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Delegation Archives - How to be Awesome at Your Job

423: Becoming Free to Focus with Michael Hyatt

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Michael Hyatt says: "What I'm after is... the double win. I want to win at work, but I want to succeed at life. I'm not willing to compromise either."

Michael Hyatt offers useful concepts to upgrade your productivity and focus, including the  freedom compass, the zones of desire and drudgery, and more.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How to do more of what you want with the “yes, no, yes” formula
  2. Three beliefs that prevent you from delegating your tasks effectively
  3. How to feel like you’re winning each day with the daily big three

About Michael

Michael Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Michael Hyatt & Company, a leadership coaching and development firm twice listed on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing US companies. A longtime publishing executive, Michael is the former chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson, now part of HarperCollins. He is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestselling author of several books, including Your Best Year Ever, Living Forward, and Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.
Michael is the creator of the Full Focus Planner, which combines quarterly goal-tracking and daily productivity in a proven system for personal and professional achievement. His blog and weekly podcast, Lead to Win, are go-to resources for hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs, executives, and aspiring leaders. He has been featured by Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Fast Companyand Wall Street Journal. Michael and his wife of 40 years, Gail, have five daughters, three sons-in-law, and eight grandchildren. They live just outside of Nashville, Tenn.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Michael Hyatt Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Michael, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Michael Hyatt
Thank you, Pete. I appreciate being on.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh boy. I think we’ll have a ton of fun. But first I want to hear about something fun in your life. You mention your dog, Winston, is exceptional in your About page and I want to know why.

Michael Hyatt
He’s the perfect dog. His temperament is fantastic. He’s just so easygoing. He always obeys. I don’t know. I feel like we won the lottery with him. He’s an amazing dog.

Pete Mockaitis
How did you get him?

Michael Hyatt
Well, we found out about a breeder in Indiana, who bred Australian Labradoodles. We got the dog from her. Then we sent him to a trainer in Indiana, a lady who actually is a Russian immigrant, who trains dogs for the federal government and for state agencies and therapy dogs and all that. She had him for about six weeks. I don’t know what she did, but some kind of Russian thing, but it’s amazing.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh Michael, I just love that so much because it’s like you eat, sleep, breathe people, development, and now even dog development. We’re going to find the best trainer in the world. We’re going to spend some deep focus time immersed and come back a renewed dog.

Michael Hyatt
Dog hacks. What can I say?

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fantastic. You’re unveiling some more wisdom in your latest book, Free to Focus. What’s the main idea or thesis behind this one?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, the main thesis behind this is you can actually achieve more by doing less if you have the right productivity system. The problem with most productivity systems today is that they’re designed to make you more productive. Maybe you’re thinking, “Well, yeah, what’s wrong with that?” Here’s the problem.

People start out working a 12-hour day, they get some productivity hacks, adopt a few apps, they reduce it to eight hours and then they fill it up with more work. They try to be productive so they can be more productive.

I say productivity is a means to an end. You’ve got to be very clear about what the end is otherwise you’re just going to fill your life with work, you’re going to be overwhelmed, you’re going to be burned out, and you’re not going to get the kind of work-life balance that makes life rich and meaningful.

Pete Mockaitis
When you talk about defining the end, can you give us a couple of examples of how that gets articulated?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, absolutely. In the first part of the book I talk about stopping and kind of taking stock. Get off that hamster wheel and ask, “Where’s this hamster wheel going? Why am I running this race? What’s it all about?” I say the end game needs to be about freedom. More productivity should lead to greater freedom and specifically freedom in four areas.

I talk about the freedom to focus. Focus is a super power today in our distraction economy. If you want to move the needle in your business and in your life, if you want your business to grow, if you want to get ahead in your career, you’ve got to be able to focus and do the deep work, the creative work that really creates the breakthroughs in your business and in your personal life. The freedom to focus.

You also need the freedom to be present so that when you’re at your son’s Little League game, you’re not on your phone thinking about work or you’re out for a day with your spouse or you’re significant other, you’re not thinking about work or when you’re at work, you’re not thinking about something that’s going off the rails at home. The freedom to be present.

Then third, the freedom to be spontaneous so that your life’s not so managed and not every last second is so planned that you just can’t stop and enjoy life, smell the roses so to speak.

Then finally, the freedom – and this is really underrated, but the freedom to do nothing at all. All the brain research says that we’re the most creative, we experience the biggest breakthroughs when our minds are the most relaxed. That means we’ve got to intentionally have that white space where we do nothing.

I learned this when I was in Italy a few years ago. They have a saying in fact. They talk about a dolce far niente, which means the sweetness of doing nothing. It’s true. You think about when you have the breakthrough ideas, the most creative ideas, often it’s in the shower or out for a walk or doing something that amounts to nothing. That’s what I’m after is freedom. I think productivity should lead to that.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a lovely turn of a phrase, the sweetness of doing nothing. I’m reminded maybe when you said Italy, it brings about images. I’m just thinking about just sort of strolling, just walking with a good friend, catching up and chatting. It’s like I enjoy doing nothing in those moments so much. It’s like I don’t even want to be burdened with having to think about where we’re going and where the restaurant is, just having faith that a good eatery will appear if that’s kind of what we’re up to. It’s much more fun.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, and I don’t think they have bad food in Italy.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, in Italy you’re covered. Sure.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. Everything I ate there was phenomenal.

Pete Mockaitis
Totally. That’s cool. That’s the process in terms of the steps as we’re stopping. We’re taking stock. We’re pointing to greater freedom and a few kind of particular forms of freedom. What comes next?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, in that same section, under Stop, talk about formulate, so formulate a clear vision for what your productivity, you want to accomplish with it. Then secondly, evaluate. This means taking stock of our workflow, our work style. I talk about a concept there called the freedom compass, which I think is really a big paradigm shift and a way to think about your work that makes it possible for you to focus on your highest and greatest work because not all work is created equal.

I talk about kind of a two-by-two matrix, where you have passion intersecting with proficiency. There’s some tasks – and imagine this rotated 45 degrees and you’ve got a compass, where true north is where your passion and your proficiency come together, the things you love, the things that you are deeply satisfying, that you enjoy, plus proficiency, the things that you’re good at.

Not just proficiency in your subjective opinion, but in an objective reality, where people are willing to pay you to do this. That I call the desire zone. That’s where you want to focus the bulk of your time and the bulk of your energy.

Directly south, directly below that is what I call the drudgery zone, things that you hate, you don’t have any passion around it and you’re not very good at. It’s going to be different for everybody, but for me it’s things that look like administrative kinds of activities, like managing my email inbox, managing my calendar, booking travel, even finding the FedEx box, just running errands. All that’s in my drudgery zone. It’s kind of a grind when I have to do that.

Then there’s also the disinterest zone, where you don’t have any passion, but you might be pretty good at it. A lot of people get trapped in this because maybe they were good at something, they lost the passion and they keep doing it because it keeps making them money, keeps bringing home the bacon.

For me, when I started out as an entrepreneur this was accounting. I did it because I didn’t want to pay somebody else to do it and I was really good at it, but I didn’t have any passion and that leads to boredom.

