Nir Eyal is the author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Previously, he taught as a Lecturer in Marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Design School, and he sold two technology companies since 2003.
For most of his career, Nir worked in the video gaming and advertising industries, where he learned and applied (and sometimes rejected) the techniques used to motivate and manipulate users. Nir writes to help companies create behaviors that benefit their users while educating people on how to build healthful habits in their own lives.
Nir is an active investor; he puts his money where his mouth is by backing habit-forming products that improve lives. Some of his past investments include Eventbrite (NYSE:EB) and Kahoot! (KAHOOT-ME.OL), Anchor.fm (acquired by Spotify), Canva, Refresh.io (acquired by LinkedIn), Product Hunt (acquired by Angelist), Homelight, Marco Polo, Byte Foods, FocusMate, Dynamicare, Wise App, and Sunnyside.
Although Nir received most of his education by earning an advanced degree from The School of Hard Knocks, He also received an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Please enjoy my conversation with Nir Eyal.
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Follow Along with the Transcript – Episode 168
Nir Eyal 0:00
Because what most people do they leave it to the last minute, right? If the cigarette is in your hand, you're gonna smoke it. If the chocolate cake is on the fork and you're on a diet too bad, you're gonna eat it. If you sleep next to your cell phone every night, it's gonna be the first thing you reach for in the morning before you say hello to your loved one.
Alex Ferrari 0:26
I've been able to partner with Mindvalley to present you guys FREE Masterclass is between 60 and 90 minutes, covering Mind Body Soul Relationships, and Conscious Entrepreneurship, taught by spiritual masters, yogi's spiritual thought leaders and best selling authors. Just head over to nextlevelsoul.com/free
I'd like to welcome to the show Nir Eyal how're you doing Nir?
Nir Eyal 1:04
Great. Good to see you, Alex, how are things?
Alex Ferrari 1:06
I'm good, man. I'm good. Thank you so much for coming on the show man. Like I was telling you before we got started, I am a fan. I read your first book hooked. I took your course. And I read your new book as well in distractible, which is a must read for I think the planet that anyone who wants to get anything done should read you love it. Thank you, you may quote me on appreciate it, it's fascinating because it's, you know, when I was, you know, you and I are think are of similar vintage. So when we were coming up, you know, the world wasn't as noisy. You know, we had three channels. On television, maybe you're younger than me, I'm not sure. But you know,
Nir Eyal 1:53
In our day, we had, you know, we sat around the fire when we were inventing the wheel for the first time, you know, back then when dinosaurs roamed the earth. That was we did right
Alex Ferrari 2:01
And cartoons were on Saturdays. But it was a it wasn't as crazy as far as attention, things grabbing our attention as it is now. And the all this technology's really done wonders for us. But it also has created a lot of harm. It's like any tool, you can use it for good, or for evil. And in your first book, he really talks about some of the evil stuff that social media companies do to hook us on stuff. So my very first question is what got you started in this line of work and researching human habits? And what hooks us psychologically and all this kind of stuff?
Nir Eyal 2:42
Yeah, I'm struggling because there's a lot I want to jump into from what you just said. And a lot of I think common cause a common misperception. So one of the things that really surprised me about distraction is that it is nothing new, in fact that it's very common to think, oh, you know, it's it's these days, that the world is just crazy the way it is. And so that's why we're so distracted. And it's social media, and it's Twitter. And it's the news, and it's the politics. But actually we you know, one of the first things I learned in my research was that Plato, the Greek philosopher, talked about this problem of distraction. 2500 years ago, 2500 years ago, people were complaining about distraction. And in fact, we know that the Romans, some of the some of the earliest writing that we have from the Roman Empire was about how the kids these days are so lazy, and they won't stay focused. And it's amazing. So every single generation has this perception that things are so out of control, and so distracting, and I can't focus and I can't, you know, people should just focus on their priorities. And the reason that happens, I think, it's because, you know, if we are similar vintage if you're, you know, I was born in the 70s. But I was was 70 some grew up in the ad, sir. Okay, excellent. So so the thing is, the world was actually just as crazy, arguably, right? We we had the Cold War, we had far more people in poverty than we do today. By every conceivable metric, access to clean water, access to education, empowerment of women, the world was demonstratively worse. And if you don't believe me, there's a wonderful book called fact fulness by Hans Rosling everybody should read, it's another must read and everyone's list that demonstrate the world is getting better and better as as much as it seems like it's getting worse because that's what we see in the media. Of course, the world has gotten a lot better and continues to get better. We just didn't realize because we were kids. We didn't realize how tough things were back then. And how distracting the world was even back then. I mean, people have been going through moral panics around distraction. Since time immemorial, right when we were kids, it wasn't social media, robbing our brains it was video games and Dungeons and Dragons television, you know, the television just television of course, we were called couch potatoes. It was like a big pandemic about about that we're all becoming couch potatoes. And before Guess what? To our parents. They did it about the radio and before that they did it about books. They literally talked about how books were going to rotting our brain people's brains. Exactly. Literally, that's literally what they said about books, bicycles, bicycles were very bad for you, because they, you know, they would lead to lead to lasciviousness, they would lead to feeble mindedness, every new technology that has a massive impact on this type of scale, has a moral panic around it. So we shouldn't be that surprised. That being said, it is clearly a fact that if you are looking for distraction these days, it's easier than ever to find that the fact that we are carrying around these devices in our pocket, if you are looking to get distracted, you're gonna find distraction, right. And much of that is a technological miracle. It's amazing that I can open up my phone and I can get the world's information I can connect. Look, I'm not even sure where you are. Where are you physically?
Alex Ferrari 5:46
I am in Austin, Texas.
Nir Eyal 5:48
Austin, you're in Austin. I'm in Singapore. We're talking over the internet, with video cameras here for free. Like, this is a miracle, right? This is science fiction.
Alex Ferrari 6:00
It's very it's very 2000.
Nir Eyal 6:03
Yeah, in a way. 2022 Yeah, it's one. So but the price of all that progress is of course that we have to adapt, we have to learn how to properly use these technologies. And I think that's what I'm fighting for is we need to stop moralizing and medicalizing these these technologies and these behaviors and figure out look, you know, there's a lot of great stuff that comes with these technologies, how do we get the best of them without letting them get the best of us?
Alex Ferrari 6:30
So in your first book, you really talked about what social media companies do to us to get us hooked on their products. And I think it's a really good kind of primer to our conversation about distraction, because what they're doing is so brilliant and diabolical at the same time, in many ways, I'd love to hear your thoughts about and if you could just give, give everyone just a little bit of understanding of what's happening to our minds. When Instagram kicks on or Twitter or tick tock or Snapchat or whatever the new one is coming up.
