How To Become Indistractable With Nir Eyal
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This week’s guest is Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
What if you could become indistractable? Imagine all that could be accomplished if you followed through on your best intentions and focused on overcoming distractions. Nir reveals the hidden psychology driving us to distraction, and describes why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off all electronics.
Eyal breaks down a four-step, research-backed model exposing the secret of distraction, and how you can get the best out of technology without letting it get the best of you.
3 Lessons We Learned From This Episode
Resources Mentioned In This Episode
Connect with Nir Eyal
Connect with Kyle + The Story Engine
Kyle Gray: (00:37)
Hello and welcome to The Story Engine Podcast. My name is Kyle Gray, and on the show today we have Nir Eyal, author of Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Join us for our riveting conversation about what it means and what it takes to be indistractable. Two of the big words that I’ve been studying, hearing, and thinking about are the attention economy. What we pay attention to really drives how our lives unfold. Being distractable, or undistractable, can determine a lot of where that attention goes and makes sure it’s directed towards the things that are the most rewarding, the most valuable. We explore a lot of this with Nir in our conversation today. So without further ado, let’s turn it over to Nir Eyal.
Kyle Gray: (01:36)
Nir Eyal, welcome to The Story Engine Podcast. It’s such a pleasure having you.
Nir Eyal: (01:42)
Thank you so much, Kyle. Great to be here.
Kyle Gray: (01:44)
There’s a lot of things that I want to jump right into and talk about. I feel it’s really timely, and I’ve seen a lot of the work you’re doing, which is brilliant stuff.
Nir Eyal: (01:58)
Kyle Gray: (01:58)
When I first started researching you, the thing that immediately came to mind is a phrase that I often say when I’m speaking or writing. That phrase is, “You only get so much smart juice in a day that you’ve got to be very careful with how you use it.” This is a limited resource that I feel like very few people totally understand. You, I feel, are a pioneer and a big thinker in this area.
Nir Eyal: (02:29)
Thank you. Well, I’m looking forward to squeezing some of that brain juice. That sounds-
Kyle Gray: (02:32)
There we go.
Nir Eyal: (02:32)
Good and gross at the same. No, you called it smart juice, not brain juice.
Kyle Gray: (02:36)
Smart juice, yeah, yeah [crosstalk 00:02:38]-
Nir Eyal: (02:37)
Brain juice [crosstalk 00:02:38] sounds gross.
Kyle Gray: (02:39)
Yeah. Still close but just to make a distinction of language. Before we dive into that stuff, I’d love to introduce you properly. Can you tell me about a story in your life that has defined who you are and how you’re showing up in the world today?
Nir Eyal: (02:59)
Wow, there are many, many stories to share. I think probably the most pertinent story, when it comes to my latest book Indistractable, was what happened a few years ago with my daughter. This really prompted me to reconsider my relationship with distraction. We were spending time together one afternoon and we had a beautiful day planned. We had this activity book of things that daddies and daughters could do together. One of the activities was to ask each other the question, “If you could have any superpower, what superpower would you want?” I remember the question verbatim, but I can’t tell you what my daughter said. At that moment, I decided there was something on my phone that I just had to check real quick, and my daughter got the message that, that was more important than she was.
Nir Eyal: (03:53)
She left the room to play, and by the time I looked up from my phone, I realized I’d blown it. I’d missed this perfect daddy-daughter moment. I’ll never forget it because that’s the moment when I decided I needed to reassess my relationship with distraction. If I’m honest with you, it wasn’t just with my daughter that I was distracted, but also when I was with my friends or at work. I would sit down at my desk and say, “Okay, I’m going to work on that big project, and yet I’d procrastinate. I’d put stuff off. I would lie to myself daily. I would say I was definitely going to go work out or start eating right, and yet I wouldn’t. I would lie to myself day after day.
Nir Eyal: (04:32)
If you ask me today what superpower I would most want, I would tell you it’s the power to be indistractable. I really believe that becoming indistractable is the skill of the century. It’s about striving to do what you say you’re going to do, living with personal integrity, and being as honest with yourself as you are with other people. We all know that we shouldn’t be liars. That’s a horrible putdown for someone to call you a liar, and yet we lie to ourselves every day. I’d say I was going to do one thing and yet I wouldn’t get around to it. I’d have a to-do list full of all of this stuff I planned to do, and yet I would just recycle that to-do list from one day to the next. That stopped and doesn’t happen anymore.
