Nir Eyal (@nireyal) helps teams design more engaging products as demonstrated in his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, and shows us how we can break away from the distraction of this engagement if it’s not serving us.
What We Discuss with Nir Eyal:
- The never-ending struggle between traction and distraction.
- How variable rewards are used to keep you glued to social media like B.F. Skinner’s lab pigeons.
- How to ensure you’re moving closer to your goals even if your daily activities include what might, on the surface, seem like tangents.
- Triggers that cause you to lose your way and how to program your environment to avoid and mitigate these triggers.
- Why you’re not really addicted to technology — and why it’s dangerous to say you are.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
(Download Episode Here)
(Subscribe in iTunes Here)
A constant barrage of digital distraction can make it hard to focus in the 21st century. Staying on top of social media, ostensibly designed to make communication with our family, friends, and colleagues more convenient, can sometimes feel like a second job — and our investment in this engagement is cultivated by careful design.
Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and the upcoming Indistractible, understands the psychology behind this design and explains how we can focus on acts of traction rather than distraction to use technology on our own terms. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
THANKS, NIR EYAL!
If you enjoyed this session with Nir Eyal, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Nir Eyal at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal and Ryan Hoover
- Nir and Far: A Blog About Behavior Engineering
- Nir Eyal at Twitter
- Tech Overuse at Work Is a Symptom. Your Culture Is the Disease by Jory MacKay with Nir Eyal, RescueTime Blog
- Why You’re Not “Addicted” to Technology (and It’s Dangerous to Say So) by Jory MacKay with Nir Eyal, RescueTime Blog
- Self Control
Transcript for Nir Eyal | How to Manage Distraction in a Digital Age (Episode 48)
Jordan Harbinger: [00: 00:00] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer, Jason DeFillippo. On this episode, we're talking with my good friend, Nir Eyal. He's been a friend of the show for a while and he's the author of the book, Hooked. And the forthcoming book Indistractable, which is coming out here in a few months. We're actually getting a sneak peak.
[00:00:19] Today, we'll explore the tension between what Nir calls traction and distraction. I see what you did there, and how to ensure that you're moving closer to your goals, even if your daily activities include things that might on their face seem a little bit like tangents. We'll also explore some of the triggers that causes to lose our way and how to program our environment to avoid and mitigate those triggers by building effective barriers around you, distracting technology, and your goals. And finally, we'll discover why you're not really addicted to technology and why it's actually dangerous to say that you are.
[00:00:56] Don't forget. We have a worksheet for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of all of the key takeaways here from Nir Eyal. The link to the worksheets is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast .
[00:01:08] Now, here's Nir Eyal. So when I met you, your knowledge was a double edged sword. It was like, “Oh, I talk about distraction and how apps are controlling our brains and how these social media companies and things like that dig their hooks into us.” And your book, your first book that I read was called Hooked, and I thought, “Oh, that's really interesting.” And then I thought, “Oh, well you speak a lot. Who do you speak to?” I do a lot of consulting for social media company. I was like, wait a minute.
Nir Eyal: [00:01:38] well, Hooked, was really about how to build these products. And just for the record, I've never done any consulting work for Facebook. I've never worked for any of these big social media companies. My consulting clients are the kind of companies that are building fitness apps. They're building a personal finance software. They're building stuff to help people eat healthier, psychotherapy apps. These are the kinds of products that benefit people if they would use them. And so that's the big struggle that a lot of tech companies have and that I had when I was running my last company was that, we were building a product that would be wonderful for people's lives if they were just freaking use the product. So the vast majority of companies don't have this problem where they're addicting anybody. The vast majority of companies out there are just struggling with getting people to give a shit about their product.
[00:02:23] And you know, if you're making some boring SaaS software, trying to get your users to use the product is your most important challenge. So that's what Hooked was really for. Hooked was this book on how to build the kind of products that people want to use that improves their lives. Now it just so happens that my model for how to do that came from the best in the business, right? If you want to get really good at something, if you want to be an amazing runner, maybe you call Usain Bolt, right? If you want to be an amazing investor, you call Warren Buffett. So the best in the business when it comes to consumer engagement and retention are these social media companies, right? It's companies like Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp and Snapchat and Slack. These companies that are really the masters of getting people to come back.
[00:03:05] So those are the archetypes for how to do this. But it certainly was never meant to be an endorsement of these companies. Because look, if these companies aren't benefiting you and if they're distracting you, then we need to put them in their place. And so that's kind of the line of thinking for my next book is that I kept hearing from people who said, “Great, you taught me how these products are built.” And for many people who read the book, I was surprised because I wrote the book for people who make products. But then a lot of you read the book and more of a mainstream audience that doesn't necessarily build the apps or websites. And they tell me, “My God, my eyes were open because I never knew that this was being done to me.” And so that they would ask me, okay, now that I know what's happening, how do I do more about it? How do I make sure that I don't use these products when they don't serve me? So that's kind of what led me to this next book.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:53] So what was, what is being done to us, right? Because yeah, okay, I get a push notification. Got it. The little red dot on my phone sucks me right into the app. But what else is going on with these companies?
Nir Eyal: [00:04:04] Well, there's a lot of psychology at work. I mean, and there's a few ways to look at it. If I described to you how variable rewards work, right? The Skinnerian mechanism where BF Skinner back in the 1950s. He took these rats and pigeons and he put them a little box and he gave them a disk to peck at. And every time the pigeon would peck at the disk, they would receive a reward. They would get a little food pellet. And what Skinner observed was that when he gave the food pellet to the pigeon on a predictable schedule, meaning every time the pigeon peck at the disk, they would get a reward. They would peck at the disk when they were hungry only. But if he gave the food pellet on a variable schedule, meaning sometimes a pigeon would peck at the disk and they wouldn't get a food pellet, and the next time they would get a food pellet when there was some uncertainty, when there was some amount of mystery there, the pigeon pecked at the disk much more often, much more frequently, even if they weren't necessarily hungry. And so that's the exact same psychology that we see in all sorts of things that are engaging.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:04] With slot machines.
Nir Eyal: [00:05:05] Slot machine is a perfect example, right? When you pull the handle of slot machine, although you don't pull handles anymore, now you just push a button.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:11] The handle is way too much work.
Nir Eyal: [00:05:12] Yeah, exactly, exactly.
Jordan Harbinger: [0 0:05:14] Makes people tired.
