When you’re not distracted, you find yourself in a place where you’re highly creative, have a lot of talent, and see opportunities almost every day.
However, distractions are everywhere. What if you could actually have a way to be able to eliminate those distractions? Our guest expert has been called the prophet of habit-forming technology.
His name is Nir Eyal. He is a bestselling author. He writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. He’s the founder of a couple of tech companies and an active investor in habit-forming technology.
Don’t miss this episode to discover what you can do to eliminate distraction in your own world and hook people to your way of being, your products, and services.
Listen to the podcast here:
Indistractable: Control Your Attention And Choose Your Life With Nir Eyal
What would it be worth to you right here, right now, if you were at a place where you could become indistractable? You know what I’m talking about. Do you ever find yourself in a place where you’re a highly creative, you have a lot of talent and you see opportunities in almost every day? In other words, you may be like me, suffer from shiny object syndrome. What if you could actually have a way to be able to eliminate those distractions? On the other end as you’re building and growing your business, what if you had a methodology in a way to truly understand how to get people hooked to your technology, your programs, your services and a whole lot more?
If any of those two ideas fascinate you like they do me, you are going to love our guest expert. His name is Nir Eyal. He is a bestselling author. He writes, consults and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology and business. He’s the founder of a couple of tech companies. He’s an active investor in habit-forming technology. What do you think you could learn from someone who is sought-after as an investor and an advisor to build habit-forming technologies? Not only what you can do to eliminate it in your own world, but also how you can hook people to your way of being and your products and services. He’s also taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. He’s also been called the prophet of habit-forming technology. Nir, it’s a pleasure to have you with us. How are you?
I’m doing great. Thank you so much. I appreciate that great introduction.
We all have backstories, Nir, as far as why we’re doing what we’re doing. Why are you doing what you’re doing?
I stumbled on this field. I started two tech companies and the last of which was at the advertising and gaming industry. It was from that vantage point that I had this front row seat to see a lot of the companies that we think about as some of the biggest companies in the world. Companies like Facebook and Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Slack. I saw many of these companies get started. I took lot of interest in how they were so good at changing consumer behavior. My idea was what if we could unlock some of the psychology behind how people become hooked to these products. How are they so good at forming these habits so that we could democratize these techniques and make all sorts of products and services that can benefit our users? Things that people want to use because they wanted to, not because they felt like they had to.
That’s why I wrote my first book. I wanted to democratize those techniques to share these secrets that all of these products fundamentally use, the psychology behind how they get people hooked so that we can get people hooked to healthy behaviors. That’s exactly what’s happened since the book was published. We’ve sold 250,000 copies. The idea is that you can use the same techniques to help people form healthy exercise habits like fit bod does. You can get people hooked to education. Kahoot! is the world’s largest educational software. It uses the hook model to get kids hooked onto in-classroom learning. The New York Times is a client of mine that I’ve worked with to help people get hooked onto the habit of reading the newspaper every day. We can use these habits for good to build healthy habits in people’s lives.
Many of us in business have wonderful products and services. We spend tons of time perfecting the experience that we’re giving our customers. The customer would benefit so greatly if they use the darn product. My goal was to figure out how to share these techniques so that all sorts of products can be used habitually without the need for expensive advertising, for spammy messages that annoys everybody. What would it be like for your business if people used your product because they felt like they wanted to, not because they felt like they had to? That’s the ultimate goal of building one of these habit-forming products.
If you never want to miss one episode, go to GrowthToFreedom.com/subscribe. You might be thinking to yourself, “If only more people knew about me, my business and my ability to solve problems, the big game would be completely different.” As Nir mentioned, if people just used what I had to offer, I could help so many people. If you’re wondering that, you’re going to want to stick around because Nir’s got some bonuses that he’s going to share with you that are going to transform the way you think, and more importantly, the way you do better business as well. In the book, Hooked, you talk about these ideas of four basic steps. Let’s even back up one more step. What is a hook in the phrase? If someone’s reading go, “What are they talking about a hook or hooked?”
