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Summary: Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal

Discomfort breeds distraction.

  • Boredom creates the urge to check our phones.
  • Social anxiety makes us say “yes” to meeting requests we don’t want to attend.
  • Stress leads to overeating.

When you and I experience boredom, anxiety, or stress, our minds crave relief and seek distraction.

“The only way to handle distraction is by learning to handle discomfort.”- Nir Eyal

Book Summary: Indistractable - How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

Surf the Urge

In 2010 a group of researchers asked flight attendants who smoked to rate their craving for a cigarette during flights when they couldn’t smoke and between flights when they could. You might think the flight attendants who didn’t get their fix between flights would crave a cigarette more than the flight attendants who smoked. But you’d be wrong.

All the flight attendant’s cravings dropped after the smoke break, regardless if they smoked or not!

Your urges will naturally fall if you act on them or not.

The next time you have an urge to check your phone, eat junk food, or indulge in any other type of distraction, imagine you’re a surfer riding your internal wave of discomfort. Feel the wave rise, peak, and naturally subside, like a wave moving towards an ocean shore.

On a seven-day study, smokers who practiced ‘surfing their urge’ reduced their cigarette cravings by 37% (if ‘surfing the urge’ works for nicotine-addicted smokers, it’s sure to work for most distracting urges).

Most waves of discomfort last less than 10 minutes. Therefore, Nir Eyal recommends using the 10-minute rule: “If I find myself wanting to check my phone as a pacification device when I can’t think of anything better to do, I tell myself, ‘It’s fine to give in, but not right now. I have to wait just 10 minutes.’ This technique is effective at helping me deal with all sorts of potential distractions, like Googling something rather than writing, eating something unhealthy when I’m bored or watching another episode on Netflix when I’m ‘too tired to go to bed.'”

Create Pacts

Watching your urges rise and fall is hard. Therefore, pacts are the incentive you need to stick to your ‘urge surfing habit.’

“The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought.” – Nir Eyal

Effort Pacts

Add effort between you and the thing you don’t want to do, so that surfing an urge is easier than giving into an urge. Example: The ‘kSafe’ is a device that locks tempting treats like Oreo cookies and Reese’s Pieces in a container with a timer. Nir Eyal says, “You could smash the container with a hammer or run out and buy more cookies, but that extra effort makes those choices less likely.”

Price Pacts

Put a price on your distractions. For example, if you get distracted by junk food while on a diet, promise a friend you’ll burn a hundred-dollar bill taped to your bathroom mirror and send him/her a video of you burning the bill. Download a smartphone usage tracking app and send a screenshot of your weekly usage to a friend each week. If you pass a certain threshold, promise to burn a twenty-dollar bill and send him/her video evidence.

Identity Pacts

Adopt an identity that does not align with the action you’re trying to avoid. If you’re resisting meat, declare to your family and friends that you’re a vegetarian. If you want to stop answering emails before noon, write, “Sorry, I don’t answer emails before noon” in your email signature. Issuing “I don’t” statements is a great way to nullify distracting urges.

“A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research tested the words people use when faced with temptation. During the experiment, one group was instructed to use the words ‘I can’t’ when considering unhealthy food choices, while the other group used ‘I don’t.’ At the end of the study, participants were offered either a chocolate bar or granola bar to thank them for their time. Nearly twice as many people in the ‘I don’t’ group picked the healthier option on their way out the door.” – Nir Eyal


“Indistractable” is a self-help book that focuses on the importance of controlling one’s attention in order to live a more intentional and fulfilling life. The author, Nir Eyal, argues that in today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with distractions, such as social media, email, and other digital notifications, which can lead to a lack of focus and a sense of being controlled by external factors. The book provides practical strategies and techniques for developing the skills of attention and distraction management, allowing readers to take control of their time and energy and live more intentionally.

Key Takeaways:

The Attention Marketplace: Eyal introduces the concept of the “Attention Marketplace,” where companies and individuals compete for our attention, and our attention is the currency. Understanding this marketplace and how it operates is crucial to taking control of our attention and our lives.

  • The Four Attention Traps: Eyal identifies four main attention traps that distract us from our goals and desires:
    • The “Bright Shiny Object” trap: the tendency to be drawn to new and exciting things, rather than focusing on what’s important.
    • The “Disuption Trap”: the tendency to be distracted by external stimuli, such as notifications and alerts.
    • The “Overwhelm Trap”: the tendency to feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information and stimuli we receive.
    • The “Time Management Trap”: the tendency to focus on managing our time, rather than managing our attention.
  • The Four Keys to Indistractability: Eyal provides four keys to becoming indistractable:
    • Key #1: Prioritization: prioritizing what’s important and focusing on it above all else.
    • Key #2: Boundaries: setting boundaries around our time and energy to protect them from distractions.
    • Key #3: Awareness: becoming aware of our attention and the attention marketplace, and taking control of our attention.
    • Key #4: Practice: developing the skills of attention and distraction management through practice and repetition.
  • The Four Attention Practices: Eyal provides four attention practices that can help us develop the skills of attention and indistractability:
    • Practice #1: Focus on the present moment, rather than multitasking or jumping between tasks.
    • Practice #2: Use the “batching” technique, where we group similar tasks together and focus on them in batches, rather than switching between tasks constantly.
    • Practice #3: Use the “time-blocking” technique, where we schedule dedicated blocks of time for focused work, rather than constantly switching between tasks.
    • Practice #4: Practice mindfulness and meditation to increase our awareness of our attention and improve our ability to focus.


  • Practical Strategies: The book provides practical strategies and techniques for managing distractions and developing the skills of attention.
  • Well-Researched: The book is well-researched and draws on a wide range of sources, including psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy.
  • Accessible Writing Style: The writing style is clear and accessible, making the book easy to understand and apply.


  • Lack of Depth: Some readers may find that the book lacks depth in certain areas, such as the psychological and neurological underpinnings of attention and distraction.
  • Repetitive: Some readers may find that the book’s message and strategies are repetitive and not particularly groundbreaking.

Target Audience:

The target audience for this book is likely individuals who feel overwhelmed and distracted by the demands of modern life, and who are looking for practical strategies to regain control of their attention and live more intentionally. The book is also relevant for individuals who work in industries where attention is a valuable resource, such as technology and media.

Target Audience:

The target audience for this book is likely individuals who feel overwhelmed and distracted by the demands of modern life, and who are looking for practical strategies to regain control of their attention and live more intentionally. The book is also relevant for individuals who work in industries where attention is a valuable resource, such as technology and media.

In conclusion, Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life is a valuable resource for anyone seeking to regain control of their attention and live a more focused and intentional life. Eyal’s practical strategies, backed by psychological research, provide a roadmap for overcoming distractions and finding sustained productivity and fulfillment. Whether you struggle with technology distractions, internal triggers, or external interruptions, this book offers practical solutions and valuable insights to help you become indistractable and reclaim your attention.

If you are struggling with distraction, I highly recommend reading Indistractable. It is a practical and helpful book that can teach you how to take control of your attention and live a more intentional life.

Here are some additional thoughts on the book:

  • I like that Eyal takes a scientific approach to the problem of distraction. He doesn’t just tell you to “be more disciplined” or “just focus.” He explains the psychology of distraction and how it can be used to our advantage.
  • I also appreciate that Eyal is realistic about the challenges of overcoming distraction. He doesn’t promise that it will be easy, but he does provide a clear path for success.
  • Overall, I found Indistractable to be a helpful and informative book. It is definitely worth a read if you are struggling with distraction.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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