Then on the opposite side of the freedom compass from there, due west, would be what I call the distraction zone, where you like doing it, but you’re not very good at it and you end up escaping there and then it wasted a lot of time.

Again, the key, and it leads to the next part of the book, but the key is to eliminate everything that’s not in your desire zone, the things that you’re passionate about and proficient at, because that’s where you’re going to see the biggest growth, the biggest progress, the most results. That’s the chapter on evaluation.

Pete Mockaitis
That is a nice two-by-two matrix and a clever rotation that makes it a compass. When you talk about doing more of the good stuff and less of the drudgery, what are some of the best ways that we can accomplish that? You have some things about saying no and some things about outsourcing. How do we systematically get our proportions more and more in the desire space?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. One of the things is I think to set ourselves up for success. That’s actually that third chapter in that first section before we get to the Cut section, which is about rejuvenation. This is one of those things that’s easy to overlook because we live in the hustle economy. We’re encouraged to burn the candle at both ends, to work evenings and weekends. Elon Musk said unless you’re working 80 to 100 hours a week, you’re not going to make the progress you need to.

One of the most important things you can do is take care of yourself if you want to be more productive. Getting a good night’s sleep, something as simple as that, can make the difference between whether you’re focused or productive the next day. I talk about sleep, nutrition, exercise, relationships. Those have a lot to do with how productive we are. That’s all the rejuvenation chapter.

But then moving into that second section, the section called Cut. The first one’s Stop. The second part of the framework is Cut. How do we prune all that stuff that’s not in our desire zone? It really does start with elimination. We’ve got to eliminate the stuff that doesn’t need to be done and the best way to do that is to head it off at the beginning by getting better at saying no.

Warren Buffet once said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything,” but how do we do that without being a jerk? In the book, I talk about how to do that. I talk about how to give a graceful no. I talk about it using a formula called Yes No Yes. It’s the positive no that William Ury talks about in his book, The Power of a Positive No.

Let me illustrate. I spent most of my career in the book publishing industry. I still to this day get a lot of requests from aspiring authors, who would like me to review their book proposal before they send it to an agent or a publisher. Now, I don’t really have time to do that. I don’t want to be a jerk, but I don’t have time to do that. I have an email template that I use. I respond with that formula, yes, no, yes.

Here’s what it looks like. First of all, I start with an affirmation. I start off not resenting the fact that they asked me to review this proposal. But I’ll say something like, “Hey, congratulations. You’ve done what 97% of most aspiring authors will never do and that is create a written book proposal. That is a phenomenal first step. It’s a foundational step and an important one. Way to go.”

Then I move from the yes to the no. Here I want to give a very firm, unambiguous no, so there’s no misunderstanding. I’ll say something like this, “Unfortunately, in order to be faithful to my prior commitments, I have to say no.” I’ve made it very clear that I’m a person of integrity in terms of trying to be faithful to my other commitments, but I give them a firm no.

I don’t say, “Check back with me in a month. I’m a little busy right now,” because in a month it’s going to be the same story, so I might as well cut it off right now.

Then I end with a positive with a yes so that I leave a good taste in their mouth. I’ll say something like, “Best of luck with your publishing product. Let me know when it comes out. Can’t wait to pick up a copy. All the best. Thanks for honoring me with your request,” something like that.

I’ve never gotten a negative response when I follow up with an email like that. For the most part, people are just glad that they heard back from me because so often we send a request like that and we don’t hear because the person is procrastinating because they don’t know how to respond. They want to say no, but they don’t know how. I make it very clear.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, I really like that. I find that when you talk about we don’t know how to respond and we procrastinate, I find that I get a lot of requests, it’s sort of like someone’s presenting me with an opportunity, but I don’t think that they’ve given me nearly enough information to even evaluate if it’s worth talking for 15 minutes about the thing.

I’m trying to craft my TextExpander, generic response, which says, “I will need to know more before I can tell you whether or not I can talk to you about this,” which feels a little bit like, “Oh well, someone’s really busy,” but that’s really how I feel. It’s like “You know your product/service/offer better than I do. What you’re saying might be cool, but I really have no idea what this is supposed to be. Where’s the value here? Could you explain that so that I could tell you if we can find 15 minutes?”

Michael Hyatt
See, that’s a perfect example of what I talk about in the next chapter on automation, where you take something like TextExpander or you could use your email apps signature capability, but come up with a list of email templates so that you can respond to the most common kinds of requests so that you don’t have to create it from scratch every time.

I’ve tried to develop sort of this template mentality, where I ask myself if this task I’m about to do if I think I’m going to have to do it again in the future, why not take a few extra minutes now, do it right, save it as a template or a TextExpander snippet so that I can reuse it in the future and not have to reinvent the wheel every time.

For that example, a great way to deal with that using the Yes, No, Yes framework would be to say, “Hey, thanks for thinking of me for your podcast. I’m honored. I would be happy to consider it, but I need just a little bit more information.” Then you’d go through the information that you need and then let it go from there.

Pete Mockaitis
There you go. That is a nice sentence. “I’d be happy to consider it. I need some more information.” Tell me, what are some other top templates you find yourself using again and again?

Michael Hyatt
Well, here’s what I did, how I started this. This is probably about 15 years ago. I noticed that there was sort of a limited range of requests that I was getting. I would get requests from people who wanted me to consider a speaking engagement or wanted me to consider serving on a non-profit board or make a charitable contribution or just have coffee with me so they could pick my brain. There were about 40 or 50 of these as I catalogued them.

Then what I tried to do – I didn’t sit down and write all these templates at once – instead what I began to do is incrementally populate a template database. At the time I was using email signatures to do this. Now TextExpander makes it even cooler. But to write these one at a time until I had a library of templates.

Every time one of those requests comes in now, I look for the template where I can respond, very rare that I don’t have a template. Instead of taking 10 or 20 minutes, now it just takes a few seconds.

But it’s not just email. For example, I use Apple Keynote for creating slide decks. If I public speech that I’m going to give or a webinar that I have to give, I always start with a template, like with a webinar. I’ve got seven main parts to all my webinars. They always start the same way. They’ve got the same transitions and the same pivots and the same ending and all that.

It’s kind of like paint by numbers, but again, I’m starting with sort of that template mentality of if I’m going to do this again, how can I do it right the first time so I can reuse it, polish it, improve it, and get better at this and take less time as I do it.

Pete Mockaitis
There’s so much good stuff here. I want to dig in in all kinds of places, but it would be too scattered. First, let’s chat a little bit in the realm of going back to stopping for a moment. You mentioned rejuvenation. I think that we’ve heard from a few sleep doctors, a lot of good tips there and I’m a huge advocate for that. It’s so important.

But I want to get your take on when it comes to nutrition and exercise, boy, there’s a lot of advice out there. What have you found ultimately really yields good quality rejuvenation, energy, and freedoms?

Michael Hyatt
First of all, disclaimer, I’m not a physiologist or a doctor or a fitness trainer or any of that. What I do know is what works for me and I have studied a little bit.

But with regard to nutrition, I found that one of the best things to do is to really take it easy on the carbs. A high-carbohydrate diet creates a lot of problems in terms of focus and productivity. It’s why when we eat lot-quality carbs and we eat a lot of these kind of carbs like at lunch, like I’m talking about white bread, pizza, mashed potatoes, pasta, that’s why we kind of go into that funk in the afternoon and get sleepy because that turns to sugar very quickly. It burns up fast and it just doesn’t keep our blood sugar level at a level where we could be really productive.

