Nir Iyal on Indistractable: The opposite of traction is distraction [Interview]

Hooked author, Nir Iyal’s next book Indistractable has been released and we had an opportunity to read the pre-launch copy (review soon).

Indistractable How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

In his new book, Nir Eyal describes how to manage the discomfort that drives distraction, and explains why solving the problem is not as simple as swearing off your devices.

With a four-step, research-backed model, indistractable lays bare the secret to getting the best out of technology, without letting it get the best of you.

Empowering and optimistic, this is the book that will allow you to control your time and attention – and live the life you really want.

But then, we had quite a few questions for Nir Iyal, especially when Hooked was all about creating sticky products and Indistractable is all about letting go of those sticky products.

So here is an interview with Nir Iyal on his take on distraction vs. traction and why people need to be a little more thoughtful about what they are consuming.


From hooked to Indistractable: This is a complete role reversal. What prompted you to write this?

Nir Iyal: It’s not really a role reversal. I think I have a very unique position that I know the inside of how these products are built and who better to tell you the achilles heel of how to fight distraction than someone who understands how these products are built to hook us. We can put distractions in their place while still getting the best of technology without letting it get the best of us. And so there’s really no dichotomy here. We should use habit forming technologies for good and help people build healthy habits while still being careful of not letting these technologies become distractions.


Majority of people are struggling to have the financial freedom and sometimes, books like these make one feel that it is only written for those who have achieved financial freedom and are in a position to ‘choose’ their distractions! What are your thoughts?
Nir Iyal: No, I don’t think so at all. So, we need to first understand the difference between distraction and traction. Traction is anything that you plan to do with intent. Something that you that moves you towards what you want in life.

The opposite of traction is distraction. So, it’s anything that pulls you away from what you want to do in life. And this doesn’t require any money or particular financial resources if you find yourself distracted at work or at home, or with your kids and your personal life. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It has nothing to do with money whatsoever and I can’t see how it does.

To be able to learn the skill of the century – to be able to control your attention and choose your life. In many ways, those who are less financially secure need this more because this is how we get ahead. This is how we enjoy our lives and when we’re with our family as well as do our best work at work by being truly focused on whatever it is we’re working on. So, if what you want to do with your time is to do your best work, I’m going to help you do that. If what you want to do with your time is to be with your family in your off time, on weekends and evenings then I’m going to help you do that as well. Whatever is consistent with your values.


I am guessing that you meditate a lot. Could you share your perspective / process here?
Nir Iyal: No, I don’t meditate at all. And I tried it for about a year, didn’t really do much for me and I’m not saying that people shouldn’t meditate. If it works for you, great, keep doing it. But, I don’t talk about meditation in the book at all other than to say I won’t be talking about it. Because, I think it is a little bit overdone.

There are so many books about it already. Again, not that it doesn’t work. It can be extremely effective for people who actually do it but what I find is a lot of people don’t have the ability to fight distraction long enough to actually meditate. So, if what you want to do is to meditate, I’m going to help you with this book and make sure you do that.


To the creators out there – would you still recommend reading ‘Hooked’- and create sticky products ? 🙂
Nir Iyal: Absolutely. We can create all kinds of habit forming products to help people improve their lives. Product like Kahoot which has used the hook model to build habit forming products for children in school.

Products like Fitbot which helps people build healthy exercise habits in the gym. That’s a great habit. All kinds of habits that we can use to help people exercise more, eat right, be more productive at work. We can still use these techniques for good and anyone who is in business looking to improve their customer engagement and retention should still read Hooked.


Your perspective on price pacts / identity pacts still require one to have a habit (i.e not press the snooze button) – where does one start with, if one isn’t so motivated (which is the case with 99% of the world)? How have you achieved this?

So, you’ll remember that the price pact and identity pacts come last in the book. So, this is what we do after we’ve learnt to master the internal triggers and after we’ve learnt to make time for traction – after we’ve learnt to hack back external triggers. That’s where we start with the first 3 steps. Never ever jump into the fourth step or it will backfire!


Go ahead and grab your copy of Indistractable, if you haven’t.

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