Nir Eyal: [00:05:15] So you can't stop watching those turning wheels because you want to know the outcome. Sports, right? The reason that we like watching sports is this uncertainty around what's going to happen next. So what makes books entertaining? It's what makes television shows fun. And it's what makes scrolling your Facebook feed entertaining as well. It's all about this uncertainty, this variable reward. So one way to look at it is that this is nefarious, that they're doing this to hook us, to get us addicted to their products. I don't necessarily buy into that viewpoint anymore. I think I started from that perspective.
[00:05:48] I think what I now realize is that, look, that's not necessarily a problem. It's progress, right? We want products to be engaging. We want this interview to not be boring, right? By telling you something you don't already know. It has to be uncertainty. It has to be something that's unexpected. So anything that is meant to attract people's attention has to have some elements of novelty. The upside, of course, that we have all these interesting products and services that we use every day. The downside is that in a world of such abundance of so many entertainment options, sometimes it can be hard to focus, and that's becoming a very scarce commodity. The ability to concentrate on one thing at a time, so that we can apply our human creativity and ingenuity. It requires our full attention, and so that's really what I wanted to study next.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:39] So do we have to then avoid things that give us variable rewards? Because that seems kind of impossible?
Nir Eyal: [00:06:45] Well, to some degree it comes down to putting them in their place. I would not be on the side of people who say, well, we just need to abstain or let's do a digital Sabbath and go into the woods and just don't touch your iPhone for a week. And the fact is these products are not going away for all the critique of these technologies and these companies. And I'm not saying that there aren't things that are wrong about these products. There's a lot of stuff these companies are not doing right, but the fact is they're not going away, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:12] Right, yeah, especially if it works.
Nir Eyal: [00:07:14] Yeah, exactly. They're doing their jobs. They're giving people things that they want. There's all kinds of problems with these products as well that I think the vast majority of them, I'm pretty optimistic that will work out. But the fact is that there's some amount of personal responsibility as well, that we have to figure out how to put these technologies in their place. And that's something that if you hold your breath and wait for the companies to do this for you, if you hold your breath and wait for them to change, you're going to suffocate, right? So it's much better to figure out how we ourselves can manage these distractions.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:42] Are there companies that go, look, we realize people are going to use our stuff less if we're bad for them?
Nir Eyal: [00:07:49] That's right. No, I think that's exactly what we see some companies doing. So there's some companies that I won't work for, and those are the kinds of companies that depend upon addicts. Meaning people who want to stop but can't. So I won't work for the gambling industry. I won't work for any kind of alcohol manufacturers. I won't work for any tobacco companies. I won't work for the porn industry. Not that I want to live in a world where these things are illegal. It's just that these industries focus on people who are, what they call in the industry whales. The 1 percent of users who make up 90 percent of the revenue. And as some online games, the same way, right? Where they focus on the fair few who account for most of the revenue. And those types of businesses tend to be unethical, in my opinion, because they depend upon people who even when they want to quit, they don't let them quit.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:39] Right, right.
Nir Eyal: [00:08:40] Whereas the vast majority of our distractions and the vast majority of people actually are not really addicted, right? The level of addiction in society where you know, we're talking at any one time, something in the single digit percentages of people who are actually addicted to gambling, to pornography, to the Internet. There are people who are unhealthily addicted, but it's almost become this tagline that we said, “Oh, I can't stop. I'm addicted.” Well not really, actually a medical definition for addiction. And just saying, “Oh, I'm addicted or these products are made to addict me,” kind of lets us off the hook.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:15] Yeah, that's true. I don't think because you ask any sort of teenage boy, they're not addicted to porn, they like it.
Nir Eyal: [00:09:22] Yeah. And it's actually, there was interesting, there was a study done by a friend of mine, Gabe Zichermann, who has this company onward, which tries to help people who suffer from a porn addiction weaned back their habits. And it was interesting, they did a study of how much time people who think they are addicted to porn actually spend on porn, and the average is something like six minutes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:45] Wow.
Nir Eyal: [00:09:45] Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:47] That actually checks out just fine.
Nir Eyal: [00:09:49] It is. Even though they would call themselves as people who are dating. You think in addiction, you think about a heroin addiction or any kind of addiction. The definition is a persistent compulsive, harmful dependency on a behavior or substance. Addiction is not who I like in a lot. Addiction is not I wish I would use it a little bit less. Addiction is when you can't think of anything else. It becomes an over powering thought in your day and day life, that's hard to resist. It's not six minutes a day. It might be—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:17] And that sound a slow Internet connection, right? It's like I'm waiting four minutes for the thing to laod.
Nir Eyal: [00:10:20] So a lot of it has to do with our perception of our problems. And so what I wanted to do with this next book is to give people these very practical tools that they can use to live the kind of life they want. And so if you're doing something that you would prefer not do, or not do as much, the solution isn't, “Oh Facebook, you should make your product less engaging. Or “Oh Snapchat, bad on you for using these psychological tricks to make your products so good. I want to use them all the time,” like that's pointless. It behooves us to instead use these techniques to do the behaviors we want.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:52] So this isn't for breaking an addiction, this is for using something less. So this isn't like how to wean off your actual addiction to gambling. This is more like, look, if you find you're wasting a lot of time on social media or doing some other sort of activity that you think that you know is a waste of your time. Here's how we can cut down on those things without just using sheer willpower.
Nir Eyal: [00:11:15] Right, right. So you will find that there are a lot of traits that are similar for weaning off of an addiction that are similar for weeding off of a distraction. But I really focus on the vast majority of people who from time to time, maybe every day, find themselves doing something that they didn't intend to do. Whether it's using too much Facebook, whether it's watching too much YouTube, whether it's reading too much news, whether its you're at the dinner table with your family and you can't help it check email. What is it that's driving these distractions?
[00:11:47] And so the first thing that I had to do was to define what I mean by distraction. So I kind of came up with this mental model of how I think about distraction. So I think about your actions are at the center, and your actions can go down two paths. You can either do things you want to do, things that are moving you towards the life you want, and I call those things acts of traction. And then the opposite of traction in the other direction is distraction.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:12] I see what you did there.
Nir Eyal: [00:12:14] You see what I did there? But the important thing here to know is that both words, traction and distraction end in the word action. Reminding us that these are things that happened to us. These are the things that we ourselves do, either of these acts of traction or distraction.