Nir Eyal 7:07
Yes, so my first book hooked wasn't a takedown of social media, it was actually a how to guide for everyone building habit forming products. So the book is, he looks at the best in the business looks at the stickiest products out there. And social media companies are among the examples. But it's not just about social media. And the idea is that we can steal their secrets, right? Why is it that the media companies know how to keep us hooked, but we can't get people hooked to exercise or meditation, or prayer or eating right? Or connecting with loved ones? Right? What would the world be like, if we could use the same psychology that gets people hooked to media to get people hooked to healthy habits, and that's exactly what hooked did. That's what my book is all about. So companies in every conceivable industry, from healthcare, to education, to financial services, all kinds of companies use these techniques today, since I published to help people build healthy habits in their lives. And the idea is basically, that if you can design a product experience in a way that people use the product, because they want to not because they have to just the same way that you would check social media, for example, what if that was the same habit to exercise or to learn new language? How amazing would the world be? And so that's that's really what that book was about. Now, it does. You know, there is a chapter in the book around the morality of manipulation and how we need to be very careful about these techniques. And it's also something I wanted to show the consumer that you know, this isn't, this isn't by mistake, right, that I don't care what form of media all media sells your attention. Right? They sell your eyeballs to advertisers. Does anybody not know that? And it's not just social media companies, we need to stop saying, oh, with social media, it's the goddamn New York Times and Fox News and CNN are in the same business. Do we not know that they make money on your attention? So we need and frankly, podcasts?
Alex Ferrari 8:57
Oh, no, no, all of us saying here, I mean, I make a living off of advertising, for my shows, without question, but it's about how you do it. And but it is not just social media. It's just they do it very well.
Nir Eyal 9:12
They do very well. Right. Right. Totally. But and I would think that the perspective shouldn't be that it's not a bad deal, in fact, that whether it's podcasts or the news, or social media, that, frankly, we get a lot from this, right, there's an exchange here, but we need to be wide eyed, we can't we can't fool ourselves or be ignorant to the fact of what's happening, that we are trading our time and attention to be solicited to through ads. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think it's a great thing. The fact that you know, people can listen to your podcast for free. And sometimes they have to listen to an ad here and there, I think is a pretty good value exchange, but we need to be aware of what's going on and our responsibility in that equation. There's nothing wrong with reading the news, it can be great. It's a good thing to understand what's happening in the world. But if we are escaping our problems, right here, and now by worrying about somebody's else's problem 3000 miles away to escape our present reality. And we don't do anything about that. In reality, we're just listening to escape our present discomfort. That's when it can become a distraction. That's when we have things that we want to do with our time and attention our life, and we get sidetracked we go off track because we are using distraction to take our mind off of discomfort. And that was a really big revelation for me as I took five years to write in distractible was that the source of most of our distractions, we're talking 90%, studies have found 90% of our distractions are caused by what we call internal triggers, these uncomfortable emotional states that we seek to escape boredom, loneliness, fatigue, uncertainty, anxiety, it's not the pings and rings, the pings, dings and rings, the external triggers, account for only 10% of our distractions 90% of the time that we get distracted, we get distracted because of feeling. Distraction overwhelmingly begins from within. And that really was a crucial insight for me in terms of changing my own life and my relationship to distraction.
Alex Ferrari 11:17
So is that is that kind of I mean, if we go back into the reptilian brain, and we go deeper into our past, on a subconscious level, you know, we're always afraid about, you know, we're always generally speaking, we don't move forward a lot of times, because our brain is built to keep us alive. It's not built to support our dreams. It wants us to stay away from the unknown. That's why we're always afraid of what's around the corner, but the tiger could kill us around the corner. Is that a fair? pretty fair statement?
Nir Eyal 11:46
Well, first of all, I asked you respectfully, and politely don't use the term reptilian brain neuroscience, please just don't actually use that term. It doesn't exist. There is no such thing that the brain is the brain. It's not like we have a, you know, there's this notion that we're really fight that we're that we're somehow beholden to our anatomy that our brains big Well, it's the reptilian brain.
Alex Ferrari 12:09
That's what made me do what I did. Not my I know, I know, I completely
Nir Eyal 12:15
Totally. And it's, it's not your fault, either. By the way, it's not your fault. Because there are people out there who love to sell this narrative literally sell this narrative, they sell it in books, they sell in organizations, they sell it in movies, even that want to feed people with this bullshit, frankly, excuse my French, that they're powerless. People and people eat it up. People love it. Well, right. I mean, because if
Alex Ferrari 12:41
Well, I don't mean to interrupt you, because I just because I have I have studied, one of my one of my hobbies is neuroscience, and going into the brain and what makes us tick in the psychology of it, again, not nearly as deep as you have. But for my understanding is that there are things in our brains that subconsciously stop us from moving forward. Because of the fear of the Tiger around the corner. I use that analogy, a lot of things like that. Are those the same? In would you agree to that is that that's some that is part of it. It's subconscious. But once you've made aware of it, then you kind of fight through it. That's why we don't we avoid pain and want to gain pleasure. It's a general statement.
Nir Eyal 13:25
Yeah, so lots to unpack lots. Yeah, in fact, we now know that this whole pain pleasure paradigm is also wrong. We used to think in what Freud said, the pleasure principle, Jeremy Bentham said something similar that everything's about the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain, carrots and sticks, right? We now know that's actually not true from a neurological basis, from a neurological basis. And we can literally see this happening in the brain through fMRI studies, that human motivation, all human motivation is about one thing, all human motivation. It's not about pain and pleasure. It's all about the avoidance of discomfort. That's it. That's it. Even the pursuit of pleasurable sensations, right, wanting to feel good craving, desire, lusting, is itself psychologically destabilizing. And if that is true, right, if all human motivation is about a desire to escape discomfort, that must therefore mean that time management is pain management, weight management, is pain management, money management, is pain management, attention management, is pain management, that fundamentally this is the struggle. And this by the way, I didn't invent this. This is a very Buddhist philosophy. And of course, neuroscience has now come to the fact that this is in fact very true, that it's really about managing these uncomfortable sensations. But when we break them down to what they really are, and make them less scary, right, we need to stop thinking that it's the media that it's the crazy things in the news that it's our boss, that it's our kids, that it's all this crazy things that are happening. Really it's feelings. Guys, it's feelings. And so when we can stop for a minute and understand that these internal triggers can become our masters, we have an opportunity to master them. And so that's the first step to becoming indestructible is to master your internal triggers. And there's all kinds of beautiful techniques that we can use. I've talked about over a dozen in the book that we can use to first step one, to becoming an distractible is learning ways to master these internal triggers these uncomfortable emotional states that lead us towards distraction now do we have do we have inborn reflexes of course right if you hear a loud gunshot you're going to flinch right that's that's an inborn nature do we have learned behaviors learn habits that overwhelmingly is the source of this problem, right that we, we we get into a routine habit around looking to numb ourselves from a particular discomfort. So what most people do distractible people, when they feel that discomfort when they feel bored, lonesome, uncertain, stressed, anxious, they look for relief with some kind of distraction. They take a drink, they scroll the social media channel, they turn on the TV, they look for escape from that discomfort. In distractible people learn to use that discomfort, high performers, people who use the techniques I talked about in the book, they feel the same way everyone else feels they also feel bored, they also feel lonely, they also feel stressed, anxious, uncertain, they feel the same things. But they learn to use that discomfort, like rocket fuel, to propel them towards traction, rather than trying to escape it with distraction. That's the big difference.
