• Elizabeth Wells

Indistractable by Nir Eyal - Review & Discussion Questions


How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Nir Eyal

288 pages Ⓒ 2019 BenBella Books

“Most people don’t want to acknowledge the uncomfortable truth that distraction is always an unhealthy escape from reality.”

Pick up where you left off:

Chapter 1 & 2

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Vocabulary and Key Terms



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Book Review

Author Background

Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. Nir was dubbed by The M.I.T. Technology Review as “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.” He is also the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products (affiliate link).

His website can be found here. The official tools and resources for this book can be found here. You can follow him on Twitter at @NirEyal

What Problem Does This Book Attempt To Address?

Technology has created products that are easy to engage with and psychologically rewarding. Because of this, it is all too easy to become distracted by them. Those distractions can start to run our lives. The goal of this book is to teach you to become “indistractable,” or someone who is able to take control over the distractions in their life. Divided into several parts, the book covers topics including what causes distraction, strategies for minimizing the power of distractions, how to deal with distractions at work, and how to teach children to become indistractable, too.


· Concept explanation: Very clear

· Related stories: Many

· Data references and studies: Many

· Charts and graphics: Some

· Practical application: Strong

This is a comprehensive guide for the best strategies for overcoming distractions. It addresses the psychological science behind distractions and puts emphasis on treating the root cause of distractions rather than the symptoms. The 4 steps for building a foundation to overcome any type of distraction are discussed in Part 1 through 4. The last three parts are situation specific and teach the reader how to create an indistractable workplace, indistractable kids, and indistractable relationships. The book is very thorough and will be able to help almost anyone no matter what kind of distraction they are facing.

The stories, theory and applications all intertwine nicely to create easy-to-understand concepts. Every once in a while, I would notice that a concept would be explained implicitly through a story and only explicitly be stated at the end of the chapter in the key points section. So, some extrapolation is necessary. What he is using as an example, he means to be a framework to be applied across different scenarios. The practical application is incredibly self-evident and will be easy for any reader to apply to their own life.

The only drawback I can see is that he chose to add specific app and software recommendations. This means that depending on the evolution of technology, reading the book may feel very outdated after some time. I am willing to bet this was a risk the author consciously took. The specific resources he references will equip the reader with tools they can implement to immediately improve their ability to be indistractable.

Writing Style & Presentation

· Tone: Conversational

· Organization: Good

· Flow: Good

The storytelling aspect of this book adds to the conversational tone it takes on. There is quite a bit of science and data presented but being intermingled with narrative, it avoids a textbook or manual type of feel. The author made a unique decision to provide many parts and many chapters rather than dividing each chapter into multiple subsections. This decision worked really well with the content and writing style. It adds a lot to the flow and overall presentation of the material. The transition between chapters is well done and the author does a good job of giving you the sense of what is to come as well as recapping main points with the “Key Takeaways” at the end of each chapter. There is a Chapter Takeaways section at the end of the book that has just one key point from each chapter, giving the reader a nice overview of what each chapter is about.

Bringing It all Together

One thing done really well: The thoroughness of the content is what really stands out. Almost anyone will be able to find it something helpful in it to them.

One thing that could be better: A possible option for addressing the use of specific software and apps suggestions would be to provide a link to users with these resources while leaving them out of the text itself to avoid the risk of quickly having an out-of-date book. The foundations in this book are timeless and to see it get shelved because it starts to feel outdated would be disappointing, but potentially unavoidable in a book with a lot of focus on technology.

One main thing I took away from this book was: We are not distracted because of technology. Technology is our distraction medium of choice when we are feeling discomfort.

Overall Recommendation

Overall recommendation: 5/5

Who I would recommend this book for: People who are frustrated that distractions are impacting their work performance and relationships.

Who I wouldn’t recommend this book for: People who don't get distracted? Do those people even exist? I can’t think of anyone, which is one reason this book is a 5/5 for me.


Discussion Questions

Chapter 1

What two things does living the life we want require?

Why can’t we do what we know we should do?