Nir Eyal: (05:15)
Today, after five years of researching the psychology of distraction, I do what I say I’m going to do. I used to be obese, but now, at 42, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. My 18 year marriage with my wife is better than it has ever been. My daughter and I have a wonderful relationship, and most importantly, I think I’m able to teach her how to be indistractable. Let’s face it, if you think the world is distracting today with today’s technologies, just wait for the future. The world is only going to become a more distracting place, and so it’s imperative that we teach our children how to be able to concentrate, focus, and fight distraction. I can’t think of an area of my life that hasn’t improved since I’ve learned how to become indistractable.
Kyle Gray: (06:03)
It’s somewhat of a terrifying thought as a marketer and as somebody who on a daily basis is playing the game to get people’s attention. It’s significant to be aware of what’s going on in the world and how so many things are designed to steal our attention away, distract us, and keep us from doing what’s truly important.
Nir Eyal: (06:33)
Yes. That is true. I mean, there are lots and lots of distractions out there, but I argue… This is different from where I came to this originally. Originally, I thought that technology was the problem. I read these books that say, “go on a digital detox,” or “try digital minimalism,” or, “do a 30-day plan,and I tried that stuff and it didn’t work. I literally went on Alibaba and bought this $12 flip phone so that I wouldn’t have any apps. Then, I bought myself a word processor from eBay that had no internet connection. I thought, “Okay, now I’m definitely going to focus. I’m going to concentrate, sit down at my desk, and get to work because all of those terrible technologies have been removed from my life.”
Nir Eyal: (07:16)
Guess what I did? Did I focus? Did I concentrate? Did I stop procrastinating? No. I would say, “Oh, there’s that book I’ve been meaning to look into,” or, “Let me just organize my desk”, or, “Oh, the trash should be taken out. Let me just do that real quick.” I kept getting distracted, and so what we have to recognize is that distraction isn’t a new problem. Plato talked about this problem 2,500 years ago. He talked about how distracting the world was. People of every generation have been talking about how distracting things are and how they can’t seem to focus. Literally, every generation has this problem. We talked about it with the radio and the television, and the comic book, all the way back to the written word. Socrates talked about how the written word was an evil technology that would enfeeble men’s minds.
Nir Eyal: (08:02)
You see, the reason why everybody believes that technology is the root cause of distraction, is because the media is perpetuating stories in hopes of clicks. We love clicking on headlines that [crosstalk 00:08:19]-
Kyle Gray: (08:18)
Move it all around, turn it all around [crosstalk 00:08:20]-
Nir Eyal: (08:20)
Our brains are being hijacked. We love that stuff! We click on it day and night, and so they tell us [crosstalk 00:08:25]-
Kyle Gray: (08:24)
We’re getting distracted by the distracting [crosstalk 00:08:27]-
Nir Eyal: (08:26)
Exactly [crosstalk 00:08:27]
Kyle Gray: (08:28)
It’s so ironic, but you’re totally right. When you were talking about this a little bit earlier, I immediately pictured a scene out of The Matrix where I have a VR headset on and I’m on a couch and tubes are coming out of me. That’s just [crosstalk 00:08:46]-
Nir Eyal: (08:46)
Maybe in the future [crosstalk 00:08:47] that happens, but here’s where most people go when they think about distraction. With today’s technology, we don’t have anything plugged into our brains directly. Where do people get distracted? They’re on Facebook when they don’t mean to be, and they see an ad or a post.. You’re watching a YouTube video when you should be working and you went down the wrong rabbit hole. That’s minor stuff. That turns out to be not the real source of the problem.
Nir Eyal: (09:12)
Newsflash. Most distraction doesn’t start from outside of us. This is the biggest revelation of my book and what changed my life. It’s not just about the external triggers. Of course, there’s lots of things we can do about the external triggers. That’s easy kindergarten stuff.. I’ll teach you how to do that very quickly. What’s harder and what’s more important is not the distractions that start from outside of us, but the distraction that begins from within.