One of the things I’ve done, and this is – I may lose some of your listeners here – but one of the things I’ve done for several months now is I’ve been on the keto diet. That’s a high fat moderate diet, a moderate protein, low carbohydrate diet. One of the things I had no idea about was how much brain fog I had until I started doing this diet.

It was actually developed back in the 1930s to help epileptic children deal with seizures. There’s a cognitive relationship between this diet, high fat, and your cognitive function. That’s been helpful to me.

I’m very careful about taking supplements, about checking my blood a couple times a week with my physical – or a couple times a week, a couple times a year with my physician, just making sure that my markers are right so that can serve as an early warning sign to head off problems before they happen.

Then I work out five to six days a week usually about an hour, three days of cardio, three days of strength training. All that just keeps my energy level up. It’s important to move in some way like that.

Pete Mockaitis
When you do the cardio or the strength training, what kind of intensity are you shooting for?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I would say moderate intensity. I’m kind of an achiever, so I’m always trying to beat my personal best. I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life that I’ve ever been in. I do work with a trainer, who prescribes a program for me. We get together once a month and reevaluate the program and see where I want to go from there.

I was training for a half marathon this spring, but I injured my foot, so I’m going to back that off till this fall. But typically what I’ll do on the cardio before I had the injury is that I’ll run about 30 minutes of interval training twice a week and then I’ll do a long run and a progressively longer run on Saturdays. Yeah, it depends on what I’m training for.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Well, so now, talk about cutting again. You mentioned that there’s something that we should permanently remove from our to-do list, what is this?

Michael Hyatt
First of all, you should remove the drudgeries of stuff. That’s where you really start is with the drudgery zone activities. Those are not the best and highest use of you. They’re not going to create leverage in your business or your personal life. You’ve got to really focus on those desire zone activities.

Again, that begins with elimination and it goes to automation, and then that final chapter there is all about delegation, which one of the things I found with people that have businesses or leaders, until you can scale yourself, you can’t scale your business.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. All right, so when it comes to that delegation, any particular tips in terms of where to get started if you’re having trouble letting go of anything?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I think the first thing that we’ve got to do, Pete, is confront sort of the limiting beliefs or the way that we think about delegation. In my experience with coaching now hundreds and hundreds of entrepreneurs there’s usually three sentences that rattle around in their head. The first one is “If I want it done right, I have to do it,” what?

Pete Mockaitis
Myself.

Michael Hyatt
Right. Or here’s another sentence that they have. This would be a second sentence. “It takes longer to explain how to do it. I might as well just do it myself.” Or they say, “I can’t really afford additional help right now. I guess I’m going to have to do it myself.” As long as yourself is at the center of all this, you’re not going to be able to grow, you’re not going to develop additional capacity, you’re not going to be able to accomplish what you want to accomplish.

Let’s look at those one at a time. To the person who says “It takes longer to explain how to do it. I might as well just do it myself,” it’s true. It does take longer to explain it the first time, but once you explain it the first time and give people an opportunity to do it so that they can be trained, then you save yourself all the time because you never have to touch it again.

“In terms of if you want it done right, you’ve got to do it yourself,” here’s the beauty of the freedom compass. What’s in your drudgery zone, might be in somebody else’s desire zone. If you hire right so that you have compatible people that offset what’s in your drudgery zone with what’s in their desire zone, then not only can they do it as well as you could do it, they can do it better than you could imagine doing it.

That’s basically how I’ve grown my entire business. I have 35 full-time people. Last year we grew 62%. I hire specifically for people that are doing their desire zone activities so that everybody’s functioning in their strengths and doing the things that they love and the things that they’re proficient at. That’s a real key.

Then the whole thing about affording, “I can’t afford somebody to do it,” you can take baby steps. I’m not advocating going out and hiring a big staff or even hiring somebody full time. You can start as a solopreneur or as a leader just with a part time virtual assistant. That’s how I started.

Back in 2011 when I left the big corporate world, where I was managing a large company where we were doing a quarter of a billion dollars a year and then I stepped into a solopreneur job, where I couldn’t even find a FedEx box. I had to start small. I hired a virtual executive assistant, who worked five hours a week. I did that for a couple of weeks. I saw the value of it. Then I upped their time to about 10 hours a week, then 15 hours, and 20 hours.

But here’s how the conversation often goes. I had a client by the name of Greg. Greg said, “Look, I’ve got a business where I have to have a web presence. I know just kind of enough about web design and web development to do it myself. It’s probably not the best use of my time, but I really don’t feel like I can afford somebody else to do it now.”

I said, “Well, let me ask you a question, Greg. How much do you bill for? What’s your hourly rate?” He said “150 dollars an hour.” I said, “Okay.” I said, “What would it cost you to get a WordPress developer, somebody that was really good that knew what they were doing? They could do a little bit of design work too.” He said, “Probably 50 dollars an hour.” I said, “Then why are you paying somebody 150 dollars an hour that you admit isn’t that good?”

The lights went on. He went, “Wow.” I said, “If you hired somebody at 50 dollars an hour, it would free you up to bill for that additional time and you’d come out ahead 100 dollars an hour.” That’s how we have to think about delegation. It requires an investment first, but boy, that’s when we begin to reap the rewards and that’s when we begin to clone ourselves in a sense because we’ve got other people that are helping us.

Pete Mockaitis
For folks who are professionals and not business owners, what are some key things you’d recommend they delegate?

Michael Hyatt
I think the same thing. Go back to the freedom compass. Start with the drudgery zone because your company is probably not paying you to do those things that you don’t love and those things that you’re not proficient at. If they are, you’re in the wrong job. Get rid of those things because it’s not the best and highest use of you.

Then go to the disinterest zone, then the distraction zone. Again, focus on those few things that really create the leverage, the things that your employer thinks the results you ought to be delivering. That’s where you’re going to see the advance in your career.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. When it comes to cutting, how do you recommend we cut distractions?

Michael Hyatt
Well, you’ve got to have an offensive plan to begin with. I talk in the book about how to design your quarter, how to design your week and how to design your day. Once you have a good offensive plan, then you’ve got to come up with a defensive plan for the interruptions. I distinguish between interruptions and distractions, two different things.

Interruptions are the external things. It’s people dropping by to visit. It’s that text message you get. It’s people interrupting you. I often talk to leaders who say, “I can’t get my own work done because I’ve got so many people interrupting me to help them with their work.” I think one of the best strategies is to have an offense on those two.

First of all, schedule time to get your most important work done. Make it a commitment and put it on your calendar. What gets scheduled is what gets done.

Then, preempt those interruptions by going to the people who are most likely to interrupt you, and you know how they are, go to those people and say, “Hey, look, I’m about to do some really important, focused work. It’s important that I don’t get interrupted, but I want to be available to serve you, so are there any questions you have, anything I can help you with before I go into this session?”

Pete Mockaitis
All right.