Hooked is an experience designed to connect your user’s problem to your product with enough frequency to form a habit. It goes through these four basic steps of a trigger, an action, a reward, and finally an investment. It’s through successive cycles, through these hooks that customer preferences are shaped, that our tastes are formed and that these habits take hold.
As these tastes take hold and they’re shaped in us, maybe you can identify or share where does this idea of becoming indistractable come in because it seems like such a fine line. On one end, we want to help people get hooked. On the other end, we want to stay protected so that we’re not distracted. Another way might be able to look at, it’s the difference in the mindset of being the consumer or the marketer.
The book is not about how to build addictive products. Nothing I do is about addiction. That’s something else. Addiction is always harmful. What I work on is habits. The book is called How to Build Habit-Forming Products, not how to build addictive products. We have good habits and we have bad habits. Wouldn’t you agree?
Yes.Boredom, anxiety, fatigue, loneliness, and uncertainty are the things that drive us towards distraction. - Nir Eyal Click To Tweet
The idea is what if we could use products and services to help people build good habits in their lives while also making sure that we are aware of how to break the bad habits in our lives. The reason this comes from the same guy is because we use the exact same psychology in both. Who better to tell you how to kick some of these bad habits? Many of them are caused by technology products for some people. For some of us, we find we we’re distracted by our email, our cell phone, our Facebook accounts or Instagram accounts. Many of these things that we find to be so distracting. I can tell you the Achilles heel of how to fight back at these distractions. How to hack back these bad habits that don’t serve you because as an industry insider, I know exactly how they work.
With that in mind, how they work. Go back to the four key steps. It sounds like the triggers, action, reward investment plays a pretty significant role in developing habit-forming type products as well. It’s like the old saying that unlearning many times is more important than the learning.
When it comes to the modern American worker, our problem is not that we don’t know what to do. We all basically know what to do. We know that if we want to get in shape, you got to exercise. You have to eat right. If you want to do better at your job, you have to make sure that you do the actual work without getting distracted, without getting waylaid based on doing the wrong stuff.
We all basically know that if you want to have a good relationship with your friends, your family, you have to be fully with them. Despite the fact that we know what to do, the key question is in Indistractable, in the second book I wrote, why don’t we do those things? This is by the way, not a new question. In fact, Plato asked this very same question 2,500 years ago. He called it Akrasia, the tendency that we all have to do things against our better interests. Why does that happen? Why don’t we do what we know we should do? Why do we lie to ourselves every day? I used to do this all the time. I would say I would exercise. I wouldn’t. I would say I would eat right. I wouldn’t. I would say I was going to work on that big project. I would procrastinate day after day.
I wanted to break that madness. I wanted to figure out if there was one skill I wanted to learn, it was the power to become indistractable. What if I could live my life with personal integrity and do the things that I wanted to do? A lot of books out there about distraction and technology use, they’re all basically the same. They all basically say stop using technology. Technology is melting your brain. I think that’s BS. It is not reasonable these days to tell someone, “Stop using email, stop using Facebook, stop using Twitter.” It’s ridiculous. We need these tools for our livelihood, for our business and they’re not going away. Finally, they’re wonderful. They’re great tools and there’s nothing wrong with using them. I want to fight this media hype that these products are addicting us, that they’re hijacking our brain.
It’s rubbish. It is not true. It is not something that addicts everyone. It addicts some people, just like all sorts of things that addict. Some people don’t addict everyone. Many of us have a glass of wine with dinner. We’re not all alcoholics. Not everyone who has sex is a sex addict. Not everyone who plays poker from time to time with their buddies is a problem gambler. Why do we think that technology is somehow different? No. Some people do have the pathology of addiction and get addicted to all sorts of things, including technology, but most of us do not have an addiction. We have a distraction. What I wanted to do with indistractable was in all areas of our life. Whatever it is that we struggle with when it comes to not doing whatever it is that we say we’re going to do, I wanted to give people a deeper perspective on the real reasons why we get distracted. Because ultimately this is the superpower of this century.