[00:12:28] Now that's not how most people think about distraction. Most people think that’s distraction. They think, “Oh my God, the phone rang and I got distracted.” But what we're doing is conflating the trigger, the ring, the ding, the ping, the thing that we heard that distract, that caused us to then become distracted. So it's not the phone call itself that got you to strike. It's not the email or the notification that distracted you, that was the external trigger, the thing in your environment that then led you to either traction or distraction. So, for example, if an alarm rings, and it's your wakeup call, and then you get up and that's what you intended to do, well then that was traction, that's what you wanted to do. But if you hear that phone call and you intended to do some writing or work on something important to you, but then you take the phone call instead, that would be a distraction.
[00:13:16] So to flush out this model, you've got one side is traction, one side is distraction. What affects our actions is external triggers. The one other thing that affects our action and actually impacts our actions more than external triggers is what I call internal triggers. And so this is one of the big takeaways for me from writing this book that I discovered, is that actually most distractions start from within. And they start from within because of these internal triggers. Internal triggers are these uncomfortable feelings, these uncomfortable sensations that we look to satiate in some way. They can be physical sensations or psychological sensations. So, for example, when you're feeling too hot, you take off a coat. When you're cold, you put a coat back on. If you're hungry, you eat. If you're stuffed, you stop eating. So it's this process called homeostasis that causes us to do basically everything we do is done to satiate some kind of discomfort.
[00:14:15] Now those are all physical discomfort. The same goes for emotional discomfort. If I'm feeling lonely, maybe I check Facebook to reconnect with my friends. If I'm feeling uncertain, I Google something. If I'm feeling lost, I check Google maps. If I'm feeling bored, I might check YouTube or the news or whatever. So the very first step to conquering distraction is identifying what is that internal trigger that prompts you towards that distraction.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:47] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. Every business needs great people, and a better way to find those great people. Something better than posting your job online, praying for the right people to see it. And of course, the ZipRecruiter knew there was a smarter way. So they built a platform that finds the right job candidates for you. ZipRecruiter learns what you're looking for, identifies people with the right experience, and then invites them to apply to your job. 80 percent of employers who post a job on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate through the site in just one day, which is pretty amazing. Now, that doesn't mean you're going to want to hire that person, but they will be a quality candidate, unlike a lot of the other no names mentioned websites where you get somebody and you find out that their friend filled it out for them and they don't really kind of speak English that well, and also they can't show up on time and they don't have a car, so hopefully you can pick them up for work.
[00:15:36] The right candidates are out there. ZipRecruiter is how you find them in businesses of all sizes. Trust ZipRecruiter for their hiring needs. Our listeners can try ZipRecruiter for free. That's
Jason DeFillippo: [00:15:45] What? Free? No way. Free.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:47] That’s right, Jason. Free. Just go to ziprecruiter.com/jordan, that's ziprecruiter.com/jordan.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:15:56] Jordan, I think you meant to say ziprecruiter.com/jordan.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:59] I did indeed.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:16:00] Because you know ZipRecruiter is the smartest way to hire.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:03] This episode is also sponsored by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans. This is the mortgage company of the future, future, future. They decided to ask why? Why can't clients get approved in minutes rather than weeks? Why can't they make adjustments to their rate and term in real time? Why can't there be a technological mortgage solution that's actually focused on us as clients? Well, Quicken Loans answered all these questions and more with Rocket Mortgage. They give you the confidence you need when it comes to buying a home or you can do a refi, you can refinance your existing home loan.
[00:16:32] It's really simple. Rocket Mortgage is allowing you to fully understand all the details and be confident you're getting the right mortgage for you. Whether you're looking to buy your first home, whether it's your 10th home, Rocket Mortgage, if you have 10 homes, do you have 10 mortgages? That's bonkers. Glutton for punishment. Rocket Mortgage, you'll get a transparent online process that gives you the confidence to make an informed decision. Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans, apply simply, understand fully, mortgage confidently. To get started, go to rocketmortgage.com/forbes.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:17:04] Rocket Mortgage is an equal housing lender licensed in all 50 States. NMLSConsumerAccess.Org, number 3030.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:13] I got a letter from a fan the other week and said, “Oh my daughter's addicted to YouTube.” And I asked them, because I'd never heard of that. I mean it makes total sense. I used to probably be addicted to TV if you're going by that definition of watching way too much as a kid.
[00:17:27] And I said, “Oh well, what else is going on?” First, she was really gung-ho on going to college and then she went through summer and she applied, and she got into the schools that she wanted to go to. And then a couple of days before school started, she decided she didn't want to go, she backed out. Now, she spent the whole time while all of her friends are gone, first semester in her room, locked in there, sleeping and watching YouTube. And I said, “Your daughter's not addicted to YouTube, your daughter has depression.” And I would investigate thoroughly what might've happened over the summer, because the kid who was excited to go to college, doesn't one day a week before school decided that they can't do it and they don't want to go and they never going in and lock themselves in their room. And I said, you know, this sounds pretty serious. You need to probably go to a therapist with your daughter because I am a little nervous that something really bad happened over the summer. But the trigger for her watching YouTube isn't some kind of boredom in her case, most likely she's trying to avoid some sort of pain, which is that her life isn't going the way it was supposed to go. And that she has major let down from being excited to go to school to some traumatic event that she's now trying to not maybe relive every five minutes.
Nir Eyal: [00:18:31] And so this is what differentiates a real addiction from just a bad habit. That addiction, there are no addicts without a story, it doesn't exist. The every addict has some kind of pain that they are looking to escape from. All addictions are disassociated devices. They take us out of an uncomfortable reality. And you're exactly right, whether it’s your cell phone or YouTube or gambling or booze. It's not just the substance, it's the person and the problem that they're trying to escape. So those are for these more intense problems. But for the vast majority of people, it's also these low grade emotions. It is things like, I'm feeling bored or this thing that I'm doing at work is hard, and I'm looking for an escape so that I don't have to feel that immediate discomfort. So the first step is to recognize these internal triggers to name them so that we can begin to do something about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:30] How do we start this inventory of internal triggers?
Nir Eyal: [00:19:33] What we want to start doing is to start logging these sensations, right? So that when we experience one of these internal triggers, we want to identify what that internal trigger is. So first note it, even just writing down, I'm feeling bored and really want to go check YouTube right now, can help empower us by simply naming what that sensation is, naming that internal trigger. Then what we can do is to start using these techniques to help do what's called surfing the urge.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:59] Actually, let me pause you right here. So let's instead of YouTube, let's go with someone who maybe eats junk food and is trying to break that habit. Because I might think, well, I'm hungry, so I want to eat ice cream, but I'm not really hungry so I want to eat ice cream. I'm actually just bored, so I want to eat ice cream.
