Reading this book served as a reminder to me to create more blocks of focused timed with a clear purpose. Even if the book hadn’t been good, it would have been worth it just for this. As it turned out, the book was good, and I give it 7 out of 10.
Here are my three takeaways:
- You can’t blame your mobile phone for distraction
Nir Eyal makes a somewhat contrarian point that mobile phones aren’t to blame for distraction. His view is that “you can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it’s distracting you from”. He feels we put too much emphasis on reducing our use of mobile phones instead of addressing what they are distracting us from (bad relationships, boring jobs etc.).
2. Skepticism that technology is making distraction worse
Eyal remarks that technology has always been blamed for distraction:
- “In 1474, Venetian monk and scribe Filippo di Strata issued a polemic” stating “the printing press is a whore”.
- In 1936, kids were said to “have developed the habit of dividing attention between the humdrum preparation of their school assignments and the compelling excitement of the [radio] loud-speaker”.
3. Constraints are needed for creativity
When we think of creativity, I think we often think of freedom. Eyal makes the point that we can do better with creativity when there are some constraints. Having some constraints (but not others) provides guidance, inspiration and focus for creativity.
A specific example of this is not just setting a time block for a task, but to think through – in advance – how you will approach the task. When I don’t do this, I get stuck figuring out wht to do during the time block.
How to cut back meetings
Eyal feels you should not be allowed to schedule a meeting if i) you don’t set an agenda, ii) you don’t propose a solution/approach in advance. I agree.