If you are the person who can just live with personal integrity, if you can do what it is you say you’re going to do, you’re the person that people want to do business with. Think about as an employer. How many employees have you gone through because they simply couldn’t do what they said they’re going to do? You want to be the person that when you make a promise, you keep it not only to other people, you keep it to yourself. You keep those promises you make even to the, even to the most important person, even to the promises you make to yourself. This is what being indistractable is all about. It’s about living with personal integrity. It turns out that we can actually become indistractable. All of us can become indistractable.
It’s not all that hard to do if we know what to do about it. Not only that, we can create an indistractable workplace. How many of us see at work people putzing around checking Facebook in the middle of work or chit chatting it up with our colleagues as opposed to actually getting work done? There’s a whole section on, how to raise indistractable children. How many of us see our kids spending too much time on their devices? There’s a lot that we can do in terms of improving our lives, having a much better work life, home life if we understand how to live with personal integrity. How to stop getting distracted and become indistractable.
Speaking of indistractable, would it be worth to be able to take this tool to become indistractable? If you’re suffering from distraction, if you’re suffering from overwhelm, if you’re just suffering and you feel like you’ve got 100 balls being fired at you at one year in a firing squad. Would it be worth to be able to break some of these bad habits, some of the things that are blocking, stopping you or getting in the way? We’re going to take a deeper dive and how you can create a cockpit to become indistractable, be more productive, be a better parent, be a better business leader, be far better than you’ve ever thought possible. What do you find is the biggest thing that’s getting in the way, the biggest mistake people make when they’re trying to solve this puzzle around being indistractable?
The first place we should start is by understanding what distraction is by understanding what it is not. If I asked you real quick, what’s the opposite of distraction? Most people would say focus, but it is not focus. If you look at the entomology of the word, in fact, the opposite of distraction is not focused. The opposite of distraction is traction. In fact, both words come from the same Latin root, trahere, which means to pull, and they both end in the same six letter word, action. Traction is any action that pulls you towards what you want to do, things that you do with intent. The opposite of traction is distraction. Anything that moves you away from what you plan to do, anything that you are doing that is not done with intent. This is important for two reasons. One, anything can be a distraction.
How many of us sit at our desks and say, “Now, I’m going to do that thing I’ve been procrastinating. Now, I’m going to do that thing that finally I’ve been meaning to do. I’m going to sit down, I’m going to do that hard work. I’m not going to get distracted. I’m going to focus. Here I go right after I check email.” 30 to 45 minutes later, you’re still on email and you’re telling yourself, “Email something that’s important. That’s a businessy worky thing to do. I got to do that anyway.” Here’s the thing. If it is not what you plan to do with your time, it is just as much of a distraction. What happens these days, we are so caught up in reacting to things in between the meetings, the emails, the pings, the dings and the Slack messages. We are so caught up in all that that we have no time to do anything that doesn’t feel urgent. I’m sure everybody knows the Eisenhower Matrix of things that are important and things that are urgent and you’re supposed to certainly do the things that are important and urgent.