Michael Hyatt
This is awesome because, now all of the sudden, you’ve put them on notice and you’ve also not been a jerk about it. You’ve communicated that you want to help them, but you kind of want to do it on your terms.

Then you’ve got distractions. Now distractions are all the stuff that look external, but are really a problem with ourselves with self-control. This could be jumping over to Facebook. The problem is we’ve got multi-billion dollar-social media companies, who are doing a tremendous amount of research and whose entire business model is built on high jacking our psychology and manipulating our dopamine.

They want us to spend as much time on those platforms as possible. Why? Because they’re repackaging our attention and they’re selling it to the highest bidder in the form of advertisers. We have to combat that. The best way to do it, I think, is to use technology to fight technology.

For example, my smartphone, it looks like a really cool device. It does a gazillion things. I’ve got an iPhone XS Max. It does a bazillion things, but it’s a very sophisticated distraction device if I’m not careful. On my phone, I’ve removed email. I’ve removed Slack, which is our internal communication program. And I’ve removed all social media with the exception of Instagram because I’m trying to build my Instagram following.

But even there I’ve used the technology to fight technology. I go into settings, screen time, and I limit my use of Instagram to 30 minutes a day. Even better, I gave my phone to my wife and I said “Set a passcode for that so that I can’t cheat and don’t tell me the passcode.” When my time is up on Instagram, my time is up.

There’s a great app for the desktop that works on Windows or Mac or any platform called Freedom. You can find it at Freedom.to. I don’t have any relationship with them except that I use this program and love it. But it allows you to selectively turn off apps and websites for a specific period of time, which allows you to stay focused when you do your most creative breakthrough kind of work.

The only way to defeat Freedom is to completely reboot your computer. That gives me just friction so that I can remember my intention that I’m trying to get focused work done. It enables me to avoid the distraction.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. What do you think about mindfulness practice when it comes to building the capacity to resist distraction?

Michael Hyatt
I think it’s really important. I meditate every morning for 15 minutes. It just gives me the opportunity to collect my thoughts, to kind of get centered, to get focused, to get re-connected with my most important priorities. Again, it kind of goes back to the freedom that I talked about before, the freedom to do nothing. It’s often underrated.

Pete Mockaitis
Now, I’d love to dig in for a moment now. When you say meditation, are you referring to more of a mind training exercise or more of a prayer exercise?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I actually do both. I do pray. I also do just straight up meditation. I use an app called 1 Giant Mind. Are you familiar with that?

Pete Mockaitis
I know a couple. I don’t know that one.

Michael Hyatt
It’s awesome. If you’re familiar with Headspace-

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Michael Hyatt
It’s kind of similar to that, but I actually like it better and it’s free. But 1 Giant Mind. It has 12 initial lessons and then you can go into a 30-day challenge, but the instruction is fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh lovely. Well, thank you. I’ve enjoyed a little bit of all of them in terms of Calm, Simple Habit, Headspace. They all give me a little bit of a different perspective. I go, oh yeah, that’s a really good one. Thank you. Much appreciated. We’ll check out another one. Cool.

Michael Hyatt
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, so we talked about stopping. We talked about cutting. Now what?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, so now we get to that third section of the book, which is called Act. It’s a little bit counterintuitive because you’d think that Act ought to come first, but I find that you’ve got to stop, kind of reflect where you want to go, then you need to cut or prune because anything that’s healthy has to be pruned from time to time, but now it’s time to act.

Now, hopefully, you’ve gotten rid of all the stuff that’s in your drudgery zone, a lot of the stuff in your disinterest and distractions zones and now we’re going to focus on how to get more done in your desire zone, the things that you love and the things that you’re good at. That begins with a chapter called consolidate. This is all about designing your ideal week.

The idea is that you want to design a week as if you were in 100% control of your time and resources. What would that look like? If you really wanted to give it some intelligent design and not just be reactive to what came over the transom and schedule those things, but actually we’re very proactive about it.

Here’s how mine works for example. First of all, I’m going to start with on Mondays is when I have my internal team meetings. I batch all these together for one simple reason. It’s the concept of context switching.

In other words, anytime I switch a context, for example, I go from a meeting to I go to some time where I’m working on a project to maybe I’m going to record some video, anytime I go to a different context, there’s a certain amount of ramp up time, a certain amount of time to kind of get into the groove, find my equilibrium and get into flow. Well, the less you can do that, the more momentum you can build.

When I get into that space in my head of meetings and I’m in meeting mode, then I just batch them altogether. Internal meetings are all on Monday.

Tuesday, is all about what I call backstage time. This is my time for preparation on the front stage. Everybody’s front stage is going to look different, but the front stage is what your employer or your clients are paying you, that’s what you’re delivering, but there’s always some backstage work that has to be done in order to do that.

If you’re a lawyer, for example, your front stage might be arguing a case before a court or negotiating a contract on behalf of a client, but there’s a lot of research in the backstage that has to go into that preparation. For me, Tuesday is all about that preparation.

Wednesday and Thursday for me are front stage activities. For example, when I record my podcast, I do that in a day and a half once a quarter and I record 13 episodes in a row. It takes me a day and a half, but then I don’t think about it for another quarter. I get into that headspace and I stay focused and knock it out.

Then on Friday is when I try to consolidate my external meetings. If anybody wants to meet with me, they come in from out of town or a vendor or a client or whatever, I try to move those to Friday. Why? Because I don’t want those meetings interrupting my progress on my front stage days or my back stage days.

Then, of course, I have – and a lot of people don’t know about this – but there’s actually an offstage. All of life doesn’t have to be work. On the weekends, on Saturday and Sunday for me, I’m not thinking about work. I don’t talk about work. I don’t read about work. I don’t do work. Why? Because I want to get back in on Monday morning totally rejuvenated and ready to hit the ground running.

That for me is my ideal week. This could be a game changer for people to begin to get some sense of control back. I would say, Pete, probably in any given week, I’ll probably approximate that about 80%. Things are going to happen. I don’t try to be legalistic about it. But boy, going into the week with a plan is a whole lot better than just reacting to what comes over the transom. Does that make sense?

Pete Mockaitis
I like that a lot. Yes. What do you think about in terms of total hours of work in a day and a week, energy levels and optimizing that?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I keep my work to 40 hours a week. I can tell you that the science and I quote it in the book, but once you get past about 55 hours a week, there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of time you work and the level of productivity you have. It actually goes backwards after you give 55 hours. There’s been a lot of study done on this.

But the average person is buying into what I call the hustle fallacy, where you’ve got to work 80 hours, you’ve got to work 100 hours. That’s a recipe for burnout. It’s also a recipe for screwing up your life, screwing up your health, screwing up your most important relationships.

What I’m after, personally, is what I call the double win. I want to win at work, but I want to succeed at life. I’m not willing to compromise either for the sake of the other one.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, so I’d love to get your take, I don’t know if you would liken yourself to this, but I think of, hey, Michael Hyatt, Elon Musk, two titans, very different perspectives. I guess, when it comes to Elon Musk it’s like I cannot deny that is one successful dude, who has made a lot of things happen and he espouses very much the hustle mentality.

Michael Hyatt
He does.