Kyle Gray: (09:40)
Let me make sure I’m on the right page with you. I’m imagining a situation. There’s times where there’s this muscle memory on my keyboard and browser. I go to the control key and open up a new tab, and then just FA. It’s like that’s all I need to do to get distracted. It’s lightning fast and you’re opening up a new tab in Facebook to get lost in that. The battle you’re saying from there has been lost in a certain way already. There’s something that happens internally in my mind [crosstalk 00:10:17]-
Nir Eyal: (10:16)
Kyle Gray: (10:17)
Or in my gut before. Tell me what’s going on then.
Nir Eyal: (10:20)
Yeah. Back to Plato. 2,500 years ago, Plato noticed this phenomenon of Akrasia in the Greek. It means a tendency to do things against our better interests. He wondered, “Why do we have this? Why is it that despite knowing what to do, we don’t do what we say we’re going to do? Or, why is it when we say we’re going to do one thing, we do something else?” The answer to Plato’s 2,500-year-old question is that all distraction originates from within, and that it’s not about the external triggers, but the internal ones.
Nir Eyal: (10:53)
Internal triggers are these uncomfortable psychological states that we seek to escape from. If we’re going to answer Plato’s 2,500-year-old question of why do we do things against our better interests, we have to go a layer deeper not only to understand why we get distracted, but why do we do anything and everything. What is the nature of human motivation? Why do we do what we do? Most people will tell you that motivation is about carrots and sticks. This is called Freud’s Pleasure Principle. Turns out, neurologically, that we do not do things for the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. That is not true. It is not about carrots and sticks. That, in fact, neurologically the reason we do everything is not about pursuing pleasure and avoiding pain, it’s about discomfort.
Nir Eyal: (11:38)
Everything you do you do for one reason, and that is the desire to escape discomfort, even the pursuit of pleasurable sensations. Wanting to feel good is itself psychologically destabilizing. Examples of this are wanting, craving, desiring, and lusting. There’s a reason we say love hurts because neurologically that is exactly what’s going on. If all human behavior is prompted by desire to escape discomfort, what that means is that time management is pain management. If you think about why we get distracted, it’s always about a desire to escape an uncomfortable sensation. When you’re lonely, check Facebook. When you’re uncertain, look at Google. When you’re bored, check sports scores, go on Pinterest, or go on Reddit. Oh, here’s the thing that everyone does today. Let’s check the news because I need to be an informed citizen. That’s BS.
Nir Eyal: (12:37)
Why do we check the news? Thinking about somebody else’s problems helps us not think about our own. Obsessing about politics nationally and what Trump said and this and that, even though we don’t do diddly-squat about the stuff that we can actually effect. We don’t talk about that stuff. That’s not about being a concerned citizen. We talk about these national issues as entertainment, to relieve us.
Nir Eyal: (13:00)
… from boredom. That’s why we get distracted. It’s all about this unconscious escape from uncomfortable sensations. That’s why we do these things. And if we don’t address this problem, we will always blame the technology dujour. We will always blame something outside of us. When, in reality, if we are going to master distraction, if we are going to be the kind of people we know we can be, the first step has to be to master the internal triggers.
Kyle Gray: (13:32)
Whenever the word discomfort appears, it reminds me of a story from college. I had this strange class called Eastern Theater, and we were doing Japanese style plays, which are very different than a western style play. Our professor would begin each day having us meditate by kneeling on the concrete floor. The first day he did it, he said, “You’re either going to learn to find comfort in this, or you’re going to learn to accept the discomfort.” And the words, “accept the discomfort,” have been a mantra for me for a long time. The path of an entrepreneur, there’s probably a mindset shift I can do around this, but it’s paved in moments of discomfort. Of sitting there and being like, “I’m not sure. Is this going to work? I’m going to take a big risk.” Or facing, as you, as I very much admire you, you seem to be able to face a blank page and come out victorious very well.
Nir Eyal: (14:36)
That pain has never subsided by the way. Being a writer, who’s written two books and countless articles, it’s always hard. But here’s the thing, I think, unfortunately, the self-help, personal development, and industrial complex these days sells us this lie that if we’re not happy all the time, that there’s something wrong with us. And nothing can be further from the truth. I mean, think about it logically from an evolutionary basis. If there was ever a group of Homo sapiens who magically discovered how to be satisfied, evolutionarily our ancestors probably killed and ate them.
