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.
- Who is Nir Eyal?
Nir describes himself as a chubby immigrant from Israel. He moved from Israel with his family when he was 3 years old and always had a bit of a weight problem, which was actually how he started exploring the idea of how certain products can get us hooked and change our behaviors.
A phrase that authors like to repeat is “research is mesearch”, which is exactly why Nir likes to write. He wrote his first book because he couldn’t find a satisfactory answer out in the wild around how to use technology to build healthy habits in user’s lives, so he wrote it himself. It was the same with his second book, we all know what we need to do so the question was why don’t we do those things? It’s certainly not a lack of knowledge.
- Changing Behaviors
Unless we figure out why we are distracted on a psychological level, we will go back to our default behavior and old habits. The opposite of distraction is not focus, it’s traction. Traction is any action that pulls you towards what you want and distraction is what pulls you away.
The key is that it’s not the technology that’s the problem, it’s the idea that technology is the problem. As long as we have a scapegoat to blame the issue on, we don’t have to do anything ourselves.
Imagine how powerful you could become if you simple did everything you said you were going to do.
- Becoming Indistractable
Most people will tell you that motivation is about the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain, but it’s not true. Neurologically speaking it’s pain all the way down. All products cater to uncomfortable sensations because wanting something is neurologically and fundamentally uncomfortable. This means that time management is also pain management.
We have to come to terms with the fact that our behavior is driven by the desire to escape discomfort, and we only have two choices to deal with that. We can either learn techniques to cope with the discomfort, or fundamentally change the source of the discomfort.
There is nothing wrong with watching cat videos, it’s only when it distracts you from the things you value like being with your kids. Time you plan to waste is not wasted time.
- Living Your Values
When it comes to external triggers, there is nothing inherently bad about them. It comes down to whether they are helping you gain traction or pulling you into distraction. By far the most distraction comes from internal triggers like boredom and fatigue.
You have to make time for traction, put time into your day when you live out your values. Two thirds of Americans don’t keep a calendar, and the other third doesn’t use it properly. To-do lists are only half the solution, the other half is actually putting those tasks into your calendar, and that includes things like Family Time.
If you can’t tell me what you got distracted from, you can’t complain about being distracted. You have to do something with intent before you can be distracted from it, otherwise you’re just drifting.
Technology and app developers are attention merchants, but it is possible to hack your attention so you don’t give it away for free.
One of the most common distractions today doesn’t come from technology, it comes from colleagues, which is why every copy of Indistactable comes with a detachable sign to keep your colleagues from popping in uninvited. The cost to businesses of distractions in the workplace is gigantic.
A diversion of attention is perfectly acceptable because they are chosen by you, distractions are often confused with them but they are not chosen at all. If you didn’t plan on doing that thing with your time, that’s when it’s a distraction.
The antidote to compulsiveness is forethought. You have to take steps to prepare yourself and plan ahead so you can get the best of the tools available without letting them get the best of you.
Reference: Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, Nir Eyal
- Nir’s Takeaway
Re-imagine your temperament. One of the pitfalls that many of us fall into is that think “we are who we are” but that’s just a story we tell ourselves. One of the best techniques you can use to change yourself and become indistractable is self-compassion. Talk to yourself the way you talk to a friend, with compassion and curiosity instead of contempt. You are more powerful than you think you are.