What people oftentimes forget is that we also have to do the things that are important but not as urgent. Those things are what goes to the back burner and never get done. This is how businesses fail because we are so busy as entrepreneurs only doing the things that are urgent that we have to do all the time. Reply to emails, check phone calls, talk to people right away all the time that we have no time to think. Thinking is a huge competitive advantage. If you have time in your day to sit down in silence and ask yourself, what is most important to do right now, you need that time. If you are not planning time to think, you are running your business mindlessly. You’re like a chicken with its head cut off. You’re just running around without putting any brainpower towards your business. You need that time to think. If you don’t plan for that time to think, then you’re like everybody else. You’re just reacting with no time for reflecting.Every time you're distracted, it takes about twenty minutes to get your focus back. - Nir Eyal Click To Tweet
Anything can become a distraction. Even those worky tasks we think are helpful, we think that we need to do, but of course if we didn’t plan to do them, they are as much of a distraction. The second part of this that’s important to understand, just as anything can become a distraction, anything can be traction as long as you plan for it. What I want people to start doing, one of the most important steps to becoming indistractable is to plan your day. This is super important. I researched this book for five years. There are 30 pages of citations and peer review journals and interviews. Across the board, when I spoke to high performance people, people in the C-suite, every single one of them already did this technique. This is a technique that all of us need to adopt. It’s called making an implementation intention, which is a fancy way of saying planning out what you’re going to do and when you are going to do it and I mean down to the minute. This uses a technique called timeboxing. Anybody can use this free tool. You don’t have to sign up, you don’t have to pay anything. It’s totally free. The idea here is to make your ideal calendar for one week. Just for the week ahead.
Why is this important? Here’s the thing. People love to complain and moan and whine about how distracting things are. When I ask them, “Can I see your calendar? Can I understand what it was that you got distracted from?” This was a nationwide survey in the United States of America, two-thirds of people in this country do not keep a calendar. Think about that. We spend all this money on keeping our stuff safe. We have locks on our doors and our home. We have alarm systems on our car. We keep our money in vaults, and yet when it comes to our time, something that everyone on Earth only gets the same amount of, sure, come on by. Take as much of it as you want. Because if you don’t plan your day, somebody’s going to plan it for you.
It’s fine. Anything can become distraction. Similarly, anything can become traction. If you want time in your day, I’m not saying plan out the work stuff. I want you to plan time with your family. I want you to plan time to take care of yourself. I want you to plan time to pray or meditate or take a walk or do whatever it is that you think is important to do with your time. Have fun. That’s fine. You can plan all that stuff as well. The fact of the matter is when we leave this big open white space in our day and we’re flying around reacting to everything, we’re letting other people control our attention, control our time and in controlling us. That’s a big part of becoming indistractable, is deciding to turn your time into traction by making time for that traction in your day.
Readers, I hope that you’re getting the distinctions here to help you become more productive. At the end of the day, there’s something in advertising called hijacking the mind in certain ways. How often does it happen that you’re literally, without even knowing it, your day is getting hijacked? In other words, hijacking the day. Would it be worth to be able to get clarity, confidence and control around what it is that you do, the things that are important to you? I know it sounds too good to be true. What would you say, Nir, let’s speak to the elephant in the room. That creative entrepreneur, you know the type, a relationship-driven entrepreneur who’s a connector, fast twitch, quick decision. Actually, they would convince themselves either now or in the past that they operate best off the cuff leader. What would you say to the person thinking, “This applies to those people, not me because I’m this way?”
First all, if you don’t have a problem with distraction, you’re reading the wrong book. If you’re the person who does what they say they’re going to do every day. If you work out when you say you will, if you eat the right foods when you say you will, if you are with your children and you’re fully present without checking your device, when you spend time with your loved ones, you’re there. When you’re in a meeting with your colleagues, you don’t have your brain somewhere else because you’re checking a device. If you are that person, then you don’t need this book. If you’re like the rest of us, if you’re like me or at least how I used to be, this was my life. I was constantly distracted by stuff and I wasn’t doing the things I know was important to me.
What I recommend is if you need time to be on call for your clients, that’s great. There’s no problem with that. You can schedule that time as well. What’s important, however, if you don’t plan time to do the things that you know you need to do, like for example, think. Having focused work time, having time to take care of your body, to go work out, to be with your friends, whatever is according to your values. By the way, I’m not telling you what your values should be. Your values need to be according to what you think is important to you in your life. The definition of values is the attributes of the person we want to become. That’s up to you to decide. If you’re the person who says, “I want to work 80 hours a week and do nothing,” do it, that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m going to tell you to do otherwise but I want you to do that with intent.
