How the Book Indistractable Inspired a To Do List Like Nothing Ever Created
Some apps are birthed from a flash of creative inspiration.
Others build software out of sheer necessity.
KosmoTime came about differently — a mashup of scientific insights, a powerful book by the bestselling Nir Eyal, and the problem-solving initiative of two exceptional co-founders.
This is the story of KosmoTime — the genesis of the productivity app with superpowers.
Meet Nir Eyal, who had no idea who we were (at first).
This is Nir Eyal.
Nir is a bestselling author, behavioral designer, sought-after speaker, and all round great guy.
Nir has authored two books:
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
It was Nir’s second book, Indistractable, that catalyzed the production of KosmoTime, the to do list with superpowers.
More on that in just a minute.
Meet Nicolas Vandenberghe, who was recently diagnosed with ADHD (and who co-founded KosmoTime).
Meet Nicolas Vandenberghe.
Nicolas Vandenberghe does a lot of things.
He’s a dad. He’s a tech founder. He’s a CEO 2x. He’s also an all-round great guy.
He and Nir are both Stanford GSB alumni, but that’s now how they connected.
Nicolas read Indistractable and was immediately impressed by its timeliness and relevance.
That was the moment of connection.
And then, Nicolas, saw a way to apply Nir’s theory by creating a productivity app that solved the problem of distractibility.
In essence, Nicolas created an app that handed users the superpower of indistractability.
More on that below.
Meet Martin Plouy.
Here is Martin.
Martin is one smart dude, who probably knows things about things that you didn’t know were even things.
You can thank his data specialization studies from École Polytechnique and his internship at Facebook. Plus, the guy is just smart and exceptionally hard-working.
(And, yes, an all round great guy.)
Martin also read Indistractable and had insights similar to the inspiration that grabbed Nicolas.
In addition to many other skills, Martin is a software developer and KosmoTime’s CTO.
KosmoTime, the productivity app with superpowers, began to take shape.
The Message of Indistractable
Nir Eyal’s book, Indistractable. has an easy-to-grasp thesis.
It goes like this. You can avoid distraction by understanding its causes and taking practical steps to control your attention.
Mastering distraction is more than just a cute idea. It’s a life-changing concept.
Nir raises the question in the introduction, “What would life be like if your superpower was to be indistractable?”
Indistractability is immensely powerful, and it’s one of the reasons why we bylined our app, “The to do list with superpowers.”
As Eyal goes on to show, controlling your attention allows you to choose your life.
Most of us think, “Oh, wow. Yeah, I need to turn off my phone’s notifications. Then I won’t be distracted.”
Great start, but as Nir points out, “Distraction is about more than your devices. Separate proximate causes from the root cause” (page 28).
What are those root causes?
We choose distraction based on behavioral “inner triggers,” i.e., trying to escape discomfort.
When life presents us with discomfort, which it inevitably does, we reach for distractions to escape from that uncomfortable reality.
Discomfort avoidance is the root cause of distraction.
Proximate causes of distraction may include things like devices, apps, entertainment, anything that dulls our sense of discomfort.
So, here’s the big question. How does one become indistractable?
The rest of the book explains that crucial how. There are four main ways to defeat distraction.
- Master internal triggers
- Get rid of external triggers
- Make time for traction
- Prevent distraction with pacts
Once you understand the root cause of distractions — discomfort avoidance — you’re ready to embrace indistractability, a life-changing superpower.
The Features of KosmoTime, and How They Have the Potential to Change Your Life
Claiming that a to do list can change your life might seem a be presumptuous, but hear me out.
Do distractions alter the course of your life?
You probably already assume that’s a yes.
After reading Indistractable, it’s an emphatic hell yeah accompanied by vigorous head-nodding.
Logically then, eliminating those distractions can alter the course of your life as well, correct?
As Indistractable makes the case, absolutely yes.
Being indistractable is not just about influencing your life for good in the generic sense, but actually allowing you to design your life in a highly specific way.
So, can a piece of software serve you in that pursuit of eliminating distractions and designing your life?
Don’t let my rigorous logic alone persuade you.