Kyle Gray: (15:24)
Nir Eyal: (15:25)
Because that would not be a good trait and wouldn’t help the species survive.
Kyle Gray: (15:30)
That would just be it. They’d be hanging on.
Nir Eyal: (15:30)
You want a species to always want more, so it is our perpetual disquietude that keeps us hunting, searching, inventing, striving, overturning despots, reaching for the stars, and creating life’s changing medicine. This is all because of the fact that we are uncomfortable and we want to fix stuff. And so, the idea here is not to squash that sensation. That is a spark that we can harness. Instead, what we want to do is to let it lead us towards traction, as opposed to succumbing to distractions.
Nir Eyal: (16:04)
Let me explain a really important point. If you ask most people, “What is the opposite of distraction,” they’ll tell you it’s focus. The opposite of distraction is not focus. The opposite of distraction is traction. If you look at the origin of both words, they both come from the Latin trahere, which means to pull. They also both end in the same six letter word, A-C-T-I-O-N. So traction is any action that pulls you towards what you want to do. The opposite of traction is distraction, any action that pulls you away from what you plan to do.
Nir Eyal: (16:46)
This is really important for two reasons. First, anything can be a distraction. How many times have you sat at your desk and said, “Okay, now I’m going to write,” or “I’m going to stop procrastinating. But first, let me just check email or Google one quick thing real quickly.” And it feels productive, it feels like a work related task, but that’s not work. That’s pseudo work. Because what you have allowed to happen is that you’ve let distraction trick you into prioritizing the urgent at the expense of the important.
Nir Eyal: (17:25)
That is a much more pernicious form of distraction then checking Facebook or playing Candy Crush at your desk. You know you’re slacking off if you’re playing Candy Crush when you’re supposed to be writing. You know you’re not doing what you’re supposed to.
Kyle Gray: (17:37)
Not pushing. Refresh on Google Analytics when you’ve released a new post or podcast.
Nir Eyal: (17:40)
Exactly because you say, “That’s productive. I’m making sure my business is running.” Just like people say, “I need to be a concerned citizen. Let me watch the news constantly. Let me see about every latest tweet that Donald Trump has tweeted.” It’s a waste of time. It’s a complete distraction that we let fool us into thinking is not a waste of time. So anything can be a distraction, just as anything can be traction.
Kyle Gray: (18:05)
I think there’s actually a number that we can come up with for this. On average, if we’re imagining the average entrepreneur out there, we’ll say they’re probably working a normal eight hour day. Of that, how many hours a day do you think the average person, who’s reading your book or your research, is spending in that pseudo work?
Nir Eyal: (18:39)
Countless hours. There’s actually been studies that show that the less time people are required to work, the more productive they are. That tasks fill to the time we allot, so the more time you give to something, the more time people waste. In many ways, restricting the amount of time you have to do a task actually makes you way more productive. You will have more output because then you have that element of fear that, “Oh, I have to finish this in this given amount of time. I don’t have time to just go down that rabbit hole, or just do that quick Google search, or just answer those emails when I really need to work on that specific project.”
Kyle Gray: (19:20)
I’ll reflect and I’ll do this in an unflattering way to myself. I would think, maybe, around 30% of your day could very easily succumb to this. That might actually be a good day.
Nir Eyal: (19:37)
Yeah. That’s true. There’s a lot of evidence that shows this. By the way, the number one source of distraction in the workplace, is not the pings and dings on your phone. Number one, according to 80% of survey respondents, is other people. The open floor plan office is perhaps the dumbest thing management has ever done. Something that is supposed to make us more productive, actually makes us incredibly distracted. People come over, tap you on the shoulder, and say, “Did you hear that bit of office gossip,” or “Can I talk to you for a quick sec?” It’s never a quick sec, and it’s distracting.
Nir Eyal: (20:21)
What we have to do is to hack back all of these various distractions, not just the tech distractions. Of course, my book will tell you how to hack back your phone and computer. Again, that’s the easy kindergarten stuff. The more important distractions are the ones that start from within, and that come to us from a culture rather than just from one source. If your boss calls you at 9 PM on a Friday night, is it the phone’s fault? Is it the technology of the telephone that is at fault? Or is it the fact that you work in an organization where it’s okay for someone to call you when you really should be spending time with your family or your friends?