Nir Eyal: [00: 20:16] That's a fantastic example. I mean, very rarely, and I've struggled with my weight my whole life. I used to be actually clinically obese.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:24] I cannot even imagine, as long as this isn't even like thin and in shape.
Nir Eyal: [00:20:28] This is a terrific example because I mean this is something that I struggle with literally every day, and I probably will for the rest of my life. And so when I used to do was to either ignore the sensation entirely or to stuff it down, right? Just so don't feel what you feel, right? But instead got curious about, and so this is what psychologists recommend is instead of trying not to feel what you're feeling, whether it is actual hunger or much more likely, it's the fear of being hungry. It's amazing how much we eat, not because we're hungry but because we might be hungry in the future, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:04] Yeah, guilty of that.
Nir Eyal: [00:21:05] But I didn't discover that until I got curious about that sensation. When I told myself, well, I want to eat because I'm hungry. And then I started surfing the urge, which is a really interesting technique. There's this technique called the 10 minute rule, where I allow myself to indulge into anything that's tempting me, but in 10 minutes. I have to spend those 10 minutes getting curious about the sensation, not stuffing it down, not trying to ignore what I'm feeling, but to get curious around it. So what I discover when I say, “Oh, I'm just hungry. I want that.” Is that wait, am I really hungry or am I, as you said before, is it boredom? Is it fear that I might be hungry? Is it that I'm avoiding the fact that I need to do something else right now? I'm just trying to procrastinate by giving myself something to do?
[00:21:54] So getting to that deeper internal trigger, what's really driving my behavior. And then using that 10 minute rule of, let me have just 10 minutes of curiosity. I'm just going to sit here and think for a few minutes about what's really going on. What we find is that, that allows us the time to then let that urge satiate.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:22:09] Right. So we're not just thinking, what kind of ice cream am I going to eat? It's like chocolate sauce on it. It's going to be more like, well, wait a minute. All right, if I'm really hungry, would I eat broccoli? Well, hell no. I don't want to eat broccoli. So I guess I'm not really hungry. Am I bored? I don't know. I'm watching a movie. How bored can I possibly be? I'm not afraid of being hungry. I just ate dinner. What actually is going on here? Never mind, I don't need this ice cream.
Nir Eyal: [00:22:31] That's right, that's right. And you can use that same technique, whether it's trying to go on the web less while you're doing your work or whether it's checking your cell phone, email while you're at dinner with friends, whatever it might be. You can use that same technique. The point is to come to grips with the fact that distraction starts from within. And that's really where we need to start. Because look, if there is that internal trigger that's unaddressed, if it's in there and you haven't figured out how to cope with it in a healthy manner, it's going to manifest in a way you don't like. It's going to find the medium to distract you if you don't deal with this.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:07] So the internal triggers, unless we figure out what they are and deal with them, they're just going to camouflage themselves in different types of external triggers and said you're going to say, that's it. I'm not checking my cell phone anymore.
Nir Eyal: [00:23:18] Well, then you're going to start watching TV. Or then you're going to start listening to too many podcasts. Or then you're going to start reading too many news.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:23] Easy, easy. Never listening to too many podcast. As long as you're listening to this one. So that makes sense, because you're, you're going, oh well, all right. It's my phone, that's the problem. There's always these things coming up and notifications and all that. And that may be true because that is designed to suck you into the device.
Nir Eyal: [00:23:41] And then we'll get to that. There's lots of stuff you can do there too.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:44] Okay, good. But you're right, yeah. I'm going to then start, and I've seen this in myself too, if I don't want to do something, like I've got a draft a legal document, which is funny because I'm an attorney but I hate doing I, and you've got to do the research and stuff. And if it's for myself, it's not interesting. If it's for someone else, I'll research it all day, but I associate it with stress. I don't want to deal with it. So I might go, yeah, but first, I have this other thing on my to do list and then it's actually been kind of good for me because I've been going to the gym, I'm outside. I'm caught up with my parents. I have studied tons of vocabulary from my Chinese. My flash cards are up to date.
Nir Eyal: [00:24:22] So this actually brings up a really great point of how do you know the difference between what is traction and distraction? Because at the moment when you are doing this other thing, you think to yourself, “Oh no, that's good. It's productive, right?” I should be doing this other thing. What did you say? Like ?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:37] Study in Chinese.
Nir Eyal: [00:24:38] Yeah, sure studying Chinese. That sounds semi-productive, right? That's a good thing to do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:42] Yeah. No one's going to punish you and I'm not going to punish myself because if I spent the whole morning working out, calling my parents, studying Chinese and reading, it's hard to go you lazy, sec.
Nir Eyal: [00:24:53] But I would argue that it's still distraction.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:55] Of course, it is.
Nir Eyal: [00:24:55] Because here's how you know the difference. The only way to know the difference is because you know distractions are very tricky like that. Distraction tricks you into thinking that in the moment it's what you should be doing, and it's not the action that's good or bad. Of course, studying Chinese, it doesn't wrong studying Chinese. It's fantastic. There's nothing wrong with checking Facebook and there's nothing wrong with going on YouTube.
[00:25:13] The differentiating factor between what is traction and distraction is what did you intend to do with that period of time? The fact is if we don't plan our day, someone else will. And if we don't decide what is traction, distraction, then we spend our entire day distracted. that you can't call something a distraction in unless you know what it distracted you from. So when I help folks deal with distraction, a lot of times I hear this complaints about like, “How does anybody get anything done?” The world is so distracting today. Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp, I just can't concentrate on anything. And then I say, you know what? Let me see what you plan to do today. Can I see your calendar app?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:55] And it's blank.
Nir Eyal: [00:25:56] And it's completely pristine blank. So you cannot call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from. And that means, and that leads us to the next step here. How do you do more acts of traction after you've dealt with the internal triggers? The answer to that is that you have to plan your day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:13] That's so interesting. I discovered this by accident completely a long time ago. I started working from home, which as you know is people go, that must be great. I'm thinking, “Ugh, slow your roll.” It is if you know what you're doing. But for the first few years it was get up whenever. Oh, I should go to the gym. Yeah, I guess I'll go to the gym. Cool. Come back, eat, it’s 2 p.m. I guess I'll do a little bit of work. Oh man, it's already 4: 30, I'm kind of tired and I'm getting hungry again. All right, oh well a friend stop by. So yeah, let's get a bite to eat. Wow. I only did two hours of work today. If you do that for a six months, you're out of business, right?
