Animated Book Review
I recently read the book Indistractable by Nir Eyal. Due to recent events, I felt like some of the takeaways from the book can be even more important now than they would have been before. Right now, many people all around the world have to stay at home for their own and other people’s safety. This also means that many people have to work from home which has its own challenges.
This is the time to learn how to guard ourselves against unwanted distractions so that we can focus on finding solutions instead of being crippled by the breaking news all around us. I hope this blog post will give you some ideas that you can implement to be able to do some more focused work or just to reduce the concerning inputs that you receive on a daily basis now.
I want to start off with something called “temptation bundling” or as Nir calls it “multichannel multitasking”. Multitasking kills productivity. There are many studies proving that it doesn’t work. However, what scientists call cross-modal attention is a different kind of multitasking, one that we are more than able to do. Cross-modal attention means that our brains can place certain mental processes on autopilot so that we can focus on other things.
Even though we can’t receive multiple information from one visual or auditory source at a time, we are more than able to process multichannel inputs. What is more, some studies show that we can do some things even better when we engage multiple sensory inputs at once. Walking while taking on the phone or inviting someone for a walking meeting checks off two positive things at once. Listening to a podcast or an audiobook on the way to work or in the gym does the same trick.
Using this information to our advantage we can motivate ourselves to do things we should do by bundling it with an activity that we enjoy doing.
But how can we use this right now? The POCKET APP is an amazing app that saves articles that you want to read for later and it’s text to speech function enables you to listen to the news while doing something else like doing the dishes or preparing meals at home. Try to save all news articles related to the virus with the pocket app and listen to them sometime at the afternoon when you already had some productive work done but still have enough time until you go to sleep to not have a restless night.
The Interesting Study BOX
“Katherine Milkman at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has shown how leveraging a behavior we want to do can help us do things we know we should do. In her study, Milkman gave participants an iPod loaded with an audiobook they could only listen to at the gym. […] Participants who had access to the audiobooks only at the gym made 51 percent more gym visits than those in the control group.”
– Nir Eyal
10 Minute Rule aka Surfing the Urge
My second takeaway from the book was a simple technique that we can use when we feel like giving in to a craving. He calls it the 10 minute rule but it’s also known as “Surfing the Urge”. The concept is very easy: When the urge hits you to do something that you consider as distractive behavior, wait 10 minutes to delay the urge instead of giving in right away. Many times 10 minutes are enough for the urge to completely go away. But if you still have the need to do something then you have the permission to do it. You can apply this rule to reduce your social media use, quit snacking or emotional eating or any other behavior that doesn’t serve you. Just imagine that you’re a surfer riding your internal wave of discomfort. Feel the wave rise, peak, and naturally subside as you wait 10 minutes. Just set a 10 minute timer on your phone, smart watch or kitchen timer
and do something else while you wait.
Many people argue that scheduling is restrictive, but if you don’t plan your days, someone else will. Therefore begin with your values. Why do you want to do certain things? Why is it important to you to work out weekly or have a date night with your spouse? Only you can answer these questions for yourself. But once you recognize the values behind what you want out of life, they can become your guiding star for decision-making.
Nir argues that if we don’t make time for our values and chronically neglect them, we will become something we are not proud of. He, therefore, suggests to focus on the 3 life domains when planning your schedule: (1) you, (2) relationships, (3) work.
“You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from.”
We perform better under constraints. Limitations give us structure. And the most effective tool for that is timeboxing. Timeboxing is used to set an implementation intention. Deciding when and what you’re going to do gives you the accountability to do it.
It is a template of how you’re going to spend your day each day. Because as Nir puts it:
“Success is measured by whether you did what you planned to do.”
Hence, timeboxing is the only way to know if you’re distracted. Set aside 15 minutes every week to improve your schedule for the week ahead. When doing that reflect on what worked and what didn’t work and refine your schedule accordingly. Think of each week as a mini experiment. Naturally, when our lives change our schedules can too.
You can find a free online schedule maker at Nir Eyal’s website. Just click on the button below.
Manage Work Interruptions
The next takeaway is very important if your working from home with a family. My husband Angelo and I are both self-employed now and we spend A LOT of time in our studio apartment. There is no other room to hide to not distract each other so I know it’s difficult. Add a couple of kids to the mix and I can’t imagine what that must be like.
But, I was really happy that Nir also gave advice for these type of situations.
There was an interesting study done with hospital nurses to reduce medication errors in hospitals. According to Nir 400,000 patients are harmed every year in hospitals because they are given the wrong medication. To avoid distraction, nurses had to wear brightly colored vests when they were dispensing medication to patients. The result was so effective that a following multihospital study found an 88 percent drop in medication errors over a 3-year period.
The same approach can be applied when you work from home and want to increase your productivity. Nir’s wife, for example, wears a “concentration crown”, a headpiece she ordered on Amazon to signal to her family that she can’t be interrupted unless there’s an emergency.
For Angelo, he wears his noise-canceling headphones. So every time I catch myself wanting to interrupt him, I send him a quick WhatsApp message instead. This way, I don’t forget what I wanted to share with him, yet he can read my message on his own time.
Creating a pact with yourself or with an accountability partner (depending on your tendency can be a great strategy to stick to your commitment.
One way to do that is by adding effort between you and the thing you don’t want to do.
For example, my husband and I set up our router to automatically turn itself off at 10 PM. If we’re working on an important project we can easily turn it back on but if we would just browse online the effort to turn it back on is not worth it and we rather get ready for bed instead.
For many people putting a price on your distractions can be really effective. (I’m not one of those fortunate people though.) For example, The way this works is to promise yourself or a friend that you’ll
burn e.g. a hundred‐dollar bill taped to a visible place at your home and send him/her a video of you burning the bill. Or the friend can do it as well. Beware that this strategy works best when there is a short-term deadline involved like not eating junk food for a month, etc.
Identity is a cognitive shortcut we use to streamline decision making. Therefore, adopting an identity that does not align with the action you’re trying to avoid can be very effective. For example, if your goal is to not respond to any emails before noon, write, “Sorry, I don’t
answer emails before noon” in your email signature. Using “I don’t” statements is much more effective in resisting an urge than saying “I can’t”.
The Interesting Study BOX
“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
Alright, this was my summary of the book Indistractable by Nir Eyal. In the case of this book, I listened to the audiobook version on Audible. Nir Eyal did a great job with the narration adding his own fun personality to the content. Listening to this book gave me some new ideas on how to become indistractable especially as a freelancer. Every person is different and has different life experiences therefore your takeaways might be very different from mine. If you read the book and are willing to share I’d love to hear what you missed from my summary or what ideas resonated with you the most. Let me know down in the comments section below.
And wherever you are, please take care and look after yourself and your loved ones during these times of uncertainty all over the world.