Alex Ferrari 16:38
So it's it's kind of the mentality of a an athlete that pushes through the pain of a workout. Because it's this, it's uncomfortable. I mean, working out is not comfortable. As a general statement. When you push interior muscles to grow. It is a mental thing that you break through and some people can't deal with. After the first week of working out and you haven't worked out in five years. It ain't comfortable. Without
Nir Eyal 17:04
That's absolutely right. Right. Again, pain management. It's it's really about pain. And around listening to that discomfort. And I think in society today, you know, we're so good at numbing pain, we have a pill for everything, right. But as I like to say pills don't teach skills. pills don't teach skills that we have become so reliant, and I say pills figuratively and not metaphorically. But but but physically, right, there are certain pills that can make you feel one way or the other. And many times people will use those things to escape discomfort. But then we also use all kinds of other pills in our society, right? We how many, like I said before, right? With media, we escape reality, right? How many of us check email when we don't know what else to do at work? Because we don't want to have to do the hard thinking of like, wait, what should I actually be working on right now? Well, let me just check email for a quick sec. So all of these pills that take us away from what we really want to do. These are our distractions in life.
Alex Ferrari 17:56
And these distractions are not allowing us to be the best versions of ourselves, basically, correct.
Nir Eyal 18:03
That's right. That's right. And not let us do what we say we're going to do so. So this is, I think, an important distinction, that if you ask most people, what is the opposite of distraction, most people say the opposite of distraction is focus, right? I don't want to be distracted, I want to be focused. But just but focus is not actually the opposite of distraction. If you look at the origin of the word, the opposite of distraction is not focus, the opposite of distraction is of course, traction. And when you when you look at the two words, it makes perfect sense traction and distraction. Both come from the same Latin root to Hooray, which means to pull. And they both end in the same six letters, a CTI when that spells action. So reminding us that distraction is not something that happens to us, but rather it is an action that we ourselves take. So traction, by definition is any action that pulls you towards what you said you were going to do things that move you closer to your values closer to the person you want to become those are acts of traction. The opposite is distraction. Distraction is any action that pulls you further away from what you said you were going to do further away from your values further away from becoming the kind of person you want to become. So this is more than just semantics. This is really important because I would argue that any action can be traction or distraction based on one word, and that one word is intent. So as Dorothy Parker said, The time you plan to waste is not wasted time. So I kind of take issue with people who say, Oh, social media is melting your brain and these new technologies are so bad for you. No, not true. As long as you use them on your schedule, and according to your values, not someone else's. So if you want time to play video games, enjoy, you want to watch Netflix, you want to watch YouTube, you want to go on social media, great, do it, but do it according to your schedule. That's how you turn distraction into attraction. So we need to stop moralizing and medicalizing these perfectly normal behaviors that can give us a lot of good in our life by making time for them. Second, thing is that anything can be distraction, if it's not what you plan to do. So let me give you a perfect example. For years, I would sit down at my desk at work, and I would say, Okay, now I'm going to focus on that big important thing I have to work on. Nothing's going to get in my way. Here I go, I'm going to get started. Nothing to do right now, I'm just going to focus on this one super important task that I've been delaying. I'm not going to get distracted. But first, let me check some email. Right? How often does that happen? You say every day, they got to work on that big thing right now. But now let me just check for a few minutes email, or let me start on those, those tasks on the to do list that, you know, just to just to get started, before I get to the big important one, let me just do the easy stuff just to get some momentum, right. And what I didn't realize is that that is the most dangerous form of distraction. The most pernicious form of distraction is the kind of distraction that tricks you into prioritizing the urgent and the easy work at the expense of the hard and important work we have to do to move our lives and careers forward. So just because something's a work related task doesn't mean it's not a distraction. If it's not what you plan to do with your time. It is by definition, a distraction.
Alex Ferrari 21:05
So then why do we do that to ourselves? What's going on in our brains? That pauses that thing? Is it just the pain of doing the hard work that you just want to avoid for as long as humanly possible is kind of like writing the term paper the night before? Or studying on the bus on the way to school for that test?
Nir Eyal 21:25
Yeah, yeah. So the reason we do this is because it's it's a skill that many of us haven't learned. Just like many skills, right? You didn't know how to read and write before you taught you were taught how to learn to read and write, right? This is a skill just like any other. And so that's half of it. We talked about trick, we talked about traction and distraction. The other part of it are the triggers. We talked a little bit about those earlier, the external triggers and the internal triggers. So the external triggers, these are the pings, dings, and rings, all the things in your outside environment, right, all the things that will lead you to traction or distraction based on stimuli in your outside environment, the pings, dings and rings. But as we know, that's about 10% of our distractions come from external triggers. The other 90% comes from these internal triggers that we talked about earlier. So this is now the indestructible model. Now we can we can learn this skill set to overcome these impulses, right that if you wanted to summarize my book, my five years of research, it would be into this mantra that the antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. The antidote to impulsiveness is forethought that you ask why do we do this? Why despite knowing what to do, we don't do it. Right. We know we should go exercise we know we should eat right? We know we should be fully present with our family. We know we should do the hard work that moves our career forward. Why don't we do it? The reason is impulse control. That's it. It's just impulse control. Well, what's the antidote to impulse control? The antidote to impulse control is forethought. That when you plan ahead, when you know what to do to prepare for that distraction, there's no distraction you can't overcome. Because what most people do, they leave it to the last minute, right. If the cigarette is in your hand, you're going to smoke it. If the chocolate cake is on the fork and you're on a diet too bad, you're going to eat it. If you sleep next to your cell phone every night. It's going to be the first thing you reach for in the morning before you say hello to your loved one. So most people distractible people leave these kinds of things to happen to the last minute. They don't prepare. They don't learn how to be in distractible and then they act surprised they got distracted. And that's what I'm trying to change. So toilet Coyle has a wonderful quote, he said, a mistake repeated more than once is a decision. A mistake repeated more than once the decision so distractible people choose to be distractible because they keep getting distracted by the same thing again and again and again. Okay, we know social media is distracting. Yep, got it. But what are you going to do about it? Distract when people say well, what am I gonna do? It's, it's my lizard brain. I'm addicted. My mind is being controlled. In distractible people say, Ah, okay, you got me once, but you're not going to get me again. Because I understand why I got distracted, and I can do something about it. I can take steps today to prevent getting distracted tomorrow.
Alex Ferrari 24:05
So what are some of the steps that we can take? Because it sounds fantastic. What you're saying, wonderful, we all would just like to be machines that just like wake up in the morning, don't look at the phone for this or that and you're working and you're getting all your, your things done. And it's moving us forward. I mean, honestly, what we're talking about here is is almost an epidemic for humanity because we're not moving forward in the way we want to in life in every aspect spiritually, mentally, physically with loved ones, because of these, these triggers these internal triggers and some external triggers. And this is a skill that is so needed as film by by the by humanity. So why like you look at you know, I know a lot of Navy SEALs, and I've spoken to these kinds of, you know, rangers and these guys are just like they were trained tend to be this is this the way I do it this way they, they're not like checking Facebook. They're not. They're not distractible, because that's not the way they were trained. That's an extreme. But so what are some things we could do man that can help us deal with this this epidemic?