Pete Mockaitis
How do we reconcile that?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I think it depends on you define success. He’s blown through a couple marriages. He, by his own admission, doesn’t talk to his kids hardly. He’s sleeping at the factory so much so that his fans started a Kickstarter page to buy him a new couch, kind of as a joke, so he’d have something better to sleep on. He’s appeared in the media and said some crazy things, which have led even to fines from the SEC and other federal agencies.

I think it depends on how you define success. Look, I’m not holding myself up as a paragon of virtue, but here’s the thing. Here’s what’s possible. Last year I took off 160 days, now that counts weekends, so 160 days including a one-month sabbatical, which I’ve done every year for the last eight years and my business grew 62%.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome.

Michael Hyatt
I really think this idea of achieving more by doing less – the hustle fallacy, I want to keep my health. I’d like to live a long time. I’ve been married for 40 years, almost 41 years. I have 5 grown daughters, who I adore and who like me. This doesn’t just happen by chance. It’s not because I’m lucky, but I’ve tried to focus on those things.

Again, I’m not trying to hold myself up as the paragon of virtue, but I’m just saying that there’s a different model for success than the one that Elon Musk espouses. I’m not trying to judge him, but just look at the fruit, look at the results.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Well done. Thank you. Well, tell me before we sort of shift gears and do your favorite things, any sort of key mistakes folks make when they’re trying to say, “Heck yes, I want to get free to focus and do these things.” What are some roadblocks or some fumbles folks make along the way as they’re trying to enact this stuff?

Michael Hyatt
Well, I think the biggest tip I can give people is to get a plan for your day. This is where you’re going to get the biggest leap forward. I advocate something called the daily big three. Here’s how it goes for most people. They start the day – if they have a to-do list, and not everybody works with a to-do list, which is also a guarantee for being reactive, but let’s say you have a to-do list. The average person’s going to have somewhere between 20 and 25 items on that list.

Pete Mockaitis
No kidding.

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. Before they begin the day, they’re already feeling overwhelmed, like there’s no way that I can accomplish what’s on my list. They get to the end of the day and even if they’ve done half of it, where do they focus? On the half they didn’t get done. They go to bed defeated. This becomes a vicious cycle. It creates a lot of dissatisfaction, a lot of frustration and ultimately leads to burnout.

But the problem is they’ve created a game, they’ve set themselves up to fail by creating a game that they can’t possibly win. What I suggest is instead of that, go ahead and identify the three highest leveraged tasks that you can do today. Not all tasks are created equal. We know from the Pareto principle that 20% of the effort drives 80% of the results.

Let’s just go ahead on the front end and say “What are the three most important things that I can do today?” Now all of the sudden that seems manageable. At the end of the day when I accomplish those three things, even if I didn’t do all the other trivial things, at least I got the most important things done.

You do three important tasks like that a day, you do it 250 days a year, which is the average number of workdays people have, that’s 750 important things per year. That, more than anything else, will give you a sense of control and give you a sense that you’re winning. When you feel like you’re winning, it builds your confidence and it builds your momentum.

Pete Mockaitis
Yes. I like feeling like I’m winning. Well said.

Michael Hyatt
Me too. Me too.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah. I think one of my most favorite quotes is one by Warren Buffet. He said that “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Michael Hyatt
I would say the research that I’ve done into sleep has been probably the most rewarding, especially into naps because I sort of knew intuitively that napping was a powerful way to rejuvenate and kind of reboot in the middle of the day. I’ve faithfully practiced it for about 30 years.

I took a nap today, so between interviews I laid down for 20 minutes, fell to sleep – I trained myself to fall to sleep quickly – I wake up and I’m a little bit groggy maybe for about ten minutes or so, drink a cup of coffee, and then it’s like I’m rebooted.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, now I want to know, how do you train yourself to fall asleep quickly?

Michael Hyatt
It’s not unlike training yourself to meditate. I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself to fall asleep. What I do is kind of try to focus on my breathing and focus on relaxing. If you do that and do it routinely, you’ll find yourself falling asleep. If you don’t fall asleep, it’s still rejuvenating, even if you do nothing but put your feet up and relax.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite book?

Michael Hyatt
I’m one of those guys, I read a ton. I tend to focus on the books that I’ve read most recently. The book that I love that I just finished here about two weeks ago was Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport. Have you read that?

Pete Mockaitis
I have perused it. Can you tell me maybe a takeaway that was particularly valuable for you?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, the biggest one was on the value of high-quality leisure, so really being intentional about your leisure time and how it correlates to our work, it makes us more productive at work. But that was really challenging and really exciting to think about.

Pete Mockaitis
How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Michael Hyatt
Let me think here for a second. I would say the tool that I’m enjoying the most right now is a tool called Notion. Have you heard of it?

Pete Mockaitis
No.

Michael Hyatt
Notion is kind of like a personal Wiki. It could be. A lot of people are using it as an Evernote replacement. I’m still using Evernote, but only as a digital junk drawer. Notion is where I put structured information, information I want to get back to. It’s a whole lot of fun. It’s an outstanding tool.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting, thank you. How about a favorite habit?

Michael Hyatt
A favorite habit without question is my morning routine, just going through my drill every morning, setting myself up for high performance. Again, I learned this from the world of athletics, where the world’s best athletes have a pre-game ritual. I think of my morning time as a pre-game ritual. That’s the time when I’m going to pray, the time I’m going to meditate, the time I’m going to exercise and get fueled for the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate and get quoted back to you frequently?

Michael Hyatt
I think it’s that one about winning at work and succeeding at life. I think that with my clients, that’s just captivated their imagination and gets them really excited because I think most people have kind of fallen into this idea that you’ve got to give up one or the other. You can’t have both. I think when people are given a model, and that’s what I try to do in the book, Free to Focus, for how that can be done, it resonates with people.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Michael Hyatt
Well, in terms of the book, I would go to FreeToFocusBook.com. It has links to all the places where you can buy the book, but more importantly, it also has 500 dollars’ worth of free bonus material related to the book that you can get just by turning in your receipt. That’s all you’ve got to do. Turn in your receipt, claim the free bonuses. It has some amazing stuff including the audio version of the book for free. Then for all things related to me, just MichaelHyatt – Hyatt with a Y, not an I – MichaelHyatt.com.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Michael Hyatt
Yeah, I would say that in this kind of distraction economy where people are so sidetracked and there’s so much sideways energy and so much fake working going on, if you can learn to focus, that could become a super power.

I would just encourage people to differentiate themselves from their competitors and from their peers by being the person that really can deliver the highly creative, deeply important work that moves their business forward, that moves their personal work forward because so many people are sidetracked and distracted. You can differentiate yourself and make a real difference in the world.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Michael, this has been a ton of fun. Thanks so much for taking the time.

Michael Hyatt
Thank you, Pete. Appreciate it.

393: Freeing Up Extra Time Through Optimizing, Automating, and Outsourcing with Ari Meisel

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Ari Meisel says: "If you make something 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder, you can make or break a habit."

