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Being Indistractable is the first step to being Anti-Fragile

Updated: Aug 30, 2021

Rather than letting technology empower us with more tools than our ancestors had at their disposal, our interruption-based world fills us with guilt on what we may be missing out on if we don’t heed the latest chirp from our smartphones.

Tell me if this sounds familiar -

You listen to an exceptionally insightful podcast, or have a conversation with someone you respect and the person makes some excellent points you did not consider before. During that high-value interaction, there is a strongly-recommended book mentioned which expands further upon a topic which you personally wanted to go further into, and you see that it’s available on Amazon so you click to buy it.

You're self-aware enough to understand that you have more books/PDFs on Kindle than you could read in three lifetimes, so you order a physical copy of this book so its tactile presence will force you to deal with it, rather than one more item in your queue of books to review.

The book arrives in a few days, and it sits atop the dozens of other unread books you ordered with the same good intentions.

In an era of information overload, weapons-grade distraction triggers (designed by behavioral psychology experts) are wielded by powerful corporations in their attempts to hijack our brains, it’s imperative to harden our own mental defenses.

Being “smart” confers no immunity from distraction, in fact in many ways it makes you even more susceptible to bait specifically designed to pique your unprotected interest, since having a higher IQ means more mental bandwidth, all waiting to be suckered into some rabbit hole unless one is intentionally vigilant about protecting our attention from unwanted interlopers.

Nir Eyal’s book Indistractable offers an excellent layout of this phenomenon - the psychology of human behaviors and the deeper underlying/subconscious WHY which drives are waking behaviors.

Confession: it took a 1729.com challenge (and a looming deadline) for me to finish reading my copy of Indistractible which I ordered three months ago. So congratulations, Balaji, you’ve nudged me into putting this book on the top of the queue of 20+ hardback books I’ve ordered but haven’t finished reading.

One of the most useful insights I have incorporated into my life is to switch from my to-do list (90% of which I don’t complete on any given day, and just roll over onto the next) and incorporate Nir’s concept of a Timebox - blocking out specific blocks of time in pursuit of specific meta-goals (family, vocation/professional, hobbies) and be vigilant about not letting urgent (“Look kids, I know this was supposed to be our time to learn how to ride a bicycle, but I have to respond to this, it may be work-related!”) interruptions invade time dedicated to something else.

In an increasingly digital era, the have/have-not divide will be split between those who vigilantly segregate and defend blocks of their time, versus those who leave their time unprotected, and allow powerful forces/competitors to hijack slices of your day for you to spend on their terms, listening to their sales pitches/intrusive ads.

Those who inherit outsized financial wealth but are easily-distractible will end up allowing their fathers’ fortunes whittled away by less-wealthy indistractible individuals who defend their own time while strategically interrupting their financial betters.

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