Nir Eyal: [00:26:49] Right.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:49] And what happened, what I've learned from a successful salesman was that he planned his day, or think it was the night before, so I went, oh, this works. And then I started planning my week, the week before, and now I'm actually literally weeks or even months ahead, which is great. And people go, how do you live your life like that? You're so inflexible. No, no, no, no, there's flex time built in there.
Nir Eyal: [00:27:09] Right, you can plan veg out. You can plan a vacation, you can plan time to do social media. I mean, every day on my calendar it says social media time, and it's no longer distraction because that's right. I wanted to do that as an act of traction going on YouTube and Facebook and whatever, because that's exactly what I plan to do in that time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:28] So the guilt goes away because it's in the calendar. And if you need to deprioritize something because yeah, you did have an important conference call. It's got to get scheduled. Well, you can move the YouTube stuff and put it over that and then you don't feel guilty because you didn't move your gym time until or your family time.
Nir Eyal: [00:27:45] And look, the goal isn't to, you're not a failure if you fall off track. If somebody takes you a little longer or if you did something that you didn't intend to do. But the point is to give yourself a template, that if you walk into every week with the white calendar that's got nothing on it, you are bound to be distracted all day long, right? And the tricky part is it'll feel like you're doing productive stuff. Like you'll check email way too much here because well email is work and it needs to get done at some point. But it doesn't need to get done right now. What needs to get done right now is that focused work time, that hard stuff that you know you need to do right now, but you didn't feel like doing so you checked email instead because you felt that internal trigger of boredom and discomfort and whatever else you were feeling.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:28] Yeah. The planning of the day is the elusive obvious because people go, well look, I only have two things to do tomorrow. They're both phone calls and they're both flexible. Why would I put that on my calendar? And the reason is because if you don't, what you'll end up doing is waking up whenever going to the gym, which is great. And then spending a ton of time on social media or reading something. And it looks like you said it looks and feels like work, and then you try to make the call and then the other person's not available and then suddenly it's 5 p.m, and you go, how in the hell did I screw up this day?
Nir Eyal: [00:29:02] So we can actually look at this in these three domains, like these three concentric circles that I like to think about where we spend our time. So when the center is you, and you've got to first figure out how you want to spend time on yourself. So a sleep, meditation, reading books, educating yourself, anything that a working out, anything that benefits you, that you need to invest time into. So when you look at that calendar, first, put in the time for the things that are investments that you want to make in yourself.
[00:29:29] Now, I'm not telling you how much time to spend on yourself. I'm not even telling you what to do with that time. I don't care. That's up to you and your values. What I'm advising you to do is to schedule that time. If you want to get five hours of sleep at night ,and that's good for you, fine. That's okay. If that's what you want to be doing with your time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:47] If that's all you need. I hate you.
Nir Eyal: [00:29:49] Exactly right. But the point is here, there's no values judgment here. All I'm saying is that whatever it is that you want to spend time doing, first plan the you. Then the next concentric circle around the time that's spent for you, is what I call the IOUs, is the important others that you owe, right? So there's the time with family, friends, community groups, anything that other people expect you to spend time with them, that you owe them time, make time for that as well.
[00:30:17] So it's not, “Hey, to your significant other, we'll get dinner when we get it.” “No, no, no. We're going to have our dinners on Tuesdays and Thursdays and you can expect me home to have dinner with, with my family on those nights.” Right? So you can coordinate with those stakeholders. And then the last concentric circle, and the reason I put on the outside is because you can't do this well unless you've done the other two well, is your work life. And so the work life also needs to be a scheduled out so that you have the time to do the things that are most important to you. So today, many workers find their entire day is spent reacting, and it's come at the expense of reflecting. And the fact is it is very difficult to do the core job of a knowledge worker.A knowledge workers job is defined as providing novel solutions to problems. That's what we do is knowledge work.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:06] Oh yeah. There's not a whole lot of that going on.
Nir Eyal: [00:31:08] Because it's impossible to do that. If all you're doing is answering emails and phone calls and your boss comes by your desk and now you've got this meeting you're pulled into. There's no time to reflect. And so the most important time in your professional career, the most important time in your day needs to be that reflective work time that whatever amount of time it is that you're giving yourself that focused work time to think, to strategize, to be with yourself, to progress your career.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:31] Do you tend to do that in the morning?
Nir Eyal: [00:31:33] Personally, I like it in the morning, so I do it. I have my two hours of writing time right after I come back from the gym. That's when I like to do this focus, reflect ed time. But whatever suits your schedule, just put it on your calendar somewhere.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:47] Yeah, that makes sense. I feel like the mornings easiest place to do that because no one's calling you at 6:30 a.m generally, or 7:30.
Nir Eyal: [00:31:54] Yeah. Whatever works for your particular schedule.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:56] What are you doing during this time? What does reflecting really mean?
Nir Eyal: [00:31:59] Anything that requires concentration as opposed to collaboration.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:02] Oh, okay, good.
Nir Eyal: [00:32:03] Now you also need to plan time for collaboration, right? You need time to meet with your colleagues. I mean most of people's days is spent doing meetings. The problem is that we take meetings whenever we find time in our calendar. So we book time to collaborate, but we book no time to concentrate, and I think that's a big detriment to your career that you need time at your desk just to think to produce that outcome. Now what a lot of people do, which is really unfortunate, is that they do the thinking part of their job. They do the concentration part after work.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:36] Oh right. So they bring it home.
Nir Eyal: [00:32:37] They bring it home. Which if you live the kind of lifestyle and your values allow you to do that, that's fine. What I found, I used to be a consultant, and what I found was that I was giving up something that was very important to me that was time with my family.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:53] This episode is sponsored in part by Microsoft. Microsoft Team is your hub for teamwork and Office 365. What does that mean? Well, it means that Teams is a digital workspace where? You guessed it, Teams can create, collaborate, and communicate just like they would in the real world. In front of a screen, typing to each other. With so much to look after and your work life already. Wouldn't it be great if there was just one place online to look? Teams is that single workspace where you can work, share, connect with the people in your work life. Teams brings together your chats, meetings, files, and apps all in one place. You can take teamwork where you work with apps for mobile and desktop. So whether you're sprinting towards a deadline or sharing your next big idea, Teams can help you and your team achieve even more. I just imagine people using this to plan where they're going to launch, but whatever. Microsoft Teams and Office 365, to learn more, head on over to office.com/team.
[00:33:44] You were the dad who was in front of the TV with the kids with the laptop out like, “Oh, I'm spending time with my kids.”