Ari Meisel breaks down his secrets to greater productivity…from virtual assistants, to the best productivity apps, to easier ways to make decisions.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How working at your peak time makes you many times more effective
  2. The power of the 20-second rule
  3. Why you should consider using virtual assistants

About Ari

Ari is the best-selling author of “The Art of Less Doing“, and “The Replaceable Founder.” He is a self-described Overwhelmologist whose insights into personal and professional productivity have earned him the title, “The Guru’s Guru.” He can be heard on the award-winning Less Doing Podcast, on international stages speaking to thought leaders and influencers, and for those who prefer the written word, Ari’s blog posts on Medium offer immediate and actionable advice for entrepreneurs seeking replaceability.

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Ari Meisel Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Ari, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Ari Meisel
Well, thank you for having me Pete. It’s good to talk to you again.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. Well, I think we’re going to get into so much good stuff. I am all about less doing. But first I want to get your take on what’s the story behind you being on the cover of a Rage Against the Machine album?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, it’s the 20th anniversary of that. It’s funny. It’s been coming up a lot lately. The Evil Empire album from Rage Against the Machine, I was 11 years old and Mel Ramos, who is a famous artist and was a friend of my father’s, who’s an art dealer, made that painting for me as a birthday present when I was 11.

The band saw it a few years later in one of his books and they just liked it. They used it for their cover. I never met the band. I was never a fan of the band. I had a billboard of my face in Times Square when I was 15 years old.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, check you out. Well, and your fame has grown since then.

Ari Meisel
Yes, totally. I think it all stems back to that very moment.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, starting early, that’s good. Can you give us a little bit of a quick background on your company, Less Doing? What are you all about?

Ari Meisel
I empower entrepreneurs to become more replaceable. That’s what I do. That means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the ones that get excited by that are the ones that I usually do the best with. Essentially we’re teaching people how to optimize, automate and outsource everything in their business in order to be more effective. We do that through a number of systems that we teach and processes and methods, but essentially we teach people to be more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, we love effectiveness here. Most of our listeners are not entrepreneurs, but I definitely thing that there are some applicable tidbits. Now, you unpack a number of these in your book called The Art of Less Doing. Is there a unique spin that the book takes?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. Originally when I got into this sort of world, the focus was on individual productivity for the most part. I was helping individuals be as effective as possible. Over the last several years, this has developed into much more of a business methodology for growing faster with less pain basically. The Replaceable Founder really takes that framework of optimize, automate, outsource and applies it to businesses.

The goal is to make people replaceable. The reason we do that is so they can have more focus, freedom and flexibility. The way that we do that is through looking at the way that they communicate, the way that they manage and execute processes, and the way that they have their project management system set up.

Pete Mockaitis
Interesting. I like your alliteration here. You’ve also got the three D’s. What are those?

Ari Meisel
That’s for email and decision making in general, which is to deal with it, delete it or defer it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. Well, tell us, how do we navigate? When is it best to choose to do versus to delegate, to defer?

Ari Meisel
We use email to teach the concept, but it’s not about email. The email problem for most people is not an actual email problem, it’s a decision-making problem. The first thing here is to understand that the three of them are there because those are the only three choices that you should have to make.

Most people treat not just email but decisions in general as if it’s a unique opportunity to make a thousand different decisions every time. It’s not.

If you limit yourself in your choices to three, then you can say deleting is saying no, dealing with it means you can deal with it right now, which could include delegating it, so you get in that sort of habit as well. Then the third D is for deferral, which is the most interesting because that’s really taking into account how you use your time and when you’re best at different things.

Every one of us has a different time and sometimes place where we do different kinds of activities better, such as podcast interviews for example. You would not have gotten this energy from me a couple hours ago, which is why I try not to schedule a podcast interviews before noon my time. It’s something I’ve learned about myself.

Not to mention that my peak time, which is a period when any one of us is 2 to 100 times more effective than any other time of the day, that peak time for me is usually between ten and noon. I can’t do creative work before eight o’clock at night because there’s just too much going on in my head and I can’t write or be really creative.

Knowing that is really powerful because you can make an active decision. You’re not procrastinating; you’re saying, “No, I’m going to do this more effectively at this time, so that’s when I want to look at it.”

Pete Mockaitis
I really like that. We had Dr. Michael Breus on the show talked about the power of when and just some fascinating stuff associated with circadian rhythms and there’s actual biochemical things going on in your body at somewhat predictable regular times that point you to different states that let you be excellent at different sorts of tasks. Can you lay it on us again? What are your times and what are the capabilities you find you have uniquely available at those times?

Ari Meisel
Again, for me, the peak time for me is ten to noon.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say peak, you just mean, “I am unstoppably energetic,” or what’s peak mean for you?

Ari Meisel
The research basically says that for every person it’s different. There’s a time of the day that’s usually 90 minutes and you are 2 to 100 times more effective in that period. What they mean when they talk about effectiveness in that situation is that you’re most able to easily drop into a flow state.

Flow state for most people, that generally equates to a dilation of time. If you’ve ever found yourself in an activity where it felt like minutes had gone by, but it was an hour or two, that’s a flow state. We want that because our brain is just firing on all synapses in that moment.

My peak time is between ten and noon. In theory, I should be using that time for my highest and best use, which in my case is usually coming up with content or really interesting problem solving for whatever the problem might be.

Now, I know that I’m not good on the phone or podcasts before noon. That’s just something I’ve learned about myself. It’s not because I’m not a morning person, but maybe it just takes me a little while to sort of get in that mood or that mode.

Creatively, I can’t do creative work before eight o’clock at night because there’s a lot going on in my house first of all, but also we tend to be more creative when we’re tired because we’re less likely to sort of shoot down the bad ideas and things can flow a little more freely. But it’s different for every person. Some people, their peak time could be five in the morning. I’ve seen that. Some people it’s eleven o’clock at night and that’s when they do their best, best, best.

We all work out at different times or we should. We eat at different times. A lot of that you can see in Dr. Breus’s work. He’s been on my podcast three times because he’s so awesome. A lot of people think, “Oh, that’s interesting.” But you really can dial it in and use that timing to your advantage.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, I’m right with you there. The peak then is you’re most likely to drop into a flow state. The creativity is a different animal than the peak?

Ari Meisel
Right, right, absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. That’s nice. I guess we’re already digging into a little bit. You talk about optimizing, automating, and outsourcing. One of the components of optimizing is knowing thyself. We’re already talking about some knowing thyself in terms of the times that you’re best for different sorts of activities. Are there any other key parameters you really recommend folks zero in on knowing thyself/themselves well?

Ari Meisel
Sleep I think is another one too. Not everybody needs to sleep eight hours a night in one block. Many people should, but not everybody needs to. That’s not the optimal thing for everybody.

In fact if you look back at old research, well even new research now, the natural pattern of human sleep seemed to be these sort of two different bulk sleeps, where you got this core amount of sleep, then you’d wake up for a little while in the middle of the night and do things, and then go back to sleep for what was then became known as beauty sleep.

Understanding that just because the rest of your team or your environment or your friends or family, whatever, might be on a nine to five work schedule and a ten to six or ten to seven sleep schedule, it doesn’t mean that that’s what you should be doing.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s great, so get clear on your real sleep needs and what’s optimal for you and not just sort of caving to the norms around you.

Ari Meisel
It’s so individual. It’s so, so individual. That’s the big thing. Understand that you can figure it out.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, very good. Any other knowing thyself things to know?

