Part 1: The Beginner Level
Once I read the blog post on 1729.com
, I knew that I needed to contribute to this topic in some manner. Distractibility has been a real struggle for me since I was a child. However I did not realize that it was impacting my life in such a profound way until I was around 19 years old. From this age on, it was a constant fight and struggle to improve my “indistractability”. Basically, I tried the whole spectrum of techniques to live an indistractable or “conscious” life.
This journey of finding the perfect way to live a “conscious” life currently brought me to being in the biggest slump of my life. Luckily, I believe to know where I went wrong. With this review I would like to share my experiences. Moreover, I hope to motivate you to embrace this great journey of trying to become indistractable. Let’s start.
Indistractable, the book by “Nir Eyal”
, is a great introductory book into the “conscious” or “controlled” life as I call it. A “conscious” life for me, is when you spend the time as you planned to spend it. No useless waste of your precious time. Rather maximizing, what “we” distracted Instagram-people call, “quality-time”.
I think most of us dream of living this “perfect” life. Waking up energized in the morning, working out, eating healthy, having a productive day at work while leaving enough time for your friends and family. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most of our population. The majority is not in control of their time. The majority is distracted and is left with one outcome: unconsciously reacting to occurring circumstances (trying to manage all things at once and failing in the end). This constant state of “Distraction” creates the feeling of our lives passing by. For me, this is one of the most horrible feelings on earth. Unfortunately, many do not even have the undistracted “me”-time, to step back and understand that they are tangled up in the “work-eat-shit-sleep” paradigm.
To escape this “work-eat-shit-sleep” maze, the book “Indistractable” lays a great foundation. It basically shows a 4 step process:
- Managing internal triggers
- Managing external triggers
- Making time for traction
- Keeping on track with pacts
Even though, I think I have read a lot of resources on the similar topics, I still learned a few great things, which I tried implementing into my own life. Two techniques especially stood out for me.
- Handling discomfort in the form of an internal trigger with the 10-minute rule is great to keep your urges under control. It is simple, yet very effective.
- Probably the most important insight of “Indistractable” was that Cal Newport was wrong with his statement: “your will, in other words, is not a manifestation of your character that you can deploy without limits; it’s instead like a muscle that tires.”. Luckily, Nir Eyal shows in Indistractable, that our will is not like a muscle, it is a big misconception. As Nir Eyal points out, our willpower is actually infinite.
I would strongly advise you to read the whole book and implement other core concepts like “timeboxing”, “pacts” and many more to create a solid “Beginner” foundation for an “Indistractable” life.
Part 2: The Intermediate Level
Now let’s move on to the second part of this review, the intermediate level of “Indistractability”. This part is aimed at the technological progressives and other digital nomads I know from 1729.com. I believe these people have already implemented the “beginner”-level by definition, as you need indistractable thinking to comprehend most of the concepts.
Over the last years, I have studied this topic on myself in order to create a system that I could use for the rest of my life. It is similar to some kind of algorithm that helps me to maximize for all parts of life. Believe me, such a system is extremely difficult to create, I have lived a lot of different lifestyles and put myself into many experiments to find the best solution. The difficulty lies in finding a unique approach for the different areas of life. Work, Health and Fitness often require more of a push. Fun areas like friends, dating and adventures require more of moderation. Thus, a balanced system is necessary. I have been to the deepest ends of “indistractability” and back. This will be a very detailed review of my journey.
This part is structured into 4 topics:
- Outlining the Grand System
- The Demons
- The Holy Grail
2.1 Outlining the Grand System
I will start by outlining my world view, the grand system. The core of the system is built around the 12 Areas of Balance. Vishen Laknani describes these 12 Areas of Balance in his book
and states that we need to work on these areas to feel truly happy as a person. I totally agree with him, as life does not only consist of work and money, but rather a beautiful combination of these 12 Areas.
Here is the exact process I work through, implementing the 12 Areas of Balance at its core. I start with long term and yearly goals. Then, I continue outlining a weekly and daily system, to ensure that I stay on track. Here are the most important points, which you should follow, while going through this process:
- Re-asses and define yearly goals (12 Areas)
- Currently I do not have a big long term goal, but here is a nice article on floating without a goal or motivation by Hunter S. Thompson
- Ask yourself “What do I not want to do anymore” first
- Do not focus on more then 2-3 things at once
- Layout your tasks and timebox your week
- Use the Getting Things Done Method to cope with organizational overhead
- Books with stoic philosophy help to prepare yourself mentally for the coming week
- A daily routine is potentially the most important part. Almost all successful people have one.