What is the first step to becoming indistractable?

What is the relationship between technology and distraction?

Chapter 2

What are the two sides of the distraction continuum?

What is an internal trigger?

What is an external trigger?

Who was one of the earliest people to mention the problem of distraction?

What does having a wealth of information lead to?

What is required for creativity and flourishing?

What was Tantalus’s true curse?

What does being indistractable mean?

What do triggers prompt?

Part 1

Chapter 3

What is pleasure seeking activity actually motivated by?

What is at the root of all behavior?

What is the uncomfortable truth of distraction?

Why is it important to understand pain?

Chapter 4

What is the only way to handle distraction?

Why are we so often discontented?

What are the 4 psychological factors that make satisfaction temporary?

What is negativity bias?

What is rumination?

What is hedonic adaptation?

What makes dissatisfaction beneficial?

What is the misguided idea about happiness?

Chapter 5

What cycle perpetuates unwanted behaviors and why?

How can we manage distractions with internal triggers?

Chapter 6

What method does not work when fighting distractions with internal triggers?

What are the 4 steps for overcoming an internal trigger for distraction?

What components should be noted when writing down triggers?

What is a liminal moment?

What rule can help effectively deal with distraction?

What is “surfing the urge”?

How do these techniques affect the brain?

Chapter 7

What is fun?

How can difficult work be made fun?

What is fun the aftermath of?

What makes finding novelty possible?

Chapter 8

What is temperament perception and how does it affect distraction?

What is ego depletion?

What have studies disproved about willpower?

What kinds of people do not show signs of ego depletion?

What controls the amount of willpower we have at any given time?

How do labels impact our outcomes?

What is the best way to talk to yourself after a setback?

What is the relationship between self-compassion and resilience?

How should we respond to the voice in our head?

What allows us to cope with uncomfortable internal triggers?

Part 2

Chapter 9

What do people often squander?

What are values?

What happens when we don’t make time for our values?

How do we feel when our time is not aligned with our values?

How can we use time to promote traction instead of distraction?

What happens when we don’t have limitations?

Describe the process of timeboxing.

What are the two reflection questions you should ask while creating a schedule?

Chapter 10

Why must self-care be at the core of the three life domains?

What shouldn’t we focus on when it comes to our time?

What guarantees failure?

Chapter 11

What is a residual beneficiary in a relationship?

Why must we schedule time for relationships?

What are the consequences of being socially disconnected?

What are the components of a satisfying friendship?

Chapter 12

What are the benefits of work?

What does clarification at work foster?

Why does pushback occur?

How can timeboxing be used to create clarification?

Part 3

Chapter 13

What is the Fogg Behavior Model?

How is motivation defined?

How is ability defined?

What is the result of being disrupted during a task?

What is the critical question to ask about external triggers?

What is the right way to think about what a trigger is?

Chapter 14

What trend has led to more distraction at work?

What method can prevent distractions at work?

What do distractions lead to?

Chapter 15

How much time do office workers spend on email a day?

What percentage of email time is unproductive?

Why is email a powerful draw for our attention?

What is the key to receiving fewer emails?

What is the importance of giving something time to breathe?

What is the most efficient way to process emails?

Why does tagging emails help reduce distraction in your mind?

What is the equation for reducing time spent on email?

Chapter 16

When does it makes sense to use a group chat?

What are the 4 rules of using a group chat?

Chapter 17

What is the wrong reason to schedule a meeting?

What is the primary objective of most meetings?

What two things must first be required of anyone calling a meeting?

When is the best time to do brainstorming?

How well do our brains absorb information when we aren’t paying close attention?

What happens if screens are present in meetings?

Chapter 18

What are the four steps for hacking back your cellphone?

What critical questions must be asked of external triggers?

What are three categories to organize your apps into?

What percentage of users don’t adjust their phone’s notification settings?

Chapter 19

What causes people to perform worse on cognitive tasks?

What is attention residue?

How can we limit desktop distractions?

Chapter 20

What strategy can minimize the distraction of online articles?

