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How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

By Nir Eyal
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  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Indistractable by Nir Eyal

Indistractable (2019) addresses one of modern life’s most common problems – distraction, often blamed on contemporary technology. Nir Eyal, however, claims that while smartphones and apps might get in the way of more meaningful work, they are not the root cause of the issue. So what is? In these blinks, Eyal provides an actionable four-part framework that breaks down how distraction really works and what you can do to overcome it. 

Key idea 1 of 9

Distraction starts from within.

Why are we prone to distraction? One common answer is technology. If you’ve ever tried to give up your digital devices and gadgets, you’ll know that not using them doesn’t necessarily stop you from procrastinating. Whether it’s doodling on a piece of paper or counting the books on your shelf, brains are masters at inventing forms of distraction. 

To understand what is going on when we are distracted, we need to talk about triggers – stimuli that spur us into action or tell us to do something. These come in two forms. External triggers come from the outside world – think pop-up notifications on your laptop. Internal triggers, like feeling bored or stressed, come from within. 

Triggers can either lead to traction or distraction. The former pulls us forward, triggering us to pursue our goals and ambitions. Distraction does the opposite; it drags us away from those goals. 

That’s why technology alone can’t be blamed for distraction. In reality, distraction always has internal sources. Distraction is about escaping something uncomfortable such as a rumbling stomach or marital problems or deep dissatisfaction with your career. Tech is only a proximate cause. We blame it for our inability to get things done and fail to look at the underlying problem. 

The bad news is that we are evolutionarily hardwired for discomfort. Our ancestors kept learning, growing and, ultimately, surviving because they weren’t content with their lot. Today, thousands of years later, that heritage shows through in our tendency to see things in a negative light, ruminate on painful experiences and quickly grow bored of new situations. 

This makes us vulnerable to distraction. But here’s the good news: we don’t have to be slaves to our negative feelings – we can also harness them. Let’s find out how. 

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