Book Review: Indistractable

Oct 23, 2021 02:27 · 872 words · 5 minute read Productivity

Part of the onboarding for Parse.ly/Automattic involves ordering yourself some swag. After scrolling past all the cool shirt designs that were out of stock in my size, this book came across my screen. Indistractable you say? Who doesn’t want the power of stronger focus? I’ve got a decent handle on my focus, what’re a few more tricks in the bag?

I had no idea how completely inundated my life was with distractions. This book has fundamentally shifted how I deal with them.

Internal Triggers

The book starts by talking about internal triggers. The two parts that spoke to me the most from this were:

  • Being a technological Luddite won’t solve all your distractions
  • Many distractions come from avoiding discomfort

I’ve always held a personal belief that smartphones were the physical embodiment of distraction itself. Pining for the days were dumbphones were the norm. Nir explains that there have always been sources of distraction, at one point reading was thought of as a distraction. This was a bit of a reality check. Now I’m not saying that smartphones and books are on the same level but if you tell yourself that getting rid of all your technology will save you, you might be hamstringing yourself.

The second point made me think deeply about my motivations more critically.

However, you can’t call something a “distraction,” unless you know what it is distracting you from.

When I can feel my attention drifting towards alternative sources I ask myself “What am I trying to achieve? What am I trying to avoid?”. This had a surprising effect on my ability to stay on track now that I can reiterate my goals to myself and understand the discomforts I’m trying to avoid, like boredom or being lazy.

External Triggers

The third part of the book is about external triggers. You guessed it, dealing with my iPhone. But it’s not just the iPhone, it’s also about fully embracing asynchronous communication and understanding how to better timebox certain activities.

I love reading Hackernews and Lobste.rs tech articles. I’m also subscribed to a litany of weekly newsletters. Usually, it’s me telling myself that I should be keeping up with all of these because it’s important to my career and I don’t want to fall behind. Now that’s true, but I wasn’t also asking myself “how much do you want to invest in not falling behind”. You don’t want reading paralysis. This is where Pocket shines. I’d been introduced to Pocket before but didn’t understand how to use it as Nir describes. Now I copy Nir and never read articles in my browser, they get sent to Pocket and I timebox myself to go through my backlog. This has also had the effect of helping me prioritize which articles are worth reading. Instead of ingesting 1 by 1, collect 10 and then decide which ones are useful.

And then the tips for dealing with your phone. IOS has recently released their new Focus Mode which paired up perfectly with my reading. The biggest game-changer was making my phone so that I could open it up without seeing notifications. The iPhone has both the lock screen, which is now essentially limited to calls, text messages, and weather alerts, and the notification center to display notifications. Your lock screen being bare means if you have to go into your phone to say look up an address you won’t be distracted by your friend’s Instagram post.

Apps can simply send notifications to the notification center and you can view that when you need to. You can still check your phone during the day, but do it when the time works best for you. Notifications should be serving you, not the other way around. Most communication via apps doesn’t need to be answered in real-time, this is especially important for me given I work remotely. Parse.ly/Automattic heavily embraces asynchronous communication and part of that means retraining myself on how I communicate and how I react to communication.

I also reorganized my home screens into 3 separate areas. The first is a set of widgets for weather, reminders, and calendar. The second screen is apps I want to use my phone more for, like reading or pictures, but the rule is no apps that show red dot alerts. The third screen is where all the distractions go, a focus sinkhole. I did do one thing differently on my third screen. I group the apps into folders based on priority. This helps me resist checking, not sure why.

Conclusion

I highly recommend reading this book. It’s an extremely easy read and the lessons are invaluable. It’s only been one week of my indistractable journey but there’s already been significant progress. I’ve used the IOS screen tracking for a long time now to better understand my phone habits and I’ve gone from about 2.5-3 hours a day average to 1. I also find it much easier to get things done now that I’m not absorbing so much information all the time, which lets me focus on goals I want to achieve. I also don’t feel so mentally drained at the end of the work day. Hopefully this book can do as much for you as it did for me.