Kyle Gray: (20:59)
If you’re an entrepreneur, and 30 to 50% of your day is lost to this pseudo work, you can look at what you made last year and compare it to a year where you’re indistractable, which would be 50% -100% more. You could double your income in this case or you could think about your open floor plan office, where half the employees’ salary is being thrown away because of distraction. Another point I thought about is that maybe there’s a connection between traction and focus. Maybe traction leads to focus.
Nir Eyal: (21:57)
Yeah. Focus is what you do with your traction. If what you want to do with your traction is to go on a walk, work on a story, meditate, pray, or go on Facebook, great. There’s nothing wrong with going on Facebook, but do it on your schedule and according to your values, not some app maker’s. So anything can be traction. I’m not one of these tech critics that says, “This stuff is melting your brain. It’s super awful. Don’t use it.” That’s ridiculous. Seriously, these writers who say, “Go on a 30-day digital detox.” If you don’t check email for 30 days, you’re going to get fired. That doesn’t work for most people. And why should you? These technologies are great. It’s about how we use them.
Nir Eyal: (22:41)
And I’ve discovered, over the past five years, this research baked methodology so that we can keep these technologies, and get the best of them, without letting them get the best of us.
Kyle Gray: (22:52)
What’s one thing that we can do to work our indistractible muscles?
Nir Eyal: (23:04)
There are four big steps. Let me preview these real quick because this is super important. There are four major steps and they have to be done in order. The first step is to master the internal triggers, or, rather, fix the source of the discomfort. Iif you have a source of discomfort that is constantly rearing its ugly head, and that is causing you to escape a difficult home life or an oppressive workplace culture, and you’re reaching for booze, the news, or Facebook, the problem is not going to go away. You have to learn how to fix the problems you can fix. And for the problems you can’t fix, you have to learn tactics to cope with that discomfort in a healthier manner. That’s step number one, master the internal triggers.
Nir Eyal: (23:50)
Step number two is about making time for traction. This is about planning out your day before someone plans it out for you. I show you how to make this very easy and painless to make sure that you decide how to spend your time. One thing I want you to remember is that you have no right to call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from. If you’ve got lots of blank open white space in your day, don’t be surprised if you fill it with junk. That’s the second step. Turn your values into time by making time for traction.
Nir Eyal: (24:32)
The third step is to hack back the external triggers. This is where we do go into all the different sources of distractions that start from outside of us, such as the pings and dings and the open floor plan office. I tell you how to hack back each and every one of these. And then, finally, we can prevent distraction with pacts. We can use these age old techniques that I talk about in the book to help us make sure we don’t get distracted. Those are the four basic techniques.
Nir Eyal: (24:57)
Let me leave you with one tactic that I think anyone can implement today to start becoming indistractible. This comes from acceptance and commitment therapy. I want you to know that I read a lot of books, and most of them I can’t finish because they’re about personal anecdotes. This worked for me, and it’ll work for everyone. A lot of books in the business genre are about this. Look at me, I’m a genius. Just do what I did. What’s different about my book compared to others is that mine is research-backed and contains 20 pages of good peer reviewed studies and citations. This is not new science, but old science applied to a new field. And so, this is one technique that comes out of acceptance and commitment therapy. It’s decades old. Very few people know it and use it, but it’s wonderful.
Nir Eyal: (25:39)
This idea is called the 10-minute rule. And the 10-minute rule says that you can give into any distraction, whether it’s eating that piece of chocolate cake you know you shouldn’t have, smoking that cigarette, or checking email when you want to work on that big project, but only for ten minutes.
Nir Eyal: (26:00)
Now, what do you do for those ten minutes? You have two choices. You can either get back to the task at hand (your act of traction), do what it is you said you were going to do, or (while you’re waiting out the clock) reflect on that sensation with curiosity rather than contempt. Okay? Curiosity rather than contempt. What does that mean? You see, many people when it comes to distraction fall into two categories. We have what’s called the blamers and the shamers.
Nir Eyal: (26:30)
The blamers say, “Oh, you see I got distracted because it’s Facebook, my boss, or my iPhone.” Or I hear all the time, “It’s the world we’re living in these days, right?” As if there was ever the good old days. I got news for you. There’s never been a good old days. Every generation thinks this is the worst time in history, and, of course, things keep getting better and better. So it doesn’t make any sense to blame all this stuff outside of you because you can’t change it. You’re not going to make the iPhone or email go away. So, it’s ineffective.