Nir Eyal: [00:33:49] I didn't have kids back then, but the same idea. I've come home and it would come at the expense of people who I really owe time to. So the big lesson there, if you want more traction in your life, you have got to plan your day or somebody else will. We talked about messaging earlier and what a huge part of the day this communication, all the communication we do today, and part of why that's such a big time sink is that we get all these external triggers. This kind of leads me to the third part of the model, those external triggers we talked about earlier. That these messages that we're getting throughout the day, the pings, the dings, the notifications, the emails, they tend to lead to distraction.
[00:34:27] And so we've got to find ways to control those. And there's a lot of things we can do around that as well. We know that about two-thirds of smartphone owners never adjust their notification settings. That's ridiculous.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:39] Well, to be fair, when we met, I was seated next to you at Mastermind Talks, and I went, “Oh yeah, great talk on all these notifications.” Then it was like Instagram, Instagram.
Nir Eyal: [00:34:48] On my phone?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:48] You're like, oh yeah, those are a on right now for some other reasons.
Nir Eyal: [00:34:52] I've since changed that, I maybe I just installed Instagram at the time. That was a long time ago.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:57] Sure you did.
Nir Eyal: [00:34:58] No, I did. I did. I swear to God I did. Every time I install a new app, I go through the notification settings to make sure that I only get the notifications that are worthy of interrupting me during my focus work time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:12] Is it really two-thirds of smartphone owners?
Nir Eyal: [00:35:14] Two-thirds.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:15] Bug you whenever the hell, because whenever an apps like, hey, we need to make sure that you know when you're able to log in and play this trivia game. I'm like, “Uh, no. I will decide when I'm going to play this stupid freaking game.”
Nir Eyal: [00:35:27] Right, and this is by the way, something, I think that the Apple and Google can definitely make easier. It is too hard to turn off notifications. That is something that I think these companies should help us do. But that's still no excuse, right? Take 10 minutes, go through your notification settings, and turn off everything that doesn't deserve the right to interrupt you throughout your day.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:42] Which is like, in my opinion, frankly, not much of anything. Mine is default do not disturb, but it allows favorites to call through. And I think there's a setting where it's like if someone calls three times in a row on the phone. I'll do that. And that was originally just because I was on air all the time, and then I just never turned it off.
Nir Eyal: [00:36:03] Yeah, no it’s fantastic.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:05] And then the last 11 years or 10 years, however long smartphones had been around, because of course naturally as a nerd, I got the first iPhone immediately. I've had zero emergencies that I haven't been able to get, that I've been unreachable for. If it's zero, the house is on fire type situations, that I've had to worry about, that I didn't know about in time. I've missed absolutely nothing that I can remember due to having notifications and my phone on do not disturb.
Nir Eyal: [00:36:30] Yeah. And now there's a new feature in the new iOS that is do not disturb while driving.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:35] Oh nice.
Nir Eyal: [00:36:35] And so you can change that feature though. So the way it works, you pushed one button and when somebody emails you, I'm sorry, If somebody texts you or calls you, it instantly sends them back a reply that says, “Hey, I'm driving right now, I can't reply.” But if you text me or call me again, then your message will come through.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:51] Yeah, I think you can also write urgent in the text and it will then go ding, ding, and be like “Hey, this is important.”
Nir Eyal: [00:36:55] Yes and yes. Exactly, but you can also customize it. So mine doesn't say I'm driving. Mine says, I'm in distractible right now.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:01] Oh, that's cool.
Nir Eyal: [00:37:03] And people respect it. People love it. They say, “Oh, that's a great idea. I'm going to do that too.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:06] It’s got a little preorder now, at Amazon.
Nir Eyal: [00:37:07] Exactly. The one thing I do hear though from a lot of folks is that they tell me that, you know, that's all well and good. Yeah, I'm going to turn off my notification settings, but here's the problem. My job demands it of me.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:18] Yeah. I've got some crazy privilege being like when I work at home in my underwear doing this podcast that you're listening to, I don't have emergencies. And some people are like, great, cool. Tell me who's going to fire you if you do miss one, because I'll tell you who's going to fire me, which is like these seven guys that are the partners in my law firm.
Nir Eyal: [00:37:35] Exactly. So there's some solutions to this. This was an objection I heard about quite a bit, so there's a few things. And when I was doing the research for my book around how different industries manage distraction, I came across this group of nurses that really did this, a really inspirational study. It turns out that, you know what the third leading cause of death in the United States is, I'll give you the first two. Number one is heart disease. Number two is cancer. What's number three?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:02] Car accidents.
Nir Eyal: [00:38:03] You think it'd be accidents or Alzheimer's or strokes? You know what beats all that?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:08] Oh no. Here's going to be like medical malpractice.
Nir Eyal: [00:38:11] It's medication errors.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:13] Oh that sucks.
Nir Eyal: [00:38:14] Prescription mistakes, people receiving the wrong pills or the wrong dosage of pills accounts for 400,000 injuries a year.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:25] That's horrible.
Nir Eyal: [00:38:26] Horrible, right? So this group of nurses at UCSF wanted to discover what was going on, and what they could do about it. And the solution they came up with just floored me. They reduced medication errors, prescription errors by 88 percent, and the solution was plastic vests. Plastic vests that these nurses wear when they are dosing out medication, reduced it by 88 percent.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:53] How did the plastic vest work Nir?
Nir Eyal: [00:38:54] Right, so the way the plastic vests work, basically what they found was that these nurses, when they were dosing up medication, they were constantly interrupted when they weren't wearing the vest, right? The doctor, “I need you to do this,” or another nurse would say, “Oh, we have to do this.” Or a patient would say, “Excuse me, I need help with this.” And this task that required focus work, that required concentration was being messed up, right? They weren't doing the job that they needed to do of dosing of these medications correctly. So wearing a vest that says do not disturb me right now, it almost eliminated this problem completely in this study.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:25] Wow. It's so sad that millions of people have died and the solution was low tech.
Nir Eyal: [00:39:32] Right, and we can learn from this and our own things, right? So even if you're not a nurse practitioner, what we need to learn from this is that we can use physical signs to stop these external triggers. So probably the number one external trigger for someone who works in an open office plan is other employees.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:47] Yeah.
