📚 Book Notes: Indistractable

Swapnil Agarwal
Feb 15 · 4 min read

Here are my notes from Indistractable:

  1. You can’t call something a “distraction” unless you know what it is distracting you from.
  2. We are compelled to reach for things we supposedly need but really don’t. We don’t need to check our email right this second or need to see the latest trending news, no matter how much we feel we must.
    Even when we think we’re seeking pleasure, we’re actually driven by the desire to free ourselves from the pain of wanting.
    Simply put, the drive to relieve discomfort is the root cause of all our behavior, while everything else is a proximate cause.
  3. Hedonic adaptation, the tendency to quickly return to a baseline level of satisfaction, no matter what happens to us in life, is Mother Nature’s bait and switch. All sorts of life events we think would make us happier actually don’t, or at least they don’t for long. For instance, people who have experienced extremely good fortune, such as winning the lottery, have reported that things they had previously enjoyed lost their luster, effectively returning them to their previous levels of satisfaction.
  4. The New York–bound flight attendants knew they could not smoke in the middle of a flight without being fired. Only later, when they approached their destination, did they report the greatest desire to smoke. It appeared the duration of the trip and the time since their last cigarette didn’t affect the level of the flight attendants’ cravings.
    What affected their desire was not how much time had passed after a smoke, but how much time was left before they could smoke again.
  5. Operating under constraints is the key to creativity and fun. Finding the optimal path for the mower or beating a record time are other ways to create an imaginary playground.
    Fun is looking for the variability in something other people don’t notice. It’s breaking through the boredom and monotony to discover its hidden beauty.
  6. The one thing we control is the time we put into a task.
    Whether I’m able to fall asleep at any given moment or whether a breakthrough idea for my next book comes to me when I sit down at my desk isn’t entirely up to me, but one thing is for certain: I won’t do what I want to do if I’m not in the right place at the right time, whether that’s in bed when I want to sleep or at my desk when I want to do good work. Not showing up guarantees failure.
  7. The trouble is that some people like to “think out loud” in group chat, explaining their arguments and ideas in one-line blurbs. This rarely works because it’s hard to follow along with someone’s thoughts in real time while others comment with emoji and other potential distractions. Instead of using group chat for long arguments and hurried decisions, it’s better to ask participants in the conversation to articulate their point in a document and share it after they’ve compiled their thoughts.
  8. Too often people schedule a meeting to avoid having to put in the effort of solving a problem for themselves.
  9. Unlike their offline lives, kids have a tremendous amount of freedom online; they have the autonomy to call the shots and experiment with creative strategies to solve problems. “In internet spaces, there tends to be myriad choices and opportunities, and a lot less adult control and surveillance,” says Ryan. “One can thus feel freedom, competence, and connection online, especially when the teenager’s contrasting environments are overly controlling, restrictive, or understimulating.”
    Ironically, when parents grow concerned with how much time their kids spend online, they often impose even more rules — a tactic that tends to backfire. Instead of more ways to limit your kids’ autonomy, Ryan advises seeking to understand the underlying needs and associated internal triggers driving them to digital distraction. “What we’ve found is that parents who address internet use or screen time with kids in an autonomy-supported way have kids who are more self-regulated with respect to it, so less likely to use screen time for excessive hours,” he says.
  10. Kids are so different, and their developmental rates are so variable. However, by design, standardized tests don’t account for those differences. If a child isn’t doing well in school and doesn’t get the necessary individualized support, they start to believe that achieving competence is impossible, so they stop trying. In the absence of competency in the classroom, kids turn to other outlets to experience the feeling of growth and development. Companies making games, apps, and other potential distractions are happy to fill that void by selling ready-made solutions for the “psychological nutrients” kids lack.
    Tech makers know how much consumers enjoy leveling up, gaining more followers, or getting likes — those accomplishments provide the fast feedback of achievement that feels good. According to Ryan, when children spend their time in school doing something they don’t enjoy, don’t value, and don’t see potential for improvement, “it should be no surprise to us that at nighttime [they] would rather turn to an activity where they can feel a lot of competence.

If you liked the above content, I’d definitely recommend reading the whole book. 💯

A little email digest to share what I’m reading, listening to, and find interesting. 💌

Swapnil Agarwal

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Software Developer at Day | Aspiring Writer at Night

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