Kyle Gray: (26:58)
Let’s blame the millennials once too.
Nir Eyal: (26:58)
Yeah, blame them, right.
Kyle Gray: (26:59)
Stop taking selfies because you’re distracting me with your nonsense.
Nir Eyal: (27:03)
Exactly. You’re destroying civilization with your selfies. So it doesn’t make sense to blame that stuff. It’s not very productive. The other extreme are the shamers. The shamers don’t blame things outside of themselves. They say, “Oh, I’m lazy” or “Here I go again getting distracted. This is who I am.” They shame themselves. Of course, ironically the more they shame themselves, the worse they feel about themselves. This makes them even more likely to seek escape through, you guessed it, distraction.
Kyle Gray: (27:35)
Nir Eyal: (27:35)
So that doesn’t work either. Exactly.
Kyle Gray: (27:38)
This is uncomfortable.
Nir Eyal: (27:38)
This is what I used to do when I was clinically obese. I wasn’t obese because I was hungry all the time. I ate because I was eating my feelings. I would eat when I was lonely, bored, or when I felt bad about how much I had eaten. This vicious cycle occurs with distraction as well. We turn on the news way too much because we are looking for escape constantly. So it doesn’t make sense to blame or shame ourselves. What we want to do is to not be blamers or shamers, but to be claimers. Claimers claim responsibility, but not for their feelings. This is a really important distinction. You cannot control how you feel. You can’t control how you feel any more that you can control the urge to cough or to sneeze.
Nir Eyal: (28:21)
You can’t control those urges. What you can control is how you respond, hence, the word responsibility to those sensations. So back to this 10-minute rule. Your job is to take responsibility for that sensation by deciding how you will react. Will you impulsively reach for something to take your mind off of the discomfort or will you respond by being reflective, choosing to explore it with curiosity? What’s going on inside of me? Where is this feeling coming from? What can I do about it? If you sit with that sensation and explore it with curiosity rather than contempt, you will either get back to the task at hand or nine times out of ten you’ll be back at that task that you wanted to do originally.
Kyle Gray: (29:16)
So there’s so many amazing things happening here that I want to point out to the audience from a storytelling perspective. I think a lot of what you’re doing represents some of the best ideas coming out of the self-help industrial complex right now. I’m a storyteller, so I look in terms of story. You’re giving people the ability to change the story by composing a new story and I love that you have all of this language that you very carefully defined.
Kyle Gray: (30:17)
Being able to create these words and add more depth enables people to see different opportunities in their stories, to see things very differently. It’s also very powerful for teaching because these are subtle things that happen mostly behind the veil of our everyday lives. So just being able to call them out and have language around them, is such a powerful teaching point. Not only are you impacting people on a personal storytelling level, but this is also amazing for public speaking, presentation, and teaching materials. I just wanted to break that down for the listeners because there’s so much good stuff happening. It’s no doubt from spending so much time researching this and sharing these ideas that the best things are bubbling up.
Nir Eyal: (31:22)
Kyle Gray: (31:22)
It’s really cool.
Nir Eyal: (31:23)
I appreciate it. No, I’m a big word nerd and there’s a lot there, right? A lot of the words we use, we don’t realize how they change over time. For example, addiction. An addiction is a pathology. It’s a persistent compulsive dependency on a behavior or substance that harms the user. Yet one of the ways that I think we become these blamers or shamers is that everything today is an addiction. Have you noticed this? Well, why do we call things addictive? Why do we say, “Oh, these technologies are so addictive.” Why? Because when we say that, now when there’s an addiction, there’s a pusher or a dealer. There’s somebody doing it to us.
Nir Eyal: (31:58)
But when we call it what it really is for the vast majority of people, unless you actually do have the pathology of addiction, it’s not an addiction. It’s a distraction that you have to take responsibility for and that you have to do something about it.
Kyle Gray: (32:19)
At the same time I would say that addiction is like this looming undefeatable thing and distraction is kind of like a much smaller one.
