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

Brought to you by Vanta—Automate compliance. Simplify security | Jira Product Discovery—Atlassian’s new prioritization and roadmapping tool built for product teams | Teal—Your personal career growth platform

Find the full transcript at: https://www.lennyspodcast.com/strategies-for-becoming-less-distracted-and-improving-focus-nir-eyal-author-of-indistractable-and/

Where to find Nir Eyal:

• X: https://twitter.com/nireyal

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nireyal/

• Website: https://www.nirandfar.com/

Where to find Lenny:

• Newsletter: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com

• X: https://twitter.com/lennysan

• LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennyrachitsky/

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

Referenced:

Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life: https://www.amazon.com/Indistractable-Control-Your-Attention-Choose/dp/194883653X

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products: https://www.amazon.com/Hooked-How-Build-Habit-Forming-Products/dp/1591847788

• Dorothy Parker’s quote: https://twitter.com/nireyal/status/1472280598723108866

• “Writing is bleeding” quote: https://www.hemingwaysociety.org/quotation-controversy-writing-and-bleeding

• The Pomodoro Technique Explained: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryancollinseurope/2020/03/03/the-pomodoro-technique/

• Timeboxing: Why It Works and How to Get Started in 2024: https://www.nirandfar.com/timeboxing/

• Using your working time well - Issue 22: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/time-management-issue-22

• All-In podcast: https://www.allinpodcast.co/

• Nir’s post about “the planning fallacy”: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/nireyal_why-do-tasks-always-seem-to-take-longer-than-activity-7137440438939959297-XIUB/

• How the Ancient Greeks Beat Distraction: https://www.nirandfar.com/tantalizing-distractions/

• Jeremy Bentham: https://iep.utm.edu/jeremy-bentham

• An overview of Sigmund Freud’s pleasure principle: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/pleasure-principle

The Matrix “There is no spoon” scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAXtO5dMqEI

• Outlet timer: https://www.amazon.com/Century-Indoor-24-Hour-Mechanical-Outlet/dp/B01LPSGBZS

• Forest app: https://www.forestapp.cc/

• Focusmate: https://www.focusmate.com/

• Have We Been Thinking About Willpower the Wrong Way for 30 Years?: https://hbr.org/2016/11/have-we-been-thinking-about-willpower-the-wrong-way-for-30-years

• We Need Social Antibodies to Fight the Disease of Distraction: https://nireyal.medium.com/we-need-social-antibodies-to-fight-the-disease-of-distraction-51f9187be016

• The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows: https://news.utexas.edu/2017/06/26/the-mere-presence-of-your-smartphone-reduces-brain-power

• Leading in Tough Times: HBS Faculty Member Amy C. Edmondson on Psychological Safety: https://www.hbs.edu/recruiting/insights-and-advice/blog/post/leading-in-tough-times

• If Tech Is So Distracting, How Do Slack Employees Stay So Focused?: https://www.nirandfar.com/slack-use/

• Managing up: https://www.lennysnewsletter.com/p/managing-up

• Duolingo: https://www.duolingo.com/

• FitBot: https://www.fitbotapp.com/

• Paulo Coelho’s quote: https://twitter.com/paulocoelho/status/416264984188825600

Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life: https://www.amazon.com/Alchemy-Curious-Science-Creating-Business/dp/006238841X

The Experience Machine: How Our Minds Predict and Shape Reality: https://www.amazon.com/Experience-Machine-Minds-Predict-Reality/dp/1524748455

Empire of the Sun on Prime Video: https://www.amazon.com/Empire-Sun-Christian-Bale/dp/B001N3JY82

• Sesame grinder: https://www.miyacompany.com/450-014-450-014

• Muji pens: https://www.muji.us/collections/pen-pencils

Production and marketing by https://penname.co/. For inquiries about sponsoring the podcast, email podcast@lennyrachitsky.com.

Lenny may be an investor in the companies discussed.



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