When doesn’t multitasking work?

What is multichannel multitasking?

What is cross-modal attention?

What is temptation bundling?

Chapter 21

What’s the best way to hack back news feeds?

What does eliminating news feeds allow for?

Part 4

Chapter 22

What does becoming indistractable involve?

What is a precommitment?

What is a Ulysses pact?

Why are precommitments powerful?

When should you introduce a precommitment?

Chapter 23

How do effort pacts minimize unwanted behaviors?

What are some examples of ways to create effort pacts?

Why was social pressure minimized with the use of technology at work?

What can we do to create social pressure to focus?

Chapter 24

What is a price pact?

Why do price pacts work?

What is loss aversion?

What are the 4 pitfalls of price pacts to be aware of?

Chapter 25

What can have a dramatic effect on our future actions?

How does self-image impact behaviors?

What is an identity pact?

How do identities empower us?

What are the benefits of secular rituals?

What reinforces our identity?

Part 5

Chapter 26

Why do employees seek distraction at work?

What two conditions causes higher rates of depression in workplaces?

What is effort-reward imbalance?

What isn’t the root cause of distraction at work?

What is the cycle of responsiveness?

What is the real culprit of discomfort and therefore distraction at work?

Chapter 27

What is the importance of having open dialogue?

What two things do companies consistently confuse?

What are the 5 key dynamics of a successful team?

Which of these 5 dynamics is most important?

What is psychological safety?

What occurs when there is a lack of psychological safety?

What are the three steps for creating psychological safety?

Chapter 28

How does workplace culture encourage or discourage distraction?

Part 6

Chapter 29

What must first be asked to allow children to develop a healthy relationship with technology?

How does the sugar-high example relate to many parents’ view of how technology impacts their children?

What often follows a technological leap?

What do studies show about the use of technology on the mental health of children?

Why is technology used as a scapegoat?

Why is it important to teach our children to become indistractable?

Chapter 30

What three things are needed for the human psyche to flourish?

When do kids turn to distractions?

In what way can children have autonomy over goals?

What impact do excessive school restrictions have on teenagers and children?

Why are kids drawn to their online lives?

What impact do standardized tests have on teaching practices and ultimately on children?

What do kids do when they feel competence at school is impossible?

What is spontaneous socializing?

What hinders children’s ability to socialize and play?

What is overuse of technology a symptom of?

Chapter 31

What should we focus the conversation on when we talk about technology and distraction?

How can we teach children to self-regulate?

What is the reason for creating a values-based schedule with your kids?

What happens when kids are left without a clear plan?

Why is important to get agreement from kids about them doing or not doing certain things?

How should we view failure?

Why is scheduling play time and family time necessary?

What abilities develop in children from unstructured play?

Chapter 32

Why should we help our kids with external triggers?

How can we help our kids with external triggers?

Who can act as an external trigger to children?

Chapter 33

What job must we teach our child to have?

Learning what skill will help kids become indistractable?

Why is discussing problems openly important?

Part 7

Chapter 34

How do other people act as external triggers?

What is a social contagion?

What are social antibodies?

What will make unhealthy behaviors socially unacceptable?

Chapter 35

How can technology negatively impact intimacy?

What is the cost of distraction on intimate relationships?

What do indistractable partners do?

Key Terms

  • Distraction

  • Effort Pact

  • Ego depletion

... download the workbook to see the full list!

Vocabulary List

Aphorism: (n.) A terse formulation of a truth or sentiment

Clandestine: (adj.) Done in a private place or way : done secretly

Disseminate: (v.) To cause something to go to many people

... download the workbook to see the full list!

Discussion Question Workbook

The workbook that accompanies this post includes:

  • Pre-reading questions

  • All discussion questions with space for writing answers

  • All vocabulary words and key terms with space to write definitions and add your own

  • Chapter reflection questions

  • Final reflection questions

  • A condensed list of all discussion questions, for reference

  • Reflection pages to write down your thoughts and ideas

You can download the eBook or paperback workbook here.

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