Ari Meisel
I think a lot of people are just generally unaware of how they use their time and their space and their resources and their money and everything. There’s usually a huge benefit in just tracking sort of anything that we do. You can track things like with RescueTime, you can track how you’re using your computer or your Apple watch and see how you’re moving around or not. That kind of information can be very powerful if you just take the data that you’re producing all day every day and actually look at it.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, could you give us an example of let’s say Apple watch or Fitbit, you’re looking at your steps or movement data and how that can inform a useful decision?

Ari Meisel
One thing I would say is just challenging what you might inherently think you know about yourself. There’s so many people – there’s a lot of people who when they use these tools, they can guess the number of steps they’ve taken in the day and they’re probably pretty accurate.

Most people before they do that kind of thing are very – they’re usually pretty off. Somebody might think that they were on their feet for ten hours; it turns out they were only on their feet for two hours. Or they think that they walked five miles, but they didn’t even walk a mile.

That in itself, being aware of the unawareness I think is huge and the discrepancies because once you get into this and you sort of get to know your body and you sort of inherently understand these things a little bit better. We can make better decisions or we can even understand when we shouldn’t be making decisions because if we’re tired or not in a good place to mentally do things, a lot of people just sort of power through it and then make bad choices. Then those sort of build on each other.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s true. Can you recall a particular bad choice you made when you were tired or poorly resourced?

Ari Meisel
I mean a lot of it usually comes out with my wife and arguments that I wouldn’t normally have. But there – it’s funny actually. I think about a month ago my wife and I had a fairly aggressive argument. It was so out of the norm that she actually stopped and she’s like, “You’re acting like one of the children right now. You should go take a nap.” I can usually operate on pretty low amount of sleep, but this was a bad few days for some reason. I stopped and I realized I was acting like a toddler.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. That’s well said. Cool, that’s a little bit about knowing thyself. Can you dig into a bit of the concept of the external brain? What is it and how should we tap into that power?

Ari Meisel
For the external brain is the idea that we really can’t use our brains the way that we think we can. The human brain is really, really bad at holding onto information. It’s great at coming up with it, but really not so good at keeping it. We try to use working memory for something that it really isn’t, which is long-term storage.

If we have systems in place – and when I say systems it’s important because a lot of people have tools or methods maybe or gadgets, but a lot of people lack systems. If you have a system in place to actually track your ideas, capture your ideas and put them in a place where not only you can save them, but actually act on them later, that makes life a lot less stressful and a lot more effective.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah, I’m so with you there. I’m thinking back to David Allen, episode 15 here for us. He said it very well, I might not get it perfect, but says, “Your brain is for having ideas not for holding them or for remembering them.”

Ari Meisel
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s been so huge for me is getting it out of my head and elsewhere. Personally, I love OmniFocus for the actionable things. Someone said, “Oh, this is a great restaurant,” “This is a great podcast.” “You should check out this church,” or place to go. I was like, “Oh cool. I will.”

It’s sort of like all those rich little life ideas don’t float away. They land somewhere and they can be acted upon in sometimes a year plus later, like, “Oh, I am going to watch that movie someone recommended a year ago. I’m so glad I had that recommendation ready to be accessed.” I dig OmniFocus for that and Evernote for more words basically in terms of maybe paragraphs plus. What do you dig for your external brain?

Ari Meisel
Trello.

Pete Mockaitis
Trello?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, I use Trello. I was a really big Evernote user for a long time, but I sort of fell away from it because with Trello it’s more speaking to that idea of having a system. I might capture things all day long from various sources, whether it’s a voice note to my Amazon Echo device or to Siri or a picture of something or a screenshot or I’ll forward an email, and they all go to one place. They all go to one list in Trello as an individual card, each one.

Then at the end of the day, it’s one of my sort of nightly routines is I look at that list and I can sort those ideas into various places. One might be for someone on my team to deal with, one might be for my wife to look at, one might be for me to read later, whatever it might be. But that sorting process is very important to me. You can’t really do that in something like Evernote. With Trello you have that sort of visual idea, like moving things around. It feels very congruent for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, that’s intriguing. Can you unpack for us the categories? They start by getting dumped into a singular kind of inbox, collection bin. They then go to, “Hey, read this later.” They go to teammate or wife or another person. What are the other kind of categories that it might fall into?

Ari Meisel
Let me think. It could be assigned to a virtual assistant. That’s certainly one. It could be something that I want to talk about in one of my webinars. That would be like, I do a tech talk Tuesday webinar, so it could go to that. There’s not too many. That’s the thing is you don’t want to have too many different options.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, then I’m wondering over time I imagine, if you’re anything like me, you have way more ideas that you’re excited about than you can take action upon. Let’s talk about some of the automate components, the decision matrix. What is that and in particular how might you apply it to, “Hey, do I do this or do I not do this?”

Ari Meisel
Well, that decision matrix is the three D’s. Saying no, for example, there’s just a lot more things that we should say no to. If anything, for some people it needs to be the default is to say no. If it’s not a heck yes, then it’s a heck no kind of a thing.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you for the children who listen to the show.

Ari Meisel
Yeah, right. That’s one thing. Dealing with it means you can deal with it right now like in the next three minutes. If you can’t – and in dealing with it right now, that could include delegating it – but if you can’t do that right now, and you can’t say no, then you have to defer it. At that point you pick a more optimal time for you to do it. That’s the point of it is you don’t have to put too much thought into what, when and why.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m curious to hear then when it comes to the heck yes and heck no, it sounds like that’s kind of a visceral your whole person is resonating with something is what lands you at a heck yes or do you have a more systematic approach by which you are determining “Yes, I shall pursue that and no, I shall not pursue the other thing?”

Ari Meisel
One is just understanding your resources, knowing if something is even possible, which part of that comes honestly from having that clarity of thought that comes from having a system like this. It sounds very circular, but it’s true. That’s the big one.

But the other one is also having the places to sort of delegate into that can possibly deal with it. What I mean by that is I have a number of virtual assistants. I have people on my team that I might think it’s a yes, but I have a system in place to sort of send it over to one of them to then validate that idea or at least move it a little bit farther down the field.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, understood. You’ve also got a concept called set it and forget it. How does that work? Is this an infomercial?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. That’s how I think through automation. Automation to me should be something that we just sort of set up and then it just runs in the background and we just don’t have to think about it anymore. That could be simple things like a trigger through an IFTTT, for example, that if something happens here, then do something else over here. Or a process that is in place that people can go through a very detailed checklist, but it’s still that – that’s how you should be thinking about automation.

It’s not something that you should have to monitor or watch. I forgot who it is actually, but somebody, a friend of mine describes automation is just something that means he doesn’t have to do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, automation means I don’t have to do it, which is great because in a way, that expands your mindset or how you’re looking at it beyond that of software, robots. Automation can very much include people, people engaging processes, which include a high or low-tech application there. If you don’t have to do it, then that means it’s been automated as far as you’re concerned.

Ari Meisel
Right, exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
I dig it. Well, you mentioned IFTT, if this, then that. It’s so funny I’ve looked at this app several times and thinking, that’s just cool. I’m sure I could probably find some use for it and yet I haven’t. Tell me, what are the most game changingly useful things you’re using IFTT for?