Nir Eyal: [00:39:48] Hey, what's going on to her? What are you doing? Wait, do you want to go get a coffee or something? And that stops you from doing this focus work time, right? Or you see somebody you say hi. So what we can start doing is taking lessons from these nurses and using little physical signs, like literally putting a little sign on our computer. You can go to my website and print it out for free. That says I'm in distractible right now. I can't be bothered because I'm doing concentrated work. Some people would have headphones on. I'm not crazy about headphones because a lot of people think, well if you're wearing headphones, you're just listening to music. So they don't take the cue enough to know that that means don't bother me. So I think we need to use four open offices in particular. If we can't shut our door, we've got to use these big fat physical signs that say I cannot be bothered.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:29] Right. I'm like I'm coding or whatever. Because I really thought you were going to say the solution was a medical dispensing robot, that measures things and can't be distracted because all it does is measure medictaion.
Nir Eyal: [00:40:41] It was a two penny disposable plastic vest.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:44] 400,000 deaths a year. That's terrible. And those deaths are caused by—
Nir Eyal: [00:40:48] Injuries, not just deaths.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:49] Injuries, okay. So those injuries are caused by people prescribing and filling the wrong kinds of medication. This doesn't even count, people who take two heart pills.
Nir Eyal: [00:40:57] No, this is in the hospital.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:59] Oh wow, that's terrible, because you hear it all the time. Yeah, I took a heart pill, or my dad took a heart pill and night he took another one because he forgot and then had it.
Nir Eyal: [00:41:07] No, no, this is not mistakes that people make to themselves. This is mistakes that doctors and nurse practitioners make because they're distracted.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:13] That's really disheartening.
Nir Eyal: [00:41:15] Yeah, so distraction can in some industries really is a matter of life and death. What's interesting is when I talked to the folks who did this study, they actually got the idea from pilots. So the 1980s, there were all these accidents that pilots that the airlines were getting into, because pilots were distracted during takeoff and landing, which is the most dangerous part of a flight.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:36] Who's distracting the pilot during takeoff and land?
Nir Eyal: [00:41:38] It'd be captain, would you like your gin and tonic now or something? I don't know.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:41:42] It's a great time for a drink. I'm glad to [indiscernible] [00:41:44].
Nir Eyal: [00:41:45] So the FAA instituted what's called the clean cockpit rule, which means that you cannot distract the pilots for any reason below 10,000 feet.
Jordan Harbinger: [0 0:41:54] [indiscernible] [00:41:54] policy.
Nir Eyal: [00:41:55] And it's saved countless lives. So we need to adapt some of these lessons in this age of distraction where we're constantly have all these external triggers that get us to do things we don't want to do. We should take some of these lessons to heart.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:06] So distraction existed before the Internet, just for the record, right? Except it was happening in the ‘80s.
Nir Eyal: [00:42:12] In fact, okay, so that's a good lead into the last step. The fourth step about, so we talked about this model. One side is traction. One side is distraction. We've got internal triggers, we've got external triggers. The last thing that we can do is enter into packs, that's how we stopped distraction. So we've taken care of the internal triggers, we've made traction more likely, we've blocked the external triggers. The last thing we can do is to make distraction less likely. So when we're about to do the distraction, how can we block it before it happens? And one of the best things we can do is to enter into a commitment pack.
[00:42:43] And the idea of a kind of impact. You're talking about how distraction is a very old problem. If you think about the story of Ulysses and the Odyssey, right? Ulysses is sailing home and he's sailing his ship past the Island of the Sirens. And the Sirens sing this beautiful song that anyone who hears crashes their ship onto the shore and they die. While Ulysses knows this, and so he comes up with a plan. He makes everybody on his ship. All the sailors put beeswax in their ears so they can't hear the siren song, but he wants to hear the song. So he doesn't put beeswax in his ear.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:16] Why does he want to hear the song?
Nir Eyal: [00:43:17] Because it's supposed to be amazingly beautiful.
Jordan Harbinger: [0 0:43:18] Oh right.
Nir Eyal: [00:43:19] Because he's tempted.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:20] Just wants to check it out.
Nir Eyal: [00:43:21] He just wants to check it out. But he knows what's going to happen if he hears the song, he's going to tell his crew to sail towards the island. So he tells his crew to bind him to the mast of the ship, and he tells them, no matter what I do, no matter what I say, don't let me go. And that's what they do. And he safely passes the ship through the Island of the Sirens. He doesn't get distracted. He doesn't crash the ship. So what's the lesson here? The lesson here is that we can use these commitment packs in our own life. There are all sorts of technologies today, most of them free, which help us enter into these Ulysses style packs. So let me give you a few. I use this app called Forest every day. When I start writing, it's this silly little app that basically when I start my writing session, I tell it how much time I want to focus on what I'm doing without distraction. And if I pick up my phone during that period of time, this little virtual tree dies.
[00:44:18] It's a stupid little virtual tree. It means nothing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:20] It just means you failed the virtual tree.
Nir Eyal: [00:44:23] Exactly, but it's enough of a little bit of a reminder that, “Hey, that's not really what you wanted to do right now. You made this little commitment.” Another thing that I do is that I'll have a buddy come over and we'll work together. But sometimes if that buddy isn't available, then I use a website called Focus Me, which I'm also an investor in. I liked the idea, so much. Focus Me—
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:41] Who need friends, I've got an app for this.
Nir Eyal: [00:44:43] Kind of, remember Chatroulette?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:46] Yeah, of course.
Nir Eyal: [00:44:47] Okay.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:47] So I mean, yeah, I've heard that.
Nir Eyal: [00:44:49] So this is just like Chatroulette, but for work and without all the nasty.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:53] Without a bunch of random dudes.
Nir Eyal: [00:44:55] Exactly, basically the way it works, you sign up for a time and you say, okay, 8:30 in the morning, I'm going to be at my desk. I need to work for this time. And you're matched with another person who has the same desire, to get work done. You very quickly in 30 seconds to say, “Hey, how are you doing? My name is Nir. Here's what I'm working on. They’ll tell you what they're working on and you get to work. And for those 50 minutes you see them working on your screen and they see you, they don't see what you're working on. But just having that bit of a commitment with another person that says, okay, you're working and I'm working. We're both working at the same time is enough to enter into that pact.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:26] That's so interesting. Is there a sound? So if they get a phone call or something.
Nir Eyal: [00:45:30] You can, but you can also mute it. So I tend to mute it, but it's amazing how much that helps in the end. And if you think about it, today when so many people work from home or even in open offices, right? If you're working on your laptop, nobody knows whether you're checking ESPN or if you're actually, doing real work, right? And nobody cares, nobody's looking. But the fact that like another human being said, okay, we're both going to work together during this period of time is incredibly effective.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:55] Because you just feel like such a schlep if you are screwing around.