Nir Eyal 25:21
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I call this the skill of the century. Because if you think about it, there's no area of your life that is not affected by your ability to control your attention, right. This is truly how we choose our life. It's how we control our attention. I don't care if it's physical health, mental health, spiritual health, relationships, your job, everything requires you to sustain attention. And so in especially for our kids, man, if you think the world is distracting now, just wait a few years with augmented reality and virtual reality in the metaverse it's only going to become more distracting. So it's absolutely critical. We learn these skills ourselves and set an example for our children because this is the skill of a century. So how do we do it? Okay, go back to that model of traction, distraction, internal triggers, external triggers. And if you're only listening to me right now, and can't see I'm pointing here, there's so you can think of arrows to the left and to the right, or traction and distraction. And then you have arrows point to the center of that bisected line. Those represent external and internal triggers. Now we have the four points of our compass, we can work through these four steps. And there's these four big strategies that we can use to become in distractible. Step number one, master the internal triggers. And we can talk about some techniques for how do you do that we talked about those internal triggers of these uncomfortable emotional states, you need to have tools in your toolbox. This is the most important step tools in your toolbox ready to go so that when you feel discomfort, right, we talked about earlier time management is pain management, attention management is pain management, you need to have these tools in your toolkit ready to go. So that when you feel that discomfort when you feel bored, lonesome stressed, anxious, what do you do? Right? Do you reach for one of these tools to help you move towards traction? Or do you reach for doing something else that takes you towards distraction, so we have to build that that toolkit, we can talk about some of the tools. The second step is to make time for traction. Okay, make time for traction. Traction, again, is any action that moves you towards your values towards your goals, things that you do with intent. The problem is that most people don't plan their time. Okay, so let's get really nitty gritty here. I see. I've seen people for five years since I've been researching this book. And I've talked to a lot of high performers and low performers, people who are distracted people are not distractible. And a common quality around these people who live their life according to their values is that they plan their time. Now what do I mean by that? I'm not talking about a to do list. In fact, we can talk about why to do lists are one of the worst things you can do for your personal productivity. But what we find with high performers, is that they they realize that you cannot say you got distracted, unless you know what you got distracted from. Let me say it again. You can't say you got distracted unless you know what you got distracted from. So if you can't look to a calendar and say, Ah, I planned time to be with my family, I planned time to do focused work I planned time for meditation. If you just have empty space on your calendar, you have no right to complain about distraction, because what the heck did you get distracted from, you have to make time for traction based on your values. And we can talk about exactly how to do that as well. The third step is to hack back the external triggers, we know that our attention is being hacked by various actors, right? Whether it's media companies, our boss, our kids, people want our time and attention. But that doesn't mean we can't hack back. So even though it only accounts for about 10% of our distractions. We can go systematically through all of these external triggers, like your phone, like email, that's the easy stuff. That's kindergarten. What about when your boss is the distraction? What happens when your kids are the distraction? What happens if there's another stupid meeting you didn't need to attend? That's a distraction. We can go through systematically each and every one of those to hack back those external triggers. And then finally, the last step is to prevent distraction with pacts packs, use what's called a pre commitment device to make sure that after we've tried the other three steps, this keeps us in, right. So there's a strategy around keeping distraction out. There's a strategy around keeping ourselves in to the task at hand. And so we do this through what we call a pre commitment or a pact to prevent distraction. We can talk about exactly how to do that as well. But now I wanted to lay out those four big strategies, Master internal triggers, make time for traction, hack back the external triggers and prevent distraction like PACs. It sounds like a lot. It's actually not you can do one small thing in each of these categories and each of these four strategies to become in distractible and of course, as you learn these methods, you can always refer back to them and say, Okay, I got distracted because of such and such. Why did I get distracted and what can I do about it next time and then you can take out this this toolkit, so to speak and say, Ah, okay, I need to make sure I handle my internal triggers better or you know what I didn't I didn't have planned time for traction there, or that was an external trigger. I know what to do about that next time or next time I'm going to use a pact by knowing these four key strategies. This is how anyone can become indestructible. And of course, I'm I'm trying to summarize right, like a 250 page book. A lot more
Alex Ferrari 30:14
Than five seconds. Yes. All right. So let's go. So let's go through those four pillars, if you will, and kind of give us at least one tip or two, and each to kind of help us out a little bit.
Nir Eyal 30:25
Absolutely. Okay. So let's start with the most important step. You can't skip this step. None of the other stuff will work if you don't first master your internal triggers. So understanding what is that discomfort we're trying to escape, so being able one to identify it. So one of the tactics in the book is very simple, which is just keeping track of your distractions. So having a little sheet of paper by your desk, you can, you know, for example, I have these post it notes that I keep with me at all times. And when I get distracted, which I still do, right, even though I wrote the book in distractible, from time to time, I still get distracted. But I understand why I got distracted so I can do something about it. In the future. As we said earlier, the antidote to impulsiveness is forethought. So what I want you to do is when you get distracted, there's no guilt, there's no shame, you didn't do anything wrong. You're a human being, I want you just to write down what was that action that you did instead of the task at hand? And what was the preceding emotion? What did you feel? Exactly? Before you got distracted? Was it boredom? Was it anxiety? Was it stress uncertainty? What was that sensation, okay. And we know that simply noting that sensation, simply writing it down is a very empowering first step. Okay, the next thing that you can do, there's all kinds of techniques that I talked about in the book, one of the techniques that I like, and I use almost every single day is called the 10 Minute Rule. The 10 minute rule says that you can give in to any distraction, okay can be checking email, when you said you were going to work on that big project. It's, if I'm trying to stay on a diet, and I'm trying to resist that chocolate cake or that cigarette, if I'm trying to quit smoking, whatever that distraction might be, you can get into it. But not right now. In 10 minutes, okay, in 10 minutes. And this comes from acceptance of commitment therapy, it's a well studied technique. The idea here is that what you're doing is you're training yourself to give your to realize that you have the agency, you're learning this skill set, that you can resist that temptation. So what do you do for those 10 minutes? Here's what you do. So many times. So I write every day, I've been a professional writer for well over a decade now. And writing is always hard work. I don't know when people say like they can get into a writing habit. I think that's ludicrous. I've never been in a writing habit, because habits or behaviors done with little or no conscious thought. How do you write without conscious thought? That's crazy. Writing is hard work. And every time when I'm writing, the the thing I want to do most is to escape that discomfort, right? Because it's full of internal triggers. Is this any good? Is anyone going to like it? What if this leads nowhere, it's full of all these internal triggers. So what do I do when I feel like oh, I just want to check email real quick. Or let me just google this one thing. Instead, what I do is I set a timer for 10 minutes. And then I pause from it, I take a deep breath. And my job is to do what we call surf the urge. Surfing the urge acknowledges that these sensations are transitory, they're like waves, they crest and then they subside, even though in the moment, we feel like we're going to experience them forever, we feel like we're going to have that craving that urge that itch forever. That's never the case, right? These urges are like waves. And your job is to serve that urge, like a surfer on a surfboard. And so there's some some mantras, some some self talk that I can give you that I give you in the book on what you can say to yourself during that surfing the urge session. And what you will find is that by the time those 10 minutes are up, if you've just served the urge for a few minutes, you will find that nine times out of 10, you'll be back to the task at hand. That if you just allow yourself that time to say yep, I'm a grown adult, I can do whatever I want. I can give in to that temptation, but not right now. What you're doing over time with that 10 minute rule is expanding your agency expanding your belief in your ability to delay that gratification by saying okay, you know, what, actually, you know, I think I could go 12 minutes, or maybe 15 minutes. And so over time you're building that capacity to prove to yourself yeah, you know, I don't have to give in to every little urgent whim I can wait for a few minutes and I'll get to that a little bit later. So that's one technique and dozens for how to master internal triggers.
