch Netflix after work because your “willpower is spent.” It’s important to think of your willpower as an emotion that comes and goes rather than a resource that runs out.

  • If you think of willpower as a resource, you might give up on an overwhelming project because you “need a break.” On the other hand, if you think of willpower as an emotion, you find a way to manage it in that moment, such as completing a small or easy part of the project to get a boost of motivation.

Labels: Pay attention to the way you label yourself. When you label yourself a certain way—for example, “easily distracted” or “impulsive”—your behavior becomes more aligned with that label. This works in a positive way, too: Calling yourself “focused” or “indistractable” will prompt focused, indistractable behaviors.

Part 2: Build Your Schedule Around Your Values

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. The natural solution to distraction-filled days is creating a schedule.

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. This allows you to visualize the balance among your responsibilities and 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.

In this section, 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...

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Introduction: What Does It Mean to Be Indistractable?

In our overconnected world, there’s always an app notification begging for your attention, an email pinging in the background, or a news feed to scroll through. Technology can be useful if you have control over how you use it, but that’s often not the case. Many people are ruled by their devices—unable to pull themselves away even when they know they should. This takes a toll on your physical and mental health, your ability to focus, and your relationships.

Understand Traction and Distraction

Every one of your actions is spurred by an internal trigger, such as boredom, or an external trigger, such as an Instagram notification. These actions either reflect traction or distraction.

  • Traction: Actions...

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Shortform Exercise: Think About the Consequences of Your Distractions

Reflect on the distracting, unimportant activities that take your time away from goal-supporting and productive actions.


Think about your day-to-day activities. What do you consider your most distracting habits? (For example, checking social media on your phone or binge-watching Netflix.)

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Part 1: Control Your Internal Triggers

Before you can control your distractions, you first need to understand what distractions are. Like many people, you probably believe that distraction is a product of the things around you such as your phone, different apps, or your chatty coworkers. In reality, the root of distraction is inside you.

Contrary to popular belief, humans aren’t motivated by punishment and reward—we’re motivated by freedom from discomfort. When we feel physical or mental discomfort, we naturally search for ways to escape it. These discomforts and escapes can take many forms, such as:

  • The reality of difficult homework and the escape of scrolling social media
  • The reality of marriage problems and the escape of building a farm on Animal Crossing
  • The reality of work stress and the escape of Netflix binges

To get a handle on your distractions, you need to control their root cause—internal triggers.

Change Your Thinking Around Your Discomfort

No matter how good your life is, it’s likely you have a nagging sense of dissatisfaction or restlessness that drives you to look for “escapes.” **What’s surprising about this feeling is that it’s completely normal—human...

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Shortform Exercise: Reflect on the Feelings Driving Distraction

One of the keys to stopping and preventing distraction is paying attention to the internal triggers that usually drive you to undesirable behaviors.


Describe the situations where you find that you’re most easily driven to distraction—pay attention to both the activity and details such as time of day or who’s usually with you. (For example, you might feel most distracted at work right after lunch or when you’re trying to study alone in your room.)

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Shortform Exercise: Reframe Your Situation

Adding challenges to everyday activities makes them engaging and interesting—reducing your need for a distracting “escape.”


Describe an activity that often makes you feel bored, restless, or otherwise in need of escape. (For example, practicing an instrument or writing article pitches.)

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Part 2: Build Your Schedule Around Your Values

The second 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...

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Shortform Exercise: Build Your Ideal Self and Relationship Schedule

Building a schedule that prioritizes what’s truly important depends on being clear about your values.


What are your personal values? (For example, your values may include challenge, variety, and learning.)

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Part 3.1: Cut Out External Triggers: Communication Without Boundaries

The third element of becoming indistractable is reducing the external triggers in your life. While internal triggers are frequent drivers of distraction, external triggers constantly invade our lives with beeps, pop-up notifications, vibrations, alarms, and so on. They tempt you with an escape from any internal discomfort you may be feeling.

It’s vital that you get a handle on the external triggers around you because they don’t just interrupt you for a moment—they can derail your workflow for an extended period. Research shows that when people are interrupted during a task—to answer a message or check their email, for example—they’ll try to compensate when they return to the task by working faster, but with higher stress levels.

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so easy as refusing to respond to incoming emails or turning your phone facedown.

  • One study showed that simply receiving a notification is just as distracting as responding to a message or call.
  • Furthermore, the mere presence of your phone—even if you’re not looking at it—strains your attention because a portion of your mental energy is allocated to ignoring your phone.

Sort Your External...

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Part 3.2: Cut Out External Triggers: Technology

In this chapter, we’ll examine ways to diminish the power of the second type of external trigger—the technology you use every day.

Trigger #5: Smartphone

Your smartphone is probably one of the most—if not the most—distracting things in your life. However, it can also be a valuable tool for staying in touch with people, listening to music, capturing photos, or navigating. Maximize your phone’s use as a tool for traction by first rearranging your apps and then adjusting their settings.

Step 1: Sort Your Apps

Look through the apps on your phone and assess each honestly: Does it benefit you or do you benefit it? Based on your answer, take one of three actions:

1) Remove: Delete unused apps and apps that don’t benefit you or don’t align with your values.

  • For example, you might keep a mindfulness app but delete a news app that always makes you feel stressed out.

2) Change: Some apps can be used for traction, but they show up in your life as distractions.