Nir Eyal: [00:45:58] And more than anything, but I think it's really great at is that it guarantees that you're going to be in that chair at that time, right? Because if you don't show up, they're going to give you a bad review that you're a no show. So it helps you actually enter into that commitment because you said you would be there.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:13] What is it called again?
Nir Eyal: [00:46:14] It's called focus mate. Focusmate.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:15] Focusmate, all right.
Nir Eyal: [00:0:46:16] Focusmate.com. It's free. Another tool I use, I use this app called SelfControl on my Mac.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:22] Ironically titled self-control.
Nir Eyal: [00:46:24] Right, right?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:24] Yeah, okay.
Nir Eyal: [00:46:25] Which basically you hit one button, you tell how long you want to work for, and it will not let you access any websites that you deem distracting, right. So it doesn't let you, for me, it doesn't let me get to email. It doesn't let me get to Facebook or YouTube, any of the sites. I don't need to get to when I just need to have focus writing time. So these tools are out there to help us make these commitment packs.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:44] I love the Focusmate thing and people might go, “Oh, that's kind of dumb. I can promise myself.” But you can't, that's the point, right?
Nir Eyal: [00:46:51] Well, the idea is that you can use these tools in concert, right? Focus on the internal triggers. What is it that's prompting the distraction in the first place? Schedule your day or somebody else will. Remove the external triggers. And as a last resort, make these packs.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:06] What common problems do you see with implementing these types of solutions? So for example, with the earlier example that I gave was, well I'm not really hungry, but I'm still wanting ice cream. It's actually that I'm bored. I'm mislabeling the internal trigger. Do we ever get the right answer? Are there some times where we just were so good at lying to ourselves that maybe I never really find the internal trigger? Maybe I've really convinced myself that I'm hungry.
Nir Eyal: [00:47:31] Well, two things actually. Lack of self-compassion, and a lack of belief in your own power. So let me talk about self-compassion first. That studies have found that the more self-compassionate you are, the more likely you are to achieve your long-term goals. And this is antithetical to I think, how we are raised that, we think no pain, no gain. And that if you don't suffer, then you didn't work hard enough. And I don't think that's true actually for these type of things. That we need to be compassionate with ourselves. Socrates and Plato, 2,500 years ago talked about Akrasia, this nature of human beings to do things against their better interests. So as you said, distraction is not new. It is part of the human condition. I mean, the brain is built to be distracting, right? Think about it. I mean, if you've ever tried to meditate, just thinking about nothing is really hard.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:20] It's like impossible.
Nir Eyal: [00:48:21] It's very difficult. So the brain is constantly getting us off track. It's natural. You're born like that. There's nothing wrong with it. But we expect ourselves to have these will powers that would let us accomplish what we want to accomplish. And then we beat ourselves up when we don't, or when we feel something we don't want to feel. And so the answer instead is self-compassion and is curiosity rather than beating ourselves up.
[00:48:44] And the second big mistake I see is that we think we're powerless. There was a really good study done a few years ago that found that the number one determinant of whether an alcoholic would relapse was not the amount of physical dependency. Okay, it wasn't the amount of actual alcohol that they consumed. It wasn't the level of physical dependency, that didn't determine whether they would relapse after treatment. It was the belief in their own powerlessness. And I see this all the time, and this is what kind of scares me about all these recent stories about with headlines like technology is hijacking your brain and how technology is making you do things, and how technology is so addictive. We got to put this stuff in perspective, right? The fact is we're only powerless if we think we are. So the biggest mistake you can make is to think, well, there's nothing I can do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:40] Right, this is going to suck me in one way or the other. So forget about it. Might as well play Warcraft all day.
Nir Eyal: [00:49:45] Yeah, there's this psychological phenomenon called what-the-hell effect.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:49] Yes.
Nir Eyal: [00:49:50] Where you break the seal and “Oh, I ate one cookie.” Well, might as well eat the whole bag. And we see this with distraction as well. Ah, you know, I've only got 45 minutes until my next meeting. I might as well not start anything important and hang around on YouTube and then you just use up the entire time and you could have been doing something else. So it's important to realize we are not powerless. That's the most important thing that we can do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:12] I love this. This is super effective. And your first book was called Hooked. Wait, was that your first book or just the first one I read? Okay.
Nir Eyal: [00:50:18] No, it’s the first one.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:18] Okay, it's called Hooked. The next book is called?
Nir Eyal: [00:50:21] Indistractable.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:22] And that comes out when?
Nir Eyal: [00:50:22] Who knows.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:23] All right, sounds good.
Nir Eyal: [00:50:24] I'm still writing. You're getting a sneak peek of the concepts in book.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:27] I'll plan for that then.
Nir Eyal: [00:50:29] It'll be out within the next year or so.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:32] Great. Thanks Nir.
Nir Eyal: [00:50:33] Thank you very much.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:35] Great big thank you Nir. The book title will be Indistractable. It's not out yet, so don't worry about it. We'll have him back on the show closer to that date as well because there's a lot more than where that came from. If you enjoyed this one, don't forget to thank Nir on Twitter. That'll all be linked up in the show notes for this episode, which can be found at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. Also tweet at me your number one takeaway from Nir. I'm also @jordanharbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, and don't forget, if you want to learn how to apply everything you heard today from Nir, make sure you go grab the worksheets also in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:51:10] We've got our Alexis Skill, if you want to hear a little bit of outtakes and or juicy tidbits in the daily briefing. You can go to jordanharbinger.com/alexa to install that. It'll install on your Amazon Echo, that thing that monitors everything you say, whether you like it or not. But I think it's a great way to get reminders of what's coming up and shows you haven't heard. And maybe a little refresher from episodes that you've recently listened to already.
[00:51:36] This episode was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. Show notes are by Robert Fogarty. Booking back office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. Throw us an iTunes review, those are helpful. We're trying to rebuild as you know, starting from scratch and those reviews got to go back up there. Make sure you have a unique nickname because otherwise it won't post and it won't tell you why.And we've got instructions at jordanharbinger.com/subscribe if it's a little cryptic and we'll make sure that you get there. But those are really helpful, we share those with the team as well. So if you want to leave us some good, nice, positive feedback and make everyone's day, go ahead and do that in iTunes. And don't forget to pay the fee and share the show with those you love and even those you don't. We've got a lot more like this in the pipeline and we're excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.