Strategies for becoming less distracted and improving focus | Nir Eyal (author of Indistractable and Hooked)

Lenny's Podcast: Product | Growth | Career

Dec 29 2023 • 1 hr 24 mins

Nir Eyal is the author of two best-selling books, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. He writes, consults, and teaches at the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. His books have sold over 1 million copies in more than 30 languages; he has taught at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and its Design School; and he has started and sold two startups since 2003. In our conversation, we discuss:

• Strategies for becoming less distractible and improving focus

• The difference between distraction and “traction”

• Reactive work vs. reflexive work and why you should book time in your calendar

• The 10-minute rule to overcome internal triggers and stay focused

• The problem with to-do lists, and what to do instead

• The value of creating a timebox schedule that aligns with personal values and priorities

• The use of pacts as a last line of defense against distraction

• How to develop a high-agency mindset

• Advice for leaders on helping employees improve focus in the workplace

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In this episode, we cover:

(00:00) Nir’s background

(04:20) How to become less distractible

(07:43) Understanding distraction and traction

(12:52) The four steps to becoming indistractable

(13:53) Mastering internal triggers

(18:49) Surfing the urge with a 10-minute timer

(23:20) Making time for traction with a timebox schedule

(25:02) How to turn your values into time

(28:36) Booking deep work time

(29:22) Making pacts to prevent distraction

(31:00) The problem with to-do lists

(34:31) The drawback of deadlines

(36:08) Distraction is an emotion regulation problem

(39:54) Hacking back external triggers

(45:03) Preventing distraction with pacts

(48:18) Specific tools to hold you accountable

(53:42) Managing emotions and discomfort

(56:37) Taking responsibility and being high-agency

(01:00:09) Becoming indistractable at work

(01:05:04) Schedule syncing to align with managers

(01:09:36) We are not as hooked on technology as people think

(01:16:00) Life purpose and personal responsibility

(01:17:38) Lightning round


Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life:

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products:

• Dorothy Parker’s quote:

• “Writing is bleeding” quote:

• The Pomodoro Technique Explained:

• Timeboxing: Why It Works and How to Get Started in 2024:

• Using your working time well - Issue 22:

• All-In podcast:

• Nir’s post about “the planning fallacy”:

• How the Ancient Greeks Beat Distraction:

• Jeremy Bentham:

• An overview of Sigmund Freud’s pleasure principle:

The Matrix “There is no spoon” scene:

• Outlet timer:

• Forest app:

• Focusmate:

• Have We Been Thinking About Willpower the Wrong Way for 30 Years?:

• We Need Social Antibodies to Fight the Disease of Distraction:

• The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows:

• Leading in Tough Times: HBS Faculty Member Amy C. Edmondson on Psychological Safety:

• If Tech Is So Distracting, How Do Slack Employees Stay So Focused?:

• Managing up:

• Duolingo:

• FitBot:

• Paulo Coelho’s quote:

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life:

The Experience Machine: How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality:

Empire of the Sun on Prime Video:

• Sesame grinder:

• Muji pens:

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