Many people out there, we worked for somebody or we start a company, we think, “It’s going to be 40 hours a week,” but it’s 40 hours a week in the office. We don’t realize it’s bait and switch. We think we’re getting one thing. We’re expected to constantly be on call and work on nights and weekends. That’s when real work happens. If that’s what you choose to do, no problem. My problem is when it’s a bait and switch, when we think it’s one thing and it’s something else, that’s when it’s a problem.
As it relates to that, Nir, you’ve spent five years researching this, talked to thousands of high-achievers, high-performers, the best of the best in the world from all types of different industries. If you were to narrow down a handful of action steps, we like to refer to these as the needle movers and breakthroughs. What would be three to five needle-mover, breakthrough actions, behaviors that someone could take to start to create that freedom around becoming indistractable?
The first step, the most important step is to realize that distraction starts from within. This is the most important thing I can possibly teach you. We like to blame distractions occurring outside of us. Those are called external triggers. The pings, the dings, the rings, other people in your life, all of these things can be potential distractions because they lead us to something we didn’t plan to do, versus something we did plan to do. Traction versus distraction. It turns out if we actually look at what distracts us most every day, it’s not things that happen outside of us. It’s what’s going on within us. Here’s the thing. Time management is pain management. In fact, if you look at the neuroscience, we know that all human behavior is spurred by a desire to escape discomfort, even the desire to feel good, craving, lusting, desire, wanting.
There’s a reason we say love hurts because neurologically that’s exactly what’s going on. When you check your email, when you can’t sit down with your family for ten minutes without looking at your phone, I got news for you. It isn’t your phone that’s doing it to you. It’s something going on inside of you. If you sit with your colleagues and you’re constantly having to check something and constantly have something on your mind, it’s not the technology that’s doing it to you. It’s that you have these uncomfortable emotional states: boredom, anxiety, fatigue, loneliness, uncertainty. These are the things that drive us towards distraction. If we don’t learn to deal with those discomforts in a healthier manner, that leads us towards traction versus distraction, we will always get distracted by something. I give a lot of tactics that people can use in order to master these internal triggers. That’s the most important step.
The second step is to make time for traction. We talked about this a little bit earlier about making a timeboxed calendar. Then also one of the quick hits that you can do that will revolutionize your work life and your relationship with your colleagues as well as your home life is to do a schedule sync. Taking fifteen minutes every week to sit down with your spouse, with your significant other and take a look at each other’s timeboxed calendar. This saved my marriage. My wife and I would constantly fight about household responsibilities. We’ve been married for several years. Those arguments are over. We never have those arguments anymore because we do this schedule sync. The same goes in the workplace. Sitting down with your boss, sitting down with your employees and having visibility into how they want to spend their time, how you want to spend your time. Doing that sync and saying, “Here’s what I want to do this week. Here’s the stuff I couldn’t fit in my weekly calendar. How should I reprioritize?” It will change your relationship with your boss, with your employees. It’s an awesome technique that I haven’t seen covered anywhere else. It works.
The third step is to hack back the external triggers. Like we have the internal triggers, we have the external triggers, everybody knows about how your phone, your computer, all of these things can prompt you towards distraction. There are a lot of non-obvious external triggers that many people don’t think about when it comes to distraction. Meetings, how many stupid meetings do we have that are a huge distraction? Group chat and email. How much time do we spend and waste on email? One of the most pernicious forms of distraction these days comes from the open floor plan office. It’s a huge source of distraction.The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. - Nir Eyal Click To Tweet
Somebody comes by your desk and says, “Can I chat with you for a quick sec?” It’s never a quick sec. There’s a simple solution to this that I provide for everyone in the book. There is a screen sign. It’s a piece of card stock. You pull it out of the book, you fold it into thirds, you put it on your computer monitor and in bright red letters, it says, “I’m indistractable right now. Please come back later.” That simple message, this screen sign, will change your work life because now people have an explicit sign that says, “Please do not bother me right now. I’m doing focus work.” I’m not saying do this all day. I’m talking about 45 minutes, maybe an hour, an hour-and-a-half for you to have time to think for you to do focused work. It’s something I want people to do throughout the office because if your job requires thinking, this is how you get that time for focused work.