- My routine started in the morning with Meditation, Journaling, Food Preparation by Michael Greger’s “Daily Dozens”, Bodyweight Workout and Gymnastics, while using every free minute to listen to audiobooks. Later in the day I had Deep Work Sessions where I started with the most difficult things first, keep concentration up with healthy snacks and have fun at lunch with friends in-between. After work, my evening routine finished with gratitude excersices
In this table I covered 5 out of 12 Areas. My Health & Fitness (Morning workout & healthy food), my Friendships (at lunch), My Spiritual Life (Meditation & Gratitude Exercises), My Career & My Skills (Deep Work Chunks 1,2,3,4). The other 7 “more fun” Areas I always left for the weekend.
This looks impressive huh? Is he fucking Elon Musk?
Well, obviously not, but I guess my ego thought that I could come close to an Elon like working schedule. “Big surprise”, I could push through that routine for a week or two, before I started finding excuses and getting unorganized. It was just too much. The big problem with all these books and techniques is that they are like a religion. You have to follow one “school of thought”. Every book and concept is so thought through that it becomes an organizational and emotional nightmare to follow more than one. Individually the concepts are amazing, but they are focused on very specific areas. Either you become an “Deep Worker”, who is indistractable or a “Healthy Foodie”, who cooks great receipts, or a “Fitness Machine”, who spends at least 2-3 hours a day in the gym. The moral of my story is: My grand system was GRAND, but SH**, because it did not work. It was useless, even while listening to motivation by superhumans like David Goggins or Cameron Hanes who prove that nothing is impossible.
Even though my ambitions were a liiiiittleee to high, my journey continued over the years. I was really determined to find the “Holy Grail” of Balance, but first I would have to face countless demons.
2.2: The Demons
After some weeks and tweaks I could improve my grand system. My focus was good and I was actually accomplishing a lot of things simultaneously. Accomplishing things in one Area, unfortunately meant sacrificing other Areas, but that did not really bother me at that time. Even though I had temporary success for about 1.5 years, I started to relapse from the “focused life” like an addict. I would have streaks of “break outs” in different forms, where my demons would go through with me.
I categorize my demons in 2 areas. The first part is about real addictions like my phone, girls, parties and porn. The second part is a little trickier, these are not real demons, but rather time and money wasters which can influence your lifestyle heavily like food and transportation. Even though I have tons of small tweaks for these Demons, I will only write about the most important changes. If you have specific questions, just write me an email.
My phone is probably the biggest time killer. Lex Fridman always says he does not want to put away his phone, as he wants to conquer his addiction. I tried but failed unfortunately. So, I need to restrain myself from using it. Thus, I got myself two sim-cards with the same number and two phones – like Kevin Gates
hehe. An iPhone and an old Nokia. I try turning off the iPhone as much as possible, especially when I have work to do, I just leave it somewhere far away – if there is something super important people can always call me on my Nokia. Instagram and Youtube are probably my biggest enemies, Indistractable also has some good solutions for that problem.
After my phone, girls are potentially a close number two. Your love relationship is important, you will probably spend the rest of your life with this person, so you need to put in a lot of effort and time to find the right partner. Even though I do not have Instagram currently, I believe it is the easiest way to meet girls you like. As the “King of Instagram”, Dan Bilzerian said, I started Instagram to instantly pass the “credibility barrier” of girls. Also, Georg Hotz said, dating is just a numbers game, if the girl is free and at least a little bit interested, she will give you a chance. Thus, to save time, just google some great openers and just start messaging a bunch of girls. As soon as you hit it off with one girl, just ask her out for dinner or drinks. Also, there is a big trade off between being single and being in a relationship. A trade off between living together or having to sleep at your partner's place. A partner and a relationship requires strong adjustments or even sacrifices in your daily routine. Here is my advice: find someone who is wired like you. This way you can adjust your routines and lifestyles. Otherwise, you will most likely get off the path.
Parties. This is an extra point and I think it depends on your friends and surroundings. Beware of people who are constantly going out. Be moderate. Going out once a week is fine, but do not fall for the party trap. Unfortunately I did, a lot of times. It is a real struggle to get your rhythm back after nights of partying. Also, going out 3-4 times a week decreases your marginal utility function of fun drastically.