Alex Ferrari 34:35
Bush you are you are a pro sir. You've you've done this before. I can tell you are amazing. You You're so much. There's so much information and in a sentence from you. It's like people are listen to this again and again and go back to it again again. All right. And the second pillar what what's a tip that you can give us?
Nir Eyal 34:54
Yeah, and thank you for that. By the way. The reason I know this stuff so well is that I live it right. I'll be Be honest with you. I didn't write the book for my readers. Yeah, I wrote the book for me. I wrote the book for me. I didn't. I didn't write it because I was I was in distractible I wrote because I was distractible. In fact, it took me five years to write that book because I kept getting distracted while I was writing it. It wasn't until I figured out the techniques that actually work, not only bake a based on the research, right, I hate reading these self help books, that's, hey, this worked for me. So it's gonna work for you. Like, that's not good enough, I want to see the peer reviewed studies. So I had to sort through tons. I mean, I'm talking 1000s of studies, there's over 30 pages of citations in the back of the book, to figure out what techniques not only work are effective, but also are backed by good research. And so I've implemented this into my own life. And let me tell you, there's no area of my life that hasn't improved. I'm 44 years old, I'm in the best physical shape of my life. I've why it's not because I have good genes. Because I exercise when I say I will, I have a better relationship with my daughter than ever before my wife than ever before, I'm more productive at work than ever before. It's not, it's not because I'm smarter or better. It's just that I know that when I say I'm going to do something, I do it. And so I can live out my intentions and my values and be the person I want to be. It doesn't mean I'm perfect. Like I said, I still get to strike from time to time. But now I know what to do about those distractions, as opposed to letting them happen again and again. So the second the second pillar, the second strategy, making time for traction. So traction, as we talked about earlier, is are these actions that pull you towards what you say you're going to do. And so the idea here is to be very clear about how you want to spend your time, well, how do you decide how to spend your time, you have to look at your values, what are values, values are attributes of the person you want to become? I'll say that, again, values are attributes of the person you want to become. So I give people these three life domains that you can use to assess how to spend your time now what I want you to do, is to look at your calendar for the week ahead. And I want you to plan out every minute. Now for some people, this is going to strike them as Wow, that's crazy. That's so rigid. That's so difficult. Well give me a chance here. Okay. And if it sounds like too much, do maybe one day or heck, one afternoon, okay, what I want you to do is to plan out how would the person you want to become spend their time? How would the person you want to become spend their time so that you can live up to your values, if you want to see what someone's values really are? Not just what they say they are, but what their values really are? You look at their checkbook? How do you spend your money? And how do you spend your time, okay, that's how you figure out what someone's values really are. So I want you to turn your values into time. And we do that with these three life domains starting with you, you're at the center of these three life domains. If you can't take care of yourself can't take care of others can't make the world a better place. So I want you to look at your calendar. And I want to ask, I want you to ask yourself, how would the person I want to become spend their time taking care of themselves? Now? What might that include? For example, sleep? Okay, we've all read the books we all know sleep is very important, right? When we tell our children you need to go to bed on your bedtime. Well, do we have a bedtime? Or are we hypocrites, right? I used to do this to my daughter all the time. You have to go to bed your bedtime. But I didn't have a bedtime? Is sleep less important for me. Now it's just as important I need sleep. But it wasn't in my calendar. Well, guess what today, I have a bedtime. It's in my schedule. And before bedtime comes time for for personal hygiene, right? You take a shower and brush my teeth. It's in my calendar. Now I don't identify every little two minute task. I do them in about 30 minute buckets, right? So get ready for bed is a category is a has a space on my calendar. But it's in my schedule. For me, Physical Fitness is important, right? When you ask people, What are your values? What's important to you? Oh, health health is very, very important. Oh, yes. Is it really? Do you have time in your calendar to take care of your health? Or is it more of an aspiration? I'll get to it someday. So if exercise is important to you, it's important to me doesn't have to be important to you. By the way, it's one of your values. Nobody should tell you what your values are. But if physical health is important, do you have time to take a walk to go to the gym to whatever it is that you want to do for yourself? Is it in your schedule? Time for fun, right? If you want to play video games, if you want to read a book, if you want to meditate prayer paint, I don't care, put it in your calendar, right actually have it hold a space in your calendar. So that's the eu domain. The next life domain is the relationship domain. And this one is really important because we know that there is a loneliness epidemic in the industrialized world, that people we know that that loneliness is as detrimental to our health as smoking and obesity. Now why do we have this loneliness epidemic? A big part of it is that people have lost the regular times to be with their friends and family. It's not on our schedules like it used to be past generations used to have the church group the bowling league, the the Kiwanis club they had these regular interactions every Thursday night is my bowling league, right? We know that these groups these civic organizations have declined precipitously. A lot of this has happened because of the secularization of society. We just don't go to religious events like We used to, so we don't have that time to be with others to be with our community, put it on your schedule. Now, I'm not saying you have to go to a religious institution. But I am saying that you need regular interaction with people you love and who love you. So don't give your family your friends, your loved ones, whatever scraps of time are leftover, put it on your calendar, put time with your kids with your, with your spouse, put that with your best friends put it on your schedule. The next life domain is called the work domain. And this is where most people start, if they plan their day, maybe they'll have a meeting here and there, they'll they'll they'll start with the work domain, I actually think it comes last. Now, this is where most people spend their waking hours at work during the work week. And work can be divided into two kinds of work. We have what we call reactive work. Reactive work is you know, the reacting to emails, reacting to messages, reacting to meetings, reacting to other people tapping you on your shoulder, that's reactive work, then there's what we call reflective work. reflective work is the kind of work that can be that can only be done without distraction, planning, thinking, strategizing, that kind of work can only be done without distraction, what we find is that low performers spend almost all their time doing reactive work, right reacting to whatever is coming across their desk, because it's very comfortable. Right? When you use your inbox as your to do list, you don't have to think you just do whatever's in your inbox. But of course, what happens is if your entire day is spent doing reactive work, you're running real fast in the wrong direction. So you have got to put in some time in your day, I don't care if it's 15 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever amount of time, you have to have some day booked out to work without distraction in order to do that reflective work to move your life and career forward. So make sure you have that time in your day, as well. So now, you will have what's called a time box calendar. And so this is how we turn our values into time is by having that that week, right? Ideally, those seven days planned out. Now you can also and I of course, I want you to have time for fun, it's not just be a robot machine, you know, this stuff, I want you to plan time for the things that make life worth living as well. But the beauty of it is that when you do that, you're turning distraction into traction, you don't have to feel guilty about the fact that you want to spend time with your kids or, you know, squeeze in the meditation or play video games through anything you want. If you turn it into time on your calendar, now it's traction. So that's how we make time for traction in our day. That's the second step.