We know that every time you’re distracted, it takes you about twenty minutes to get your focus back. Whether it’s someone tapping on your shoulder or a ping or ding on your phone, you are losing valuable time when you could be doing your best work. The tragedy is you don’t even know how much better your work could be. We think we’re doing a great job, but we don’t realize that we’re doing a great job despite the fact that we get distracted. We can be so much better, so much more productive. Finally the last technique is called making a pre-commitment, preventing distraction with what’s called a pact. We have these three types of pacts. We have a price pact, an effort pact and an identity pact. This is all about things that we can do to make sure that we don’t get distracted when the time comes, that we can take steps in advance.
We can, in fact, use technologies. Many of them are absolutely free to block out distractions so that when we are focused, when we do need our focused work time, we can make sure that we block out those distractions and stay on task. We can do that by adding a bit of effort to make sure we don’t do something we don’t want to do. We can make a price pact, this is when we make a bet with somebody, or we can make an identity packed where we have an identity that helps us stay on track. There’s a lot more information there on a book, but that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Readers, do you want to stay on track? Do you want to put yourself in a place where you increase your productivity, your presence 25%, 30%, maybe even as high as 50% and more? You want to be in a place where you’re not distracted, where you’re not feeling as overwhelmed like you’re getting 100 dodge balls fired at you on a firing squad. You alluded to this. If you look at a hammer, a hammer is a tool. Like all these tools, technology is supposed to simplify our world and make it better. Yet for many, it’s over complicated things. It feels so overwhelming. It doesn’t have to be that way. A hammer can be used as a weapon or it can be used as a tool to build some incredible things. What are you choosing? I encourage you to choose indistractable. I encourage you to choose following the guidance that Nir shared.
I encourage you to look at the idea that number one, distraction starts from within. What are some of those emotional blocks right now, uncertainty, fear and etc. that you can work to clear out and take a close look of what you want? Number two, what would have to happen for you to put a timeboxed calendar method in place? Number three, what would it take for you to start syncing up? Find a buddy, whether it’s your spouse, a team member at the office, your boss, your team, to sync that up. The last two is to look at how do you hack these external triggers and also develop the pre-commitment pact.
Here’s the thing. If you’re in sports, my son who’s twelve, plays quarterback. When’s the best time to understand where you’re going to throw a route as a quarterback? It’s to decide before the play actually happens. When’s the best time to handle an obstacle? It’s dealing with it before it actually comes up. In other words, preparation. Nir is giving you the tools, the wisdom, the insights to be prepared, so you can be far more productive so that you can go out there and use these tools to create your own version of indistractable. There are so many profound steps here that you’ve shared. If people want to go deeper with you, Nir, where can they go to get access to the book and your tools? You’ve got so much information available. Where do they start?
My website is NirAndFar.com. If you want specific information on indistractable, the book is titled Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life and that’s available wherever books are sold. If you go to Indistractable.com, there’s a free video course as well as a complimentary 80-page workbook. It didn’t fit into the manuscript, so I’m making it available for free for anyone who goes to Indistractable.com.
I want to encourage you to go to the site, check out what he’s got available and go to Indistractable.com. Get the book, go to NirAndFar.com. He’s got a wealth of resources that will blow your mind and give you some of the tools, insights and action steps that you can take to be a better you. What’s something I should have asked you that we didn’t get a chance to cover?
This was great. It’s tough to squeeze in five years of academic research into a short interview. The most important thing I want to leave folks, and you alluded to this a little bit before, is that the antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. This is what we’re struggling with is this epidemic of impulsiveness. If the chocolate cake is on the fork on its way to your mouth, then you’re going to eat it. If the cigarette is lit and you’re about to take a puff, you’re going to smoke. If you sleep next to your cell phone as close as you do to the love of your life, your lover, you’re going to pick up the phone first thing in the morning, so it’s too late. If you let that happen, you’ve already lost.