Next up, Porn. XXX is a big enemy of mine. Shoutout to Goldjacketluke who has some great words to say about this topic
. Mike Tyson and Terry Crews bring it to the point: “There is never enough Porn to satisfy you”
. I do not really have an easy fix for that, but for me the 10-min rule from Indistractable works well sometimes. Additionally, I understood that the urge often comes from pure boredom and afterwards you have no energy or motivation for anything.
Addictions are a pain in the ass. However, once you know that you are addicted, you can try to overcome them. With the next topic it is not that easy, because it is more subtle. It is not obvious that Food and Transport are having such a big influence on our lifestyle. Moreover, you can get rid of addictions, but you cannot do so with Food and Transport. In this case, you need to incorporate them into your daily plan and make big trade-offs. The trade-off hereby is always either time or money. Let me explain in the next part.
2.2.2: Waste Time or Money?
Let’s start with discussing Food. Eating healthy is possible, a framework I can recommend is the Daily Dozen by Michael Greger. However, if you do not spend a lot of time on food preparation, a perfect meal plan is almost impossible to sustain. It is impossible to sustain, because most restaurants are either not healthy, or very expensive. In order to save time and also attempt a healthy meal plan, I go for a combination between meal preparation & restaurants. I prepare breakfast myself to save money and intake important nutrients you cannot always find at restaurants. For lunch and dinner I will mostly go to a restaurant to save some time.
Now we discussed Food, let’s move on to Transport. See what I did there? hehe... Well, the best case scenario is obvious. Your office, gym, etc. are near your home. For me the city makes the biggest difference. If I live in Moscow, I sometimes plan at least 1 hour for getting from one place to the other. If I live in Vienna, 30minutes is usually enough. It is sometimes smarter to pick the more expensive office or gym if you would actually save 7 hours per week on your week. Also the type of transport you use is important, a car can be faster, but is much more expensive than public transport. So again, it is an unfortunate trade off between time and money. You should carefully plan out your means of transport depending on the city you are currently living in.
A small addition to Food and Transport, are Chores. These are things like buying groceries, laundry and cleaning. Basically, if you do not want to spend money on a cleaner, you have to reserve at least half a day per week on these things. What helps is to have a very minimal apartment and not owning a lot of things. Be more minimalist. For groceries it is smart to buy the same stuff every week. Make a list, so you save time in the supermarket. In many countries, you can order groceries to your doorstep, which also saves a lot of time.
All in all, I think these “demons”: Phone, Girls, Alcohol, Porn, Food, Transport and Chores are the ones that are the biggest time/money/routine killers in my life. Especially when you travel, these things can really mess up your life and routine.
But now you might ask, if there are so many demons, how is it even possible to live the indistractable life? That is a very good question. I think, in theory, there are basically two ways to live a conscious life that allows you to achieve something only few can. Both lifestyles are similar, yet different. The end goal is the same, but the mindset during the path are almost opposites.
2.2.3: Intrinsic Motivation vs. Spartan Discipline
I believe to have good insight into both lifestyles, as I really lived them. Let me tell you, I spent all my school life grinding the spartan lifestyle. I was going to school and playing tennis professionally, even though I did not really enjoy it. Consequently, after I finished school and quit tennis, I dreamed about a lifestyle of intrinsic motivation. A feeling where you just wake up in the morning and feel completely energized and ready to conquer the world. You do not really need discipline, as everything falls naturally. At least for me, that has started one of the “worst” times in my life. I put the worst in quotation marks, because I learned something very important from that time: “intrinsic motivation” is for special times only.
Let me explain.
I fully embraced the lifestyle. I did not have a 9-5 job and fortunately had enough money to sustain an “I do what I want lifestyle”. But instead of motivation hitting and starting to work on all my projects straight after I woke-up, I procrastinated, I procrastinated HEAVY. Some days it was so bad, that when I fell asleep, I had done nothing except of the virtuoso “ALT-Tab” switch between Youtube & Pornhub & Social Media. Convincing myself, that motivation will hit any minute and I will go on the most insane productivity sprint until 03:00 AM like Bill Gates in his best days. Surely, there were also “ok” days where I got some work done, but more out of guilt. Days of true motivation were very rare.
Week by week, you get more used to the lavish life. I started quitting more difficult work sessions as soon as I hit an obstacle and instantly switched to something more fun, so I could “find” my motivation again. The positives were that I started spending more time with friends doing cool activities. This intrinsic motivation lifestyle felt a little like a summer vacation. Unfortunately, not a lot of work gets done, so you do not feel like you really deserve the vacation.