Nir Eyal: (32:29)
Right, and that’s exactly what I want people to know is that we can absolutely overcome this. Unless you are a child or someone who is pathologically addicted, the vast majority of us can do this. So this book is meant to be empowering. I want people to know that they are way more powerful than these distractions if they know how to take them on.
Kyle Gray: (32:49)
Absolutely. Well, this has been so much fun exploring this. We are about out of time. I’ve got a closing thought and then I’d like for you to share one. So I was saying earlier, you only get so much smart juice, not brain juice, in a day, and being focused and doing important things is a lot like sleep. If you were trying to go to sleep and then somebody came in and said, “Hey Nir, quick question.” And you’re like, “Oh, okay.” You answer their question and then they close the door and they come back 45 minutes later with another question. Then, it wouldn’t be a very good night’s sleep.
Kyle Gray: (33:31)
I think distraction and doing important work is just like getting good REM sleep. You can’t just fall back into good work. So it’s such a powerful, momentum building thing. It’s something I’ve actually been feeling the need for. There was a time where I was waking up every morning and working on articles. It was like the core of my business and my job, and now there’s so many different things that can distract from that even though it’s very valuable. So I would just say to everybody out there, treat your focus and traction like a resource and remember that every distraction doesn’t just take 30 seconds. It takes a long time to get back into the flow, just like it takes a while to get back to sleep.
Nir Eyal: (34:22)
Absolutely. It takes us about 20 minutes to get back on track after we are interrupted. And to your point of how we should treat our attention as a resource and as a commodity, there’s a reason we call it paying attention. Just like we pay with money, we pay attention. It’s something valuable that we give away.
Kyle Gray: (34:38)
Mm-hmm (affirmative), and I guess on that note, stop giving into dumb news sources that are just trying to make you feel anxious and get your clicks.
Nir Eyal: (34:47)
That’s right. Amen to that.
Kyle Gray: (34:49)
Yeah. Anyway, close us out, Nir.
Nir Eyal: (34:51)
Yeah, so I guess the one final thing I’d want to make sure everyone hears is this mantra. I think if you were going to summarize my work over the past five years, it’s that the antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. Let me say that again. The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. Everything we’ve been talking about, such as procrastination and distraction, is all just a problem of impulse control. Procrastination is an emotion regulation problem, and so the antidote to that impulsiveness is very simple. Our species has an evolutionary gift that no other animal on the face of the earth has in that we can see the future. We can predict what is going to happen with greater fidelity than any other animal on the face of the earth. So the antidote to impulsiveness is very simple. It’s planning ahead. If you wait until the chocolate cake is on the fork, you’re going to eat it.
Nir Eyal: (35:44)
If the cigarette is lit, you’re going to smoke it. If your cell phone is on your nightstand at night, it’s going to be the first thing you reach for in the morning when you wake up. So if you wait until that second where you need self control and willpower, I got news for you. It’s not going to work. What you have to do is not rely upon self control and willpower. What you need to rely upon is a system. That’s how we become indistractable.
Kyle Gray: (36:11)
Amazing. Excellent promise, ideas, and conversation. Nir, it has been such a pleasure having you on the show and again, close us out with where we can go to learn more about you. Where can we get your book and where can we connect with you?
Nir Eyal: (36:27)
Yeah, absolutely. So my website is nirandfar.com. If you go to nirandfar.com, there’s an Indistractable workbook. It’s 80 pages. We couldn’t fit it into the final edition of the book, but it’s there for you. It’s free and will help you start on your path to becoming indistractable. And if you do end up getting a book, make sure you visit indistractable.com. There’s a complimentary video course as well as a bunch of other resources, tools that you can all download. All of that’s free as well at indistractable.com.
Kyle Gray: (37:06)
Thank you so much for joining us, Nir.
Nir Eyal: (37:08)
Thanks for listening to the Story Engine Podcast. Be sure to check out the show notes and resources mentioned on this episode and every other episode at thestoryengine.co.
If you’re looking to learn more about how to use storytelling to grow your business, then check out my new book, Selling With Story: How to Use Storytelling to Become an Authority, Boost Sales, and Win the Hearts and Minds of Your Audience. This book will equip you with actionable strategies and templates to help you share your unique value and build trust in presentations, sales, and conversations, both online and offline. Learn more at sellingwithstory.co.
Thanks for listening, and I’ll see you next time.