If there’s one mantra I want people to remember is that the antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. There is no distraction that we can’t overcome as long as we take steps to prevent getting distracted tomorrow. The feeling I would love folks to experience and very few folks have felt this, so many of us subscribed to this myth of the to-do list. We think we’re doing so great because we had this huge to-do list every day. If you’re anything like I was, that to-do list gets recycled from today until tomorrow, to the next day, to the next day. There’s that quote that says, “Insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.” Many of us keep getting distracted day-after-day and we don’t know why. We don’t even do anything about it. What I want to help people experience is this amazing feeling of getting to the end of your day and saying to yourself, “I did everything I said I would do.”
The problem with these to-do lists, the problem with conventional time management techniques is that you’ve got a to-do list of 99 things and you do three of them. You had a super productive day and then you look at that list and you say, “I still have 96 things to do that I didn’t get done.” We want to do away with that. We want to have every day you know what you will get done and help you accomplish it so that the end of the day, remember I said anything can be traction, just like anything can be distraction. I want you to spend time doing whatever it is you want to do, so that you can do it in a relaxed manner. You can watch Netflix, you can watch a football game, you can go on YouTube or Facebook or do whatever you want with your time and do it guilt-free because that is what you planned to do with your time.
You deserve it and imagine the power of freedom you get if you take that approach, versus being in reaction mode or worse yet being an overreaction. Think about it, “What would it be worth to be responsive, and more importantly proactive and have the antidote to impulsiveness which is forethought?” It’s right here for you right now and you can go deeper by going and checking out Nir’s resources. As we wind this down, I like to take a personal shift. I’m curious, what were you known for in high school?What's more important than the tactics is the strategy. Tactics are what you do; strategy is why you do it. - Nir Eyal Click To Tweet
Being fat. I was clinically obese. I was a pretty big guy. Actually, I started losing weight in high school. In middle school, I was very big. I’d weigh as much as I did in middle school as well as I do now but I was a couple feet shorter. I was a pretty big kid.
If you can think back to maybe your earliest influences that set the trajectory of where you’re at now, what was one of the main catalysts when you were young?
Interestingly enough, I think it was the fact that I was clinically obese and that I lost a bunch of weight because at one point in my life, I remember feeling controlled by food much in the same way that a few years ago I used to feel controlled by technology. That feeling of powerlessness was depressing. It felt horrible that I couldn’t have control over my behavior. I think a lot of people experienced that. What made the big difference for me was when I got real with myself to admit that it wasn’t the food. I wasn’t eating because I was hungry. I was eating my feelings, I was eating to escape something. That’s exactly what we do with our technology. It’s not the technology, it’s the fact that we’re using it in a way to pacify feelings that we don’t want to feel like boredom, loneliness, uncertainty, fatigue and stress. That’s the part we need to gain control over. It was only when I started realizing why I was overeating, that I wasn’t eating because I was hungry, I was eating my feelings. Only when I understood that I could actually do something about the problem. The same goes for my technology. Same story. That’s the way I conquered distraction in my life and I became indistractable. It started from that understanding of mastering those internal triggers.
Mastering the internal pieces. What’s that worth to you? You’ve got the ability, the tools, the resources to be able to do that by plugging into what Nir’s got available for you. Go check out the book. Nir, you’ve been married for many years. Obviously, it’s a partnership in a marriage. For me, my first marriage didn’t work out so well because I was just too crazy, too fast and a lot of distractions. Frankly, I wasn’t present a lot and I made a lot of mistakes. I like to think I’m doing it better this time around. I’m in my second marriage. Your current wife is seeing a lot of this journey, ups and downs, the good, the bad, the ugly. If you were going to turn to your wife right now and thank her for how she’s shown up to allow you to move into this space, to have a bigger impact, a bigger influence, a bigger reach, which your reach is amazing. What would you thank your wife for?