  • For example, you may use social media to stay in touch with friends and promote your business, but you also check it when you’re with family, at work, or driving.

For these...

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Shortform Exercise: Reduce Your External Triggers

Left unchecked, external triggers can easily break your focus and pull you off task throughout your day.


What external trigger(s) do you find most distracting? (For example, audio text notifications, your email, or recommendations at the bottom of articles.)

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Part 4: Create Precommitments

The last part of the indistractable model focuses on locking yourself into traction, rather than keeping distractions out. You accomplish this by using precommitments—choices you make while in an undistracted state that will help guide your behaviors when you’re tempted by distraction in the future.

  • For example, you might precommit to saving money by setting up a portion of your paycheck to automatically deposit in your savings account, instead of believing you’ll make the right choice on payday.

Precommitments are the last piece of the indistractable model because their success depends on the first three elements:

  • You must understand and manage your internal triggers. Otherwise, your internal discomfort will be strong enough to drive you away from your precommitments.
  • You can’t fulfill a precommitment unless you set aside time in your schedule to do so.
  • External triggers can easily pull you off task.

There are three types of precommitments that can minimize the power of distraction: effort pacts, price pacts, and identity pacts.

Precommitment Type 1: Effort Pacts

**An effort pact is a precommitment that makes it more difficult...

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Shortform Exercise: Create an Effort Pact

You can help yourself avoid undesirable behaviors by making them harder to perform.


What’s an undesirable behavior that you’d like to perform less? (For example, skipping the gym or going on social media when you should be studying.)

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Application 1: Cultivate an Indistractable Work Culture

Your indistractability will naturally touch all parts of your life—and, with conscious application, you can use it to improve these areas. Over these next three chapters, we’ll explore how you can apply the indistractable model to your work, your children, and your relationships.

The first area we’ll explore is your workplace—while you may be on your way to developing strong indistractable habits, a toxic work culture can easily derail you.

  • For example, your boss might derail your timeboxed schedule by calling a last-minute meeting, or you might have family dinner time interrupted by a colleague in a different time zone organizing an “urgent” video conference.

You can’t be your best at work if you’re distracted the whole time—but solving the problem requires a bit of digging. A common scapegoat for workplace distraction is the technology that keeps employees connected inside and outside of the office. But of course, technology itself isn’t at the heart of distraction—internal discomfort is.

Work Depression and Distraction

Numerous organizations cultivate work cultures that can cause clinical depression in their employees. **Two factors significantly...

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Application 2: Teach Indistractability to Your Children

The second practical application of the indistractable model is using it to support your children in an increasingly connected and technologically dependent world.

Many people blame advancing technology for their children’s distraction, emotional dysregulation, behavioral issues, and so on. Technology has been a popular scapegoat for hundreds of years—everything from the printing press to the radio has been publicly condemned for “ruining” children’s minds and attention spans.

The reason we keep recycling this tired story is that technology allows us to pin the blame of misunderstanding our children on something out of our control, instead of taking responsibility. This mindset is a huge disservice to our children, who need help managing today’s distractions.

There’s no difference between the type of distraction you experience and the distraction your child experiences. Like you, they need to learn how to have a healthy relationship with technology—but unlike you, they won’t understand the problem and find solutions on their own. It’s up to you to explain what it means to be indistractable and help them develop indistractable systems that work for them. **Help...

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Indistractable Summary Indistractable Guide Application 3: Promote Indistractability in Your Relationships

Lastly, you can use elements of the indestructible model to identify and solve points of distraction in your relationships with your family and your friends.

Distraction is a problem that affects everyone in a relationship—unmanaged, it pushes people away from one another and prevents key moments of connection from happening. This problem is becoming increasingly prevalent, as smartphones are ever-present in everyone’s pockets and various devices become necessary fixtures in many homes. Not only are distractions constantly accessible, but they’ve also become such a common part of our lives that distraction is almost always tolerated.

Strong, indistractable relationships depend on your refusal to tolerate distraction and a group commitment to finding solutions to distraction problems. First, we’ll look at how you can manage distraction in your friendships and then examine ways to create distraction-free time with your partner.

Maintain Indistractable Friendships

One reason that distraction happens so frequently in the time spent with your friends is social contagion—humans look to one another for social cues, so one person’s distraction easily spreads in a...

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Shortform Exercise: Commit to Indistractability With Friends

When friends spend distracted time together, they miss out on important moments and conversations that deepen their relationships.


Describe situations where you and your friends often become distracted. (For example, you always end up looking at your phones while at dinner together or your children often wander into your get-togethers and derail your conversations.)

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Introduction: What Does It Mean to Be Indistractable?
  • Exercise: Think About the Consequences of Your Distractions
  • Part 1: Control Your Internal Triggers
  • Exercise: Reflect on the Feelings Driving Distraction
  • Exercise: Reframe Your Situation
  • Part 2: Build Your Schedule Around Your Values
  • Exercise: Build Your Ideal Self and Relationship Schedule
  • Part 3.1: Cut Out External Triggers: Communication Without Boundaries
  • Part 3.2: Cut Out External Triggers: Technology
  • Exercise: Reduce Your External Triggers
  • Part 4: Create Precommitments
  • Exercise: Create an Effort Pact
  • Application 1: Cultivate an Indistractable Work Culture
  • Application 2: Teach Indistractability to Your Children
  • Application 3: Promote Indistractability in Your Relationships
  • Exercise: Commit to Indistractability With Friends