Nir explains specific methods for eliminating distractions, and we’ve baked those methods directly into KosmoTime.
Here they are.
Nir’s Lesson: Timeboxing
Nir explains it like this:
Timeboxing uses a well-researched technique psychologists call ‘setting an implementation intention,’ which is a fancy way of saying ‘deciding what you’re going to do, and when you’re going to do it.’
The goal is to eliminate all white space in your calendar so you’re left with a template for how you intend to spend your time each day” (page 62).
Kosmo’s Application: Calendar Management
Kosmo allows you to drag and drop tasks directly into your calendar, easily achieving the timeboxing technique that Nir extols.
Doing so turns the vague idea of a task into the concrete appointment on your calendar.
This effectively eliminates those distractible zones of white space and creates a relentless focus on what you need to achieve on a daily basis.
For example, here’s what my Tuesday looked like.
There’s very little white space, and therefore, very little room for me to meander into a field to smell the roses. (Unless I scheduled it into my calendar, which wouldn’t be a bad thing)
Instead of being exhausted and worn down at the end of my work day, I’m instead sharp and energized.
Why? Because I used KosmoTime’s calendar management, distraction blocking, and sprints — an external tool — to control my attention and thereby eliminate distractions.
Distractions are what drain me cognitively. When I’m focused, I’m in cognitive control. I retain energy for my tasks, not wasting it on fighting off distractions.
It’s raw, unstoppable, white-hot productivity power…er, superpower.
Nir’s Lesson: Make Time for Traction
Nir discusses the concept of sprints (page 164), and his own experience of shoveling through massive amounts of work in concentrated bursts.
He also touches on the productivity tactic known as batching — which eliminates context switching and notches up your productivity to unforeseen levels.
The idea is simple — if you set aside a portion of your day to focus on a set of similar tasks, your productivity is virtually unstoppable and your indistractability guaranteed.
Kosmo’s Application: Sprints
One of KosmoTime’s most powerful features is sprints.
Creating a sprint involves bundling a handful of similar tasks into your calendar, scheduling them up, and plowing through them.
Sprints are more than theoretical feel-good idea. It’s a game-changer for sessions of distraction-free task achievement.
It’s addictive in the best possible way.
Nir’s Lesson: Create an Indistractable Workplace
A modern book on distraction wouldn’t be complete without a discussion of email, Slack notifications, and the showering of other distractions that beleaguer our days.
Smart work is not multitasking or trying to do it all.
To create an indistractable workplace, you need to take concrete and focused action to silence or eliminate the distraction.
If the sun was shining straight into your office window and into your eyes, you would not be able to see your computer display without difficulty.
Your work suffers.
You might even get permanent eye damage!
So what do you do? Walk over to the window and pull the shade.
But what about a similar situation — the relentless pop-tap-tap of Slack notifications? Or new emails constantly pinging your inbox?
Again, your work suffers. And, if we’re being honest, it’s probably driving you a little bit crazy.
It’s time to pull the proverbial shade on those distractions and get you into indistractable mode.
That’s where KosmoTime comes in.
Kosmo’s Application: Distraction Blocking
Kosmo allows you to completely shut out all distractions.
Most modern-day professional workers suffer from these distractions:
- Irrelevant open tabs
To help you become indistractable, KosmoTime allows you to voluntarily enter focus mode.
Instantly, all your tabs close. (Don’t worry. As soon as you end your focus session, they will all open back up.)
Instantly, you go into Do Not Disturb on Slack.
Here’s the good part. If you try to sneak off to Facebook or Reddit for a little break, Kosmo will gently remind you that you’re in focus mode and ask you if this is part of your task.
It’s an honor system, but that one step of needing to verify the legitimacy of a new tab is enough to keep you focused.
Conclusion: The Gift of Indistractability
Becoming indistractable doesn’t happen by sheer willpower.
It happens through focused effort.
Here is what I suggest:
- Buy Nir’s book, Indistractable, and carefully read it.
- Sign up for KosmoTime to apply the research of the book to your professional life.
We’re not overstating our case by calling indistractability a superpower.