There’s a lot I would thank my wife. One, for putting up with me all these years. In fact, we wrote Indistractable together. She’s on the cover as a coauthor. We did a lot together. I remember I handed the book to her. The first manuscript was 350 pages long. She looked at it, read it and said, “Nobody’s going to read a 350-page book on distraction.” She helped me to cut down the book and weed out. The hardest part of writing a book is not writing too little. A lot of people say, “How am I going to write a big book?” The real hard part about writing a book is not writing too much because you want a book that people actually enjoy reading without getting bored, especially a book about distraction.
She helped me edit out a lot of stuff. She also helped me talk about in the book a lot of things that were going on in our marriage. There’s a whole chapter on how to be an indistractable lover. How we found that our sex life was suffering because every night we would go to bed and she would find her iPhone and I would caress my iPad as opposed to being fully present with each other. We talk about that in the book about how we changed our love life by becoming indistractable. I have to say that in this process, we are closer than we ever were before. It’s hard not to love a person who does what they say they’re going to do. That is such a bedrock of building trust in a relationship is showing up, is being dependable. Many times, the first complaint that people have about a relationship when it’s not going well, in my marriage, same story. We used to fight all the time about household responsibilities, about how I wasn’t doing what I say I would do. That’s all eliminated. We’ve solved that problem because we have become indistractable.
It’s such a fascinating concept and I imagine it’s going to continue to grow as technology grows. I think you’re in a great sweet spot, so congratulations on all the amazing things that you’re doing and the impact you’re having. What are one to three action steps you would want our readers to take as a result of our time?
Number one, master the internal triggers. Number two, make time for traction. Number three, hack back the external triggers, not just the tech triggers. All the triggers in your life that can lead you towards distraction rather than traction. Number four, and we didn’t get into too much depth on this, but there’s a lot more in the book as well, is about preventing distraction with pacts. It’s about making these pre-commitments that prevents you from doing something you otherwise didn’t want to do. What’s more important than the tactics is the strategy. Remember, tactics are what you do. Strategy is why you do it. What I want to do is to paint a picture in people’s minds. I want you to see traction, distraction, internal triggers, external triggers so that you can understand when you get distraction, what was the real source of the problem so that you can do something about it so that you don’t keep getting distracted by the same thing again and again.
As you’re reading, what would that be worth to you in it? If something here sparks you, if you can see how this can help you become far more productive at home and work relationships and more, I encourage you, go get Nir’s book. You can go to Nir’s website. Nir, it’s been a pleasure to have you with us. I’m incredibly grateful.
Thank you so much. This is a lot of fun. Thank you.
You’re welcome. I encourage you, seize the day. Take action with what Nir has shared with you. Apply it, put it in place and watch what happens. I can share with you from experience that when I shifted from more of an off the cuff person to scheduling my date nights and date days and my kids’ time and my business stuff and appointments and then built in non-negotiable time for thinking, it transformed the quality of my life most importantly, as well as the quality of relationship. What’s that worth? I can tell you, he’s got some of the insights to show you how to be able to do that. Take action, seize the day, make it a great week. We’ll see you next time on GrowthToFreedom.com.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Nir Eyal
- Tool – Timeboxing tool
About Nir Eyal
Nir Eyal writes, consults, and teaches about the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. The M.I.T. Technology Review dubbed Nir, “The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology.”
Nir founded two tech companies since 2003 and has taught at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford. He is the author of the bestselling book, Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
In addition to blogging at NirAndFar.com, Nir’s writing has been featured in The Harvard Business Review, TechCrunch, and Psychology Today.
Nir is also an active investor in habit-forming technologies. Some of his past investments include Eventbrite (NYSE:EB), Refresh.io (acquired by LinkedIn), Worklife (acquired by Cisco), Product Hunt, Marco Polo, Presence Learning, 7 Cups, Pana, Kahoot!, Byte Foods, FocusMate, and Anchor.fm (acquired by Spotify).
Nir attended The Stanford Graduate School of Business and Emory University.