Alex Ferrari 42:33
So you mentioned to do lists. And I just wanted to kind of spotlight that for a second because it is being Yeah, it scream from the top of the mountains, you needed to do list every day to go through things and everything. And I saw your book too. You're like, that's the devil. So please explain to the audience why the to do list is the devil.
Nir Eyal 42:54
Right! So there's, there's a few things that make To Do List particularly awful. Now, before I say that, it's not that writing things down on a piece of paper or in an app and getting them out of your brain is a bad thing. That's actually a very, very good thing. But that's where most people stop. And what I'm saying is that you have to take those tasks and put them on your schedule. If you do it, most people who keep it to do list do which is just I'm putting things down out of my brain onto the list, what you will very soon get is an endless list of things to do. Why? Because to do lists have no constraints, there's no bottom, there's no end to your list of to dues. Whereas with a time box calendar, there is a constraint, what's the constraint? It's 24 hours in a day, right? So when you measure yourself only based on output, you will get bad results. What do I mean by that? a to do list is things that you want to complete, right? A bunch of cute little boxes that you want to check off right output. So it's kind of like if you went to a baker, and you said, Hey, I need a birthday cake. Well, what's the baker gonna do? They're gonna say, Okay, well, to make a birthday cake, I need flour, I need sugar, I need eggs, I need all these inputs to make the output. But when you make a to do list without a schedule without using your calendar, it's like you have outputs without the inputs. Right? What's the output for the work? We do? So sorry? What are the inputs for the work we do? The the input is just two things. For knowledge workers. It's time and attention. That's it time and attention. Those are your only two inputs. But how do we expect to get all these outputs, all these things done all these tasks checked off, if we haven't planned the inputs? And so that's why it's not that writing things down is a bad thing. It's a very good thing is that most people skip the crucial next step, which is to put it on your schedule, when are you going to do those things because that forces you to prioritize, that forces you to look at it and say, Okay, well, I'm not going to have time to do all these things I'm going to have time to do I'm gonna work on this test this test this task, and the other stuff is going to wait for another time because this the one of the Isn't that to do lists are the devil that, as you said, is that what most people what happens to most people is that they get home from a long day. They feel like they've been super busy, they've run ragged. And they look at their to do list and it's full of things they still haven't finished. Right? And what does that do to your psyche? What does it do your self image, if day after day, week after week, month, after month, year after year, you are reinforcing your self image of someone who doesn't do what they say they're going to do, loser. And so that begins to take this this psychic toll. And then you start hearing people say, oh, you know what, I'm no good with time management. I'm not a morning person, I'm a Sagittarius, they come up with all kinds of reasons that are silly, right has nothing to do with the fact that you're using, it's not you that's broken. It's this stupid technique you've been using that's broken. So as opposed to using a to do list, a much better technique is to use this time box calendar technique to make time for traction. Now, what you start tracking now changes. So you stop measuring yourself, based on how many cute little boxes you check off. Rather, you start measuring yourself by one thing and one thing only. And that is did I do what I said I was going to do? For as long as I said I would without distraction. Notice, I did not say did I finish? That is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if you finish, but you're saying, well, when am I gonna get my work done? Right? I got to do all these things. How What do you mean, I'm not supposed to finish? Here's the kicker, the people who measure themselves simply based on this one metric of did I work on what I said I was going to work on without distraction, finish more, they actually get more done than the people who like the cute little checkboxes technique of the to do list. Why? Because when you have this to do list, there's no feedback mechanism, there's no way for you to know, how long did it actually take you? Which is why on average, we know that people take three times longer to finish a task and they estimate Why does that happen? Because there's no learning involved. Whereas when you have a time box calendar, you can say, Okay, let me say, I worked on this task without distraction for 15 minutes, let's say, right? You could do anything for 15 minutes, right? So you weren't on the task for 15 minutes, you say, Okay, well, I needed to work on this blog post. And I got about 500 words in and if I want the blog post to be 2000 words, that means I need for 30 minute increments. Great. Let me put that on my calendar. As opposed to when you put on your to do list, write blog post, I take I have no idea.
Alex Ferrari 47:25
You're setting yourself up for failure.
Nir Eyal 47:28
Exactly. So not only do these to do lists, when you use them inappropriately degrade your self image, right? People start believing this rubbish that they're somehow no good at this technique, which is not true. Not only do they not have any kind of feedback mechanism. The third really terrible thing about to do lists is that they don't even let you enjoy the time you have off. This is what I call the tyranny of the to do list. This is what happens you just happen to me all the time. I'd come home from work and all I want to do is relax, just want to watch some Netflix maybe be with my daughter just relax, right? But here's the thing, I have all those unfinished tasks on my to do list. And I'm thinking about as I'm watching Netflix, or as I'm playing with my daughter, I'm thinking about all the things I still haven't done. That's terrible. So many of your listeners, I bet haven't ever experienced what real leisure feels like leisure should be when you are fully immersed in a task and you know that's exactly what you should be doing. So when you are in distractible when you turn your values into time, you have time on your calendar to be with your daughter right to watch Netflix to do whatever it is you want. And if you do anything else including work stuff on your to do list that then becomes a distraction so it's only when we time box that we can truly enjoy our time because we know that's exactly what we said we were going to do with it.
Alex Ferrari 48:41
So from what I'm taking is out of the to do list is that Sagittarius cannot do to do lists but I that's all I heard that was the core message I got from that entire bit right there on the to do list that Sagittarius is cannot do
Nir Eyal 49:01
You're gonna we're gonna get some hate mail from all the Sagittarius
Alex Ferrari 49:05
Well they are Sagittarius is of course they're gonna give hate me IV it's fascinating to go go down this road with you because you know I've I've tried to organize my life and we talked about this a little bit before we get started. I've read your books, I took your course. I've got the box. Calendars I bought the busy cow I got I got the not the iCal the one that comes with the Mac I got the professional one that gives you more options and you could cut the cord it's really cool. And I set that up multiple times in my life and the problem I have with it is sticking to this thing that I've created. And by the way I took time built this machine at this time to this time it's going to be family time at this time did this time is meditation at this time at this time is work and this and that, and my biggest issue is sticking to it. And there's something about it, I didn't understand why I didn't stick to it. So now I use it, obviously, for my interviews and you know, scheduling time, and there's blocks of time that I do for that. But I almost have a mental block calendar in my head that like, Okay, I'm gonna work from eight to nine at nine, I start my meditation for two hours, gives me enough time to prep for this next interview. Have I It's working. It's working. It's not a it's not perfect, but it's working for me. What tips do you have? Like, first of all, I'd love you to unpack what I just said. And is there any tips you can give me to kind of stick with it, man?