I could go on and on about the struggle, but in the end, the main conclusion is: intrinsic motivation only comes in sparks. Once it hits, ride that wave until the end. However, lasting motivation only comes from your own achievements and in order to keep achieving you need spartan discipline. Unfortunately, if given the chance, we will always choose the easier route. Humans love short term gratification and are blind to the fact that big/difficult achievements are just 10x more rewarding and meaningful. As many athletes and highly successful people showed over years by example and Angela Duckworth summarized in her book “Grit”
“Consistency of effort over the long run is everything. Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”
Additionally, read these 2 parts of procrastination (Part 1
, Part 2
) to understand us better as humans in the context of getting work done.
Alrighty, we talked about the grand system, why it is an organizational unsustainable nightmare and what the main pitfalls are. We concluded that even though motivation is great, it does not come often and does not last long. Thus, the spartan way of life should be our main lifestyle choice to really achieve our goals. As the Mandalorians say: This is the way. Now let’s move on to my solution. In the final chapter I will show the proposition for my new grand system, my holy grail.
2.3: The Holy Grail
This is the final part of the review where I show my current system. I hope you can see, from the preceding chapters, how and why I got to my current holy grail:
With this daily/weekly plan, I propose a combination throughout the week. A mix of “spartan discipline” and “intrinsic motivation”. The weekly schedule must be very simple. Even though there are many useful concepts to implement from various books, you should only stick to the utmost necessary ones. From experience, tradeoffs are inevitable. The simpler the plan, the more doable it becomes.
To describe it more direct: Monday to Thursday you get your shit done, NO MATTER WHAT, there are no excuses. Even if Madison Beer asks you on a date on a Tuesday evening, it is a “No”. However, once Friday arrives, you can approach the next three days with an open and satisfied mind. If you wish to continue working or just relax is completely up to you, because you deserved it.
PS: Take a look the Appendix to see a bonus on how I currently approach the main daily areas (work, food, fitness).
Use a skimmed version the Getting Things Done Method, so your mind is not occupied. Leave your home-office, it bears to many distractions for deep work. If you do not have money to rent an office, try finding a public library. Also, if I go to a new location, I never sacrifice my Monday to Thursday work routine.
If you’re friends are productive, try going with them. It is often easier to “suffer” and stick to a routine together. Do you think we should approach work similar to training camps of athletes? Athletes almost always have a great team that pushes together, so in times you feel unmotivated, the spirit of the team carries you. Focusmate
would actually be the most similar things I could think of for work. What are your thoughts on that?
I eat porridge with protein powder, berries, nuts and peanut butter in the morning – it is quick to prepare, cheap, full of nutrients and tastes delicious. While the porridge is cooking, I prepare myself a smoothie to-go. It consists of spinach, a banana, an orange, flaxseeds and curcuma. This way I can check the most important vitamins and nutrients off my list for the day. I do not really have a diet or specific meal plan, but I try to stick to Michael Gregers Book “How Not To Die”. Later in the day, I try to eat healthy in a restaurant, even though it is more expensive, it saves me a lot of time and hassle.
When you live a nomad lifestyle, you should still pay for the Gym, even if it is super cheap. Home Workout Routines are almost impossible to maintain. The reasons are the same as leaving home to go to the office. Your mind is focused on the workout and the chances are much higher of you spending your time productively. The benefit of saving couple of bucks on the gym does not even come close to the long-term benefits of a consistent fitness-routine. Currently I go to the cheapest gym, but pay for the “Matt Fraser”-Workout App. This way, my workout is consistent across every country. If you just can’t motivate yourself to work out alone, try starting with some “social sport” like soccer or bjj. With a “social sport” you can quickly find new friends in a city, and it is more engaging then just going to the gym. However, if nothing else is possible, just keep moving, at least go for a run. I never really liked running, it feels so pointless to me. However, I implement some stupid stuff, so I kind of get a quick out of it now. The stupid stuff: I always run shirtless through the city, with a big smile and loud 80’s music in my headphones. Even though, some might say I seem like a dork when doing this, the funky stares of the people really motivate me, because if you stop you lose to the haters. As David Skylark aka. Dave Franco said in “The Interview”: They hate us, cause they Anus!
So, with these words of wisdom, go out there, stick to your plan and prove everyone wrong! Let’s Go!