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What I learnt from Indistractable, a Book on Managing Attention

What I learnt from Indistractable, a Book on Managing Attention

Zissy Lewin

Nir Eyal’s latest book Indistractable is designed to command your attention. From its bright yellow cover, to its header “How to control Your Attention and Choose Your Life”, it literally grabs your eye and has you wanting to know what lies between its bright yellow covers.

 

It could be because our attention spans are at an all-time low, and distractions at an all-time high, leaving us feeling like we’re busy getting nothing done. It’s largely due to our growing tech addiction and smart phones that have become extensions of our fingertips. Indistractable seemingly promises a solution to our tech addiction, which is how I found I found myself holding this brightly coloured book hoping for some guidance.

 

The book is divided into 7 parts and is designed to be a teaching book. You’re advised to download supplementary material via his website as a companion to the book and the book itself includes a tear out, schedule template and distraction tracker. Nir Eyal delves into both internal and external triggers of distraction and how to identify and manage them. Through personal anecdotes and research, he shares tips and advice on creating indistractable workplaces, children and relationships. Being Indistractable according to Eyal means “striving to do what you say you will do. Indistractable people are as honest with themselves as they are with others”.

 

I found the first third of the book most useful to me, evident from the little stickers I attach to pages I want to come back to. It’s from that third I learnt about “Time-Boxing”, which to me was the biggest takeaway from the book, and the key to becoming Indistractable. It’s a simple concept, easy to implement and doesn’t involve hacking yourself to perfection.

 

Time boxing is a technique, psychologists call “setting an intention implementation”. Simply put, time boxing is “deciding what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it”. The end goal, Eyal explains is to “eliminate all the white space in your calendar, so that you’re left with a template for how you intend to spend your time each day”.

 

It’s important to note that it’s not just about so-called productive and work tasks. Time boxing works just as well for scheduling down-time, time spent on social media or watching TV. Success isn’t measured by what you do in that time, but rather if you did what you intended to do. If you set aside an hour for a work task and spend that hour on that task, that’s success. However, if you set aside an hour to be with your family and end up replying to work emails (a so-called productive task), you’ve missed the point of time-boxing.

 

As someone who loves to make a to-do list but struggles to tick off every item; the idea of scheduling was both intimidating as it was intriguing. Schedules can be intimidating in their rigidity, but their structure helps you perform better. A blank schedule with a miles long to-do list gives us too many options and becomes overwhelming. Carving out time for traction – action that draws you closer to what you want, removes endless choices and possible distractions.

 

You don’t solve distractions by doing more in a minute, you solve them by giving yourself the time to do what you want to do. When you know what you want to do in a given time, you’re also more aware of distractions. As Eyal puts it “you can’t call something a distraction without knowing what it is distracting you from”. He also adds that you can’t always control what you’re going to get out of the time you spend but you can control how much time you put into a task. In its essence, time boxing is controlling what you are able to do and accepting what you cannot.

 

Time-boxing is how I read this book – by setting aside time each morning to read a few chapters. I’ve long used time boxing without realising for workouts, which are scheduled into my every day. Not every day is a good session, but I workout during the time it’s scheduled for. I’ve started incorporating Time boxing into my workday by converting to-do lists into time blocks. I’m not perfect at it, but on days I stick to the time-blocks I get more done than the days I’m faced with a to-do list and must decide what I’m in the mood to tackle.

 

How do you make sure you get distracted less and do what you set out to do?

 

 

Indistractable by Nir Eyal was given to us by Jonathan Ball Publishers and is available here.  Jonathan Ball Publishers nor the author approved or reviewed this piece prior to publication. Opinions are our own.

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