Nir Eyal 50:51
Yeah, absolutely. So okay, so step number one we talked about is master these internal triggers. So so we can get back to that in a second about how you're utilizing Step number two is you said, Okay, you're planning the time, but you sometimes fall off track, which is totally fine, right? I still fall off track from time to time and I wrote the book, right? Because being in distractible doesn't mean you never get distracted, I made up the word indestructible. So I can define it any way I want. If you don't, if you're not perfect, you're human. That's, that's part of being a human being. The idea is that you're you're learning from that. So the mentality is not to be a drill sergeant. What the way you're speaking about this is kind of sounds like a drill sergeant mentality, I said, I was going to do this, and I didn't do the thing,
Alex Ferrari 51:30
I have to go the extreme, I have to go to the two extremes, either loosey goosey or it's full metal jacket?
Nir Eyal 51:37
Exactly. So I would invite you, instead of trying that, that, that drill sergeant mentality, try the scientist mentality, what does a scientist do? A scientist has a hypothesis, runs an experiment, and then sees the results. And then based on the results, comes up with another hypothesis and does another experiment. Our opportunity to run this experiment happens every day. And over time it becomes every week. What does that look like? In my calendar on Sunday evenings at 8pm? I have a time block to plan my week ahead. Now, what does that look like? I look at my calendar for the for the week that just passed in the calendar for the week ahead. And I plan how to change that schedule, so that I can live out my values in the week to come. And if I say to myself, You know what, last week, I kept wanting to meditate first thing in the morning. And it wasn't, it was very difficult to do. It wasn't working out for me, I had too many things on my mind. And my daughter needed this and I needed to, okay, well what would happen if I change that time in my in my calendar to put meditation at a different time, or maybe my writing time might change or you know what, I have that big meeting or I have that doctor's appointment, now I have to move things around. So when you make that schedule, it doesn't mean that that schedule never changes quite the opposite, it changes all the time, except in the day. So you never change your schedule. In the day, once you make that schedule on the day begins, the calendar date begins, you stick to that schedule. And if you fall off track, you try and get to the next task, or the next time block, not the task, the time block that's in your schedule, you already know what to do as soon as you you can. So you bring yourself back from that distraction. But if that day didn't work out as well as you plan, right? Tomorrow, you can change it and make it easier to follow that plan. So you have that flexibility. Now, the next thing I would say is that we only talked about two of the strategies, you need all four, they have to work in concert. So one of the things that was very interesting that you said was that you said you know, I have no problem sticking to my time box counter when I have an interview. What Why was that?
Alex Ferrari 53:35
Well, because I have someone else that's waiting for me. And as part of my it is part of the values of what I am doing. This is my livelihood. This is all I do. So I can't not show up to an interview when you've set up in Singapore. And I'm like, Ah, sorry, like, the whole, the whole show will come crashing down quite quickly.
Nir Eyal 53:58
Right! So there's a cost to not following through. Now, what is the cost to not showing up for yourself? When you say hey, I want to what what is what is it you said you were going to
Alex Ferrari 54:11
Meditate or to do some graphic work or I have to write an article or something like that. You know, I tend to prioritize meditation, I prioritize working out now. And those kinds of things. Those are unmovable for me generally speaking like that certain every morning I wake up and I go workout and beautiful. And I meditate a lot
Nir Eyal 54:34
But but but what is the writing is the writing the thing that you said I'm going to write?
Alex Ferrari 54:38
Well, yeah, it depends. We'll look for its writings. As we've already explained, this is horrible. It's a horrible, horrible profession. Yeah, the blank page is terrifying. But do do that kind of work or to do things that you might not like to do. That is my biggest weakness. It might and I can I can acknowledge that in myself. Off. By doing the self work that I've done over the years is anything if I have a hard thing to do, and, and five easy things to do, I will attack the five, easy, so much faster because I feel accomplished at it. But the big, the big thing that needs to get done gets pushed, or pushed, or just gets nibbled on and doesn't really get the thing until I have to like taxes or due
Nir Eyal 55:30
You're gonna go to jail if you don't do them. Absolutely!
Alex Ferrari 55:33
Help me with that.
Nir Eyal 55:34
So this is this is this is this is everything right? You said everything that I need to know already right? That you talked about how it's the easy tasks that get done. First, the hard tasks get delayed. You talked about that you're very capable of doing these things if you have the proper incentive if you have the proper pressure. So it's about we So we've established you will do them. Right? If I said, so give me let's make this really concrete. What's something that you said I need to do? It was on your schedule. So you did step number two of making time for traction? And then you found that you got distracted during the middle of the task? Can you can you give me a reason?
Alex Ferrari 56:07
Oh, yeah, prepping, prepping, I released obscene amounts of podcast every week, I do about eight episodes across three different shows. And I have to prep those. So I have to like, you know, get my I have to I have a team, thank God. But I have to kind of like organize like, Okay, this has been released this day. This has been released this day. And I'd like to I still like to do graphics. So I do my graphics for the thumbnails and things like that. So I have to do that. It's not particularly the most fun thing I do all week. It is administrative work. I would rather not do it. And I push it, push it to the point where I should have everything done by Friday. But sometimes I tell my wife, I didn't get those videos done. I got to pick an hour on a Saturday morning to knock them out. And she's like, well, who was the price? And my parent my family does? And she's always like, why? But like you had a week like why do you like, I know, I just got busy this. So that is frustrating, because I don't want to do that on Saturdays. And by the way, right? When I go away on a vacation or have to go away for business, I have to prep a week or two ahead. And then I just and I find myself I jam it all into like a two hour block. I get it done. And I'm done for two weeks. I'm like, What's wrong with you, Alex? Like, you're gonna obviously do this easily. Why is this? A thing? So help me?
Nir Eyal 57:33
So this is beautiful. This is you. I mean, this is this is. So I'm so glad because everything you mentioned right now can be fixed with these four tactics. Right. So number one is the internal trigger. So addressing that sensation of this isn't fun. I don't really want to do this right now. That is the, the number one reason we don't achieve our goals is because we don't want to write, I want to go to the gym, I don't want to meditate. I don't want to do those graphics right now. It's a feeling. So recognizing that feeling. And having a script, I want you to think for a little bit after the show around what the mantra can be to respond to that state of I don't want to write it. So for example, when I'm writing, and it sucks, as we both know, it's very hard. My mantra is, this is what it feels like to get better. That's my mantra so that when I feel like this is hard, I don't want to do this right now. I'm bored, I'm stressed, I'm anxious. I repeat to myself, This is what it feels like to get better. Okay, and you can come up with your own mantra. But to have and there's all there's there's dozens of different things you can do to disarm those internal triggers to master those internal triggers. Next is scheduling the time. So it's interesting, you said, when you know you have to do it because you have a travel for example, coming up, when you crank out those two hours, and you're done. So what I want you to do is to make sure that you had that time to do that task you didn't really want to do whether it's the graphics or whatever the VO have it on your calendar, Okay, step number three, when you do sit down and do them, make sure you turn off all those external triggers. I don't want any pings, dings or rings, everything should be shut off. And step number four and perhaps the most important, I think that's this is what you're missing is a pact is a pre commitment. Because you told me that if you have a guest waiting for you or you have travel coming up and you know you have to when you have the social obligation for example, you do the task, you do the work. So if I told you Okay, Alex, if you don't finish these videos right now, you have your two hours, I want you to work on them without distraction. And you yourself told me about the way that you can do them in two hours. Right? Right. If you don't do them, if that's not what you're going to spend all your time doing without distraction. You're going to have to pay me $50,000 Would you do them at that
Alex Ferrari 59:40
I finished them up tonight, sir.
