Ep86: How to Become ‘Indistractable’ | with Nir Eyal

DISTRACTION is a word everyone is familiar with. When your livelihood depends on your ability to be creative and summon superhuman levels of hyperfocus for hours (or even weeks) at a time, there is no greater enemy to your livelihood than distraction. The problem in our 24-7 hyperconnected world of endless notifications, emails, text messages, and 100 other different forms of interruptions is that we are all simply looking for hacks, tricks, and apps to help us eliminate distractions.

But what if instead of trying to eliminate distraction from our lives we instead worked towards having more “Traction?”

When the thought of putting my efforts towards building traction as opposed to avoiding distractions first occurred to me it absolutely blew my mind. And in today’s interview with productivity expert Nir Eyal, bestselling author of the books Indistractable and Hooked, this is simply the tip of the iceberg of mind-blowing ideas to help you become less distracted, more focused, and more intentional with your time and attention.

Want to Hear More Episodes Like This One?

» Click here to subscribe and never miss another episode

Here’s What You’ll Learn:

  • Discover Nir Eyal’s 4 steps to becoming “Indistractable
  • Nir explains how the premise of his book: Hooked which focused on the design choices that makes smart phone apps “sticky” (i.e. “addictive”), led to the focus of his latest book: Indistractable.
  • The opposite of distraction is ______. (HINT: It’s NOT focus)
  • How to get to the root cause of distraction & frustration at a deep emotional level. (HINT: “It’s not the device in your hand, it’s what’s going on in your head.”)
  • Most ‘productivity hacks’ are about becoming more efficient versions of ‘busy’, which is like spinning on the hamster wheel faster. Becoming Indistractable is about being more effective.
  • With all the information at our fingertips on the Internet, we essentially know what to do. The question is, why don’t we do it? Why do we keep getting distracted? The answers may surprise you.
  • 5 years of research reveals that the greatest source of distraction is not the external triggers. It’s internal triggers: The uncomfortable states that we seek to escape.
  • The case against the “pain vs. pleasure” narrative of human behavior. 
  • The reason we do everything is for one reason only. Everything we do is to help us modulate our ____.
  • The 3 areas of our lives we must reimagine: the tasks, the triggers, and our temperament
  • Practical techniques for dealing with the most important triggers – the “internal triggers”. Follow this advice and the external triggers will lose most of their power over you.
  • Why many people fall into one of two categories: “blamers” and “shamers” – and the 3rd alternative mindset that makes us more effective. 
  • To reclaim our power, we can accept the fact that we cannot control how we feel. But we CAN choose how we respond… and RETRAIN our brain to respond more helpfully. 
  • HOT TIP: How to apply the “10-minute rule” and what it means to “Surf the urge”.
  • The truth about willpower as a ‘finite resource’ in light of the latest scientific evidence and how this connects to the idea of “reimagining our temperament”. 
  • Remember this: “If we don’t plan our day, somebody’s going to plan it for us.”
  • Nir’s unique perspective on using your calendar for time boxing & how it ties into an important lesson from his book: “You cannot call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from.” 
  • ACTION STEPS: Open your calendar and ask yourself: “How do I turn my values into time for next week?” Where values = The attributes of the person you want to become. Do this for the 3 domains of life he suggests.
  • Work domain TIP: Schedule time to THINK
  • The life-changing “Schedule Sync” review with stakeholders in your life. (Takes just 15 minutes!)
  • One powerful reframe for shame/guilt: “The time you plan to waste is not wasted time.” – So enjoy it without guilt!
  • What to do with coworkers and bosses to set expectations and how to design an Indistractable workplace.
  • The Power of Pacts – Make a precommitment with “focus friend” (accountability buddy) with Focus Mate

Useful Resources Mentioned:

Nir Eyal’s blog and offerings

Nir’s Free Workbook! Plus a video series for book buyers

Nir’s Schedule Maker Tool

Distraction Guide

Habits vs. Routines

Focusmate virtual coworking helps you get things done

Our Generous Sponsors:

This episode is made possible for you by Ergodriven, the makers of the Topo Mat, my #1 recommendation for anyone who stands at their workstation. The Topo is super comfortable, an awesome conversation starter, and it’s also scientifically proven to help you move more throughout the day which helps reduce discomfort and also increase your focus and productivity. Click here to learn more and get your Topo Mat.

Guest Bio:

Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. The M.I.T. Technology Review dubbed Nir, “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.”

Nir founded two tech companies since 2003 and has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford.

He is the author of two bestselling books, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Indistractable received critical acclaim, winning the 2019 Outstanding Works of Literature (OWL) Award as well as being named one of the Best Business and Leadership Books of the Year by Amazon and one of the Best Personal Development Books of the Year by Audible. The Globe and Mail called Indistractable, “timely reading, a smart, thorough look at getting traction in a world of distractions – the best business book of 2019.” In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, Time Magazine, and Psychology Today.

Nir is also an active investor in habit-forming technologies. Some of his past investments include Eventbrite (NYSE:EB), Anchor.fm (acquired by Spotify), Kahoot!, Refresh.io (acquired by LinkedIn), Product Hunt, Marco Polo, Presence Learning, 7 Cups, Pana, Byte Foods, FocusMate, and FindShadow.

Nir attended The Stanford Graduate School of Business and Emory University.

Show Credits:

This episode was edited by Curtis Fritsch, and the show notes were prepared and published by Glen McNiel. The original music in the opening and closing of the show is courtesy of Joe Trapanese (who is quite possibly one of the most talented composers on the face of the planet).


Note: I believe in 100% transparency, so please note that I receive a small commission if you purchase products from some of the links on this page (at no additional cost to you). Your support is what helps keep this program alive. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, and the creator of the Optimize Yourself program. Zack helps ambitious creative professionals and entrepreneurs overcome procrastination, depression, and creative burnout so they can get sh*t done and achieve the most meaningful goals in their lives...without sacrificing their sanity in the process. If you’re interested in learning how to better manage your time, your energy, and develop ninja-like focus, download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”