Nir Eyal 59:42
Exactly, exactly. So we've established you can now we're negotiating the price. So what you got to do Alex for these tasks that you know will make your life better you know, I can hear the pain in your voice when you say that time comes out of time with my family. That's it does this Oh, so you know that So what I want you to do is to use a pact a pre commitment. Now packs come in three different kinds, we have what we call an effort pact, an effort pact is when there's some kind of friction in between us and something we don't want to do and that distraction. So for example, if there was, if you if there was some kind of friction, some kind of effort in between stopping that task, then there's what we call a price pact, where there's a financial disincentive to not finishing that task. So for example, when I was writing my book, I read, I've done research for like four years about all the collecting all the studies and putting them all together and trying to figure out the model. And I just needed to write the darn thing. And so I learned this technique I learned in the psychology literature about making price PACs, I went to my friend Mark, and I said, Mark, if I don't finish my first draft by January 1, I'm going to give you $10,000. Now, do you think I finished the first draft? Of course I did. Do you think I gave mark the money? Of course, I did not need to because I did what I said I was going to do. So one challenge I would I would put to Alex is how can you use a pact to pre commitment maybe it's another person, right? Maybe working with another person, there's there's a wonderful site called Focus mate.com, where you can sign up for a specific time slot. And you'll have another person who's also doing what you're doing, they're focusing on the task, just seeing another person that you're working alongside for, in this case, virtually very, very effective. Maybe you can make a better commitment with your wife. And you can say, Look, honey, if I don't finish this on Monday, so that I have time on Saturday, I'm going to burn money. So I'll give me another quick example
Alex Ferrari 1:01:31
She would have a heart attack,
Nir Eyal 1:01:33
I have to clean, maybe not with your wife make it with me,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:35
I have to clean the bathroom, I have to clean the bathroom by myself. Think something like that.
Nir Eyal 1:01:39
There you go. Something like that, right? So for me, I used to be clinically obese, I always hated exercise for me. But I knew one of my values was to take care of my physical health. So right now, I have a calendar in my dresser that I see every single day. And on that dress on that calendar is taped a crisp, $100 bill. Now above this calendar, there's a shelf and there's a Bic lighter on that shelf. And so this is what I call the burn or burn technique that if I don't exercise in some way, and I define the rules as you can as well, if I don't exercise six days a week, it can be go for a walk, go to do some push ups go to the gym, any kind of exercise, if I don't burn the calories, I have to burn the money. Now, like physically light it on fire, I can't give it away, because that would make me feel good that I would make someone's day and give them 100 bucks, I can't do that I have to physically light it on fire. Now, why do I do that? Because my personal integrity says to me that I'm going to just do the stupid push ups or go take a walk as opposed to burning that money. Because I've added that that price pack that I've ever asked, Have you ever burned, I've never had to burn it. Okay, I've never had to burn it before. And now frankly, to be honest, I don't even need it. Because now I've learned to get into the routine of exercise. I'm in the best shape of my life. I love it actually. Now I would it would feel weird to not go exercise. Now it's become part of my day, I really don't even need it anymore. But if there is this behavior that you know you want to do, you want to edit the you know, you want to do the videos, you wanna do the graphics. And it's kind of a chore it's not, it's not something you really want to do. When you try all three of these the the first three techniques, the master internal triggers, make time for traction and, and hack back external triggers. As the last line of defense, right, the last resort is this fourth step of preventing distraction with packs can be a very, very effective technique. If you use it. I would be very surprised if it didn't work if you had some kind of disincentive to not doing it.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:29
Well, my friend, I appreciate all of that information. I'm going to apply it because it's it's not as I've split FSSA said all this out loud. I understand how ridiculous I am. Because these things are so I knocked them out so quickly. But there was something in my head is like, these are, this is not fun. And I'm like, Look, I'm a pod I podcast for a living. So obviously, fun is something I enjoy. I don't do things I don't like to do anymore. I don't know about you. But as we get older, the level of stuff that we put up with gets lower and lower. And lower.
Nir Eyal 1:04:04
Would you have went through? And by the way? Absolutely. And by the way, Alex, one of the solutions might be look, you made your time box calendar and you're saying she's it takes me two hours to do these graphics. You know what, maybe it's time to let someone else do the graphics. That will be fine. Yeah, that's also okay.
Alex Ferrari 1:04:18
I someone has been telling me to do that for quite some time. And I can't let that's the only thing I can't let go of like I was editing all my podcasts up until like two years ago. And yeah, if people but the thing is I always tell people is like, when you have the ability and the skill set to do something. It's great. And it's horrible, both at the same time. It's because you don't let go. You know, if you didn't know how to
Nir Eyal 1:04:39
The beauty of it. That's the beauty of the time box calendar is that you can look at it you can say yes, I can. But what is it come at the expense of if it comes to the expense of being with my family, or growing my business or going to the gym or meditating?
Alex Ferrari 1:04:55
Which I've learned the hard way, and I've learned the hard way. I get to He's talking to you about this for hours. I really do appreciate you coming on the show and and sharing all of your knowledge you are a a master at not being being indestructible sir I mean seriously you, you literally wrote the book. Where can people find more about your work and pick up this new book?
Nir Eyal 1:05:19
Absolute Absolutely. So the book is called in distractible, if you go to indistructible.com it's spelt i n the word distract able. So indistractible.com There's actually an 80 page workbook that we couldn't fit into the back of the book. So we decided to give it out for free online you can get it right there. It's all complimentary and indistructible.com and my own blog is called nirandfar.com near spelt, like my first name that's nirandfar.com.
Alex Ferrari 1:05:42
Nir thank you again so much man and I appreciate the work and the the work that you're doing to help the world become indistractible and really, at the end, help us become better people that are souls and growing and doing achieving the things that we want to achieve in life and first step is to be in distractible, so I appreciate you for everything you do, my friend.
Nir Eyal 1:06:07
I appreciate that so much. Thank you for having me.
Links and Resources
- Nir Eyal – Official Site
- Books by Nir Eyal
- Earthing.com: End Inflammation Today – Discover the Science-Based Healing Powers of Earthing/Grounding
- FREE Mindvalley Spiritual Masterclasses
- MUSE 2: The Brain Sensing Headband – Meditation Tracker Headset Device
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