Ari Meisel
First of all, any time you find yourself in a situation where you say ‘every,’ so like every time this happens, every time a customer signs up, every time I book a podcast or video, every time I record an interview, every time I send a Tweet, every time I hire or fire someone, that ‘every’ should be a trigger to think about automation because typically that should mean it’s something that’s repetitive.

That’s one way of thinking through it. All those things that we do on a regular basis, on a repetitive basis, those are things that should be automated. I’ve automated hiring processes, content dissemination, even using machine learning to segment out potential customers from people on my email list. All of those things can be done with automations.

But at a really simple level, if you want to look at the things that you know you should be doing, but not you’re not doing them, that’s a great case for automation, like, “I’m on Facebook and I know I should be on Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not.” Okay, well you can automatically at the very least post all the things you put on one place into all the others.

I know that I should have consistencies so that if I change my Facebook profile picture, I should probably change my Twitter one as well. But those are the kinds of things most people are just like, “Ah, I’m busy so I’ll just let that one go for now.” A lot of those things where you should be doing them and you’re not, you can pick up the slack with automation.

Pete Mockaitis
When you say things you should be doing, I think one of the first things that leap to mind could be exercise, meditation, and sort of things that are boosting your effectiveness across the board. You talked a bit about attaching a new habit to an existing one, how does this work?

Ari Meisel
There are a lot of people who are way better about habits than I am. My friend James Clear, who wrote Atomic Habits, is one of the better ones to be honest.

But if we have a good habit in place already, like most of us probably brush our teeth, then you – and you want to bring in a new habit, then you can associate it with the existing habit. That’s like an anchoring effect. It just makes it a lot easier to implement that habit.

The other thing that I like is generally if you make something 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder, you can make or break a habit that way as well. The most obvious example of that is if you want to drink more water throughout the day, have a big thing of water at your desk, you don’t have to get up and go get water. If you don’t want to eat cookies, don’t have cookies in your house.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s nice, so 20 seconds easier or 20 seconds harder can make or break it. Well, then I’m wondering then if there’s a threshold number of seconds that’s like beyond that, “Ah, it’s just too much,” like “If it’s 35 seconds, okay, okay, fine, but if it’s 55, forget about it. Ain’t going to happen.”

Ari Meisel
Yeah, all the research I’ve seen is around 20 seconds.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. Good. That’s helpful. Okay, cool. That’s a bit about the automation side.

Now let’s talk about the outsourcing. You mentioned virtual assistants a number of times. Most of our listeners are employees and not entrepreneurs or business owners, but I can tell you that when I was an employee, I used virtual assistants to great effect. Can you unpack a little behind this? Virtual assistants, what are they really, really good for and where do people go wrong when they try to make good use of them?

Ari Meisel
Even in your personal life you should be using virtual assistants because it allows you to focus on what you do best and delegate the rest as has been said before. I use the VAs for over 100 hours a week in my personal life with my four kids and booking travel for me and my family and signing up for after school things and insurance.

You have to understand the return on investment there is not necessarily something that you’re going to be able to directly measure in dollars. It’s just going to make your life better.

The biggest problem with outsourcing in general is if people try to do it as a first step and they can’t. If you take an ineffective problem and you just hand it over to somebody else who has less information, less context than you and expect some magical result, it’s just not going to happen. You have to start with the optimizing first, then the automating, then you can get to the outsourcing.

Because also if you give work to a human being that an automation could do, then you’re effectively dehumanizing them, which doesn’t work either. We have to get better at communicating what our needs are. A lot of that comes from going through and creating an optimized process to begin with.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s a great point in terms of “I don’t like this. You handle it,” often doesn’t give you some great results on the other side.

Tell me a little bit when you talk about that optimization, what I found is some of the hardest thinking that I do, which has been just tremendously rewarding in terms of the return has been how do I take this gut feel type decision and turn that almost into an algorithm that we can use to determine – to get pretty far.

For example, I get tons of incoming podcast guest pitches. It’s like, “Oh my gosh.” One by one by one, I was sort of looking at them is like this is nuts, but every once in a while there were some really amazing people who came in. I thought “Well, I can’t just ignore them all.”

I really had to stop and think. It’s like, I want guests who are relevant, who are authorities, and who are engaging. Now, what exactly do I mean by relevant? What exactly do I mean by authoritative? How would I assess or measure or evaluate that? What exactly do I mean by engaging? Now, I can have that – it just goes in terms of the pitch lands and someone evaluates it per all my parameters and then I only look at a small set of finalists.

That’s been huge for me. Is there a particular way that you think about turning things from, “Okay, I can handle this,” until it’s so darn clear that someone else can handle it repeatedly?

Ari Meisel
Delegation is a muscle. You need to practice it and do it and it becomes a lot more natural. It’s not necessarily even so much that there’s an algorithm. But if you say there’s only three choices in these situations and that’s it. There’s only three choices. You sort of create innovation by artificially restricting your options.

Pete Mockaitis
All right, I dig. Can you give us an example of that in practice?

Ari Meisel
I mean, that’s one, the three options. If you say there’s 20 different things you could do, but you say, no, you only have three options. That’s a good one.

For me, if you artificially restrict time. A lot of people say “There’s no time in the day. There’s no time in the day.” It’s just not true. It’s just that priorities are messed up and people don’t have good systems.

If I told somebody that works a nine to five job what would you do if you could only work till four, you had to leave at four? For most people that’s pretty straightforward. That’s a fairly easy way to think through it. “Oh, I would skip lunch,” or “I’d take one less meeting,” or something.

But if you say to the same person, “What would you do if you could only work an hour a day?” that’s a very different question. That creates a whole different – you need a totally different way of thinking to make that work.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah. You’re already getting the wheels turning for me. It’s like, “Well, I would have to figure out how to have other people do the things that I’m no longer doing,” is what I would do with that hour, kind of like wishing for more wishes, if you will.

Ari Meisel
Yeah, right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s good. When it comes to these virtual assistants, boy, how does someone find them? Where would you recommend they go, they research, they explore? What are some first steps there?

Ari Meisel
I’ve worked with over 20 different virtual assistant companies over the years, including owning one myself. In that time my favorite one is a company called Magic. People can go to Less.do/Magic to get connected with them. There’s a reason for that. There’s dedicated assistants, which I think create just another bottleneck that you give to somebody else. Then this is what’s more of an on demand model.

Magic has 15 people. Half of them are in the States. Half of them are in the Philippines. They work seamlessly as like one giant entity that really knows your preferences, understands what you need, and their response time is about 30 seconds 24/7. They can do all the different things. They charge I think it’s like 51 cents per minute or something like that.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay. That’s cool. I’ve seen ads for Magic, but I’m like, okay, well, I’ve used a lot myself. Are they any good? It sounds like you’ve been around the block. You say, “Oh yes, Pete. They are legit.”

Ari Meisel
Oh yes, Pete. They are ….

Pete Mockaitis
That’s valuable information. One of my favorite places I’ve gone to is OnlineJobs.ph, which is for hiring people in the Philippines, but you’re going to significantly more work upfront in order to select that winner. That is a bit of work, but I found that on the backend it’s oh so rewarding when you have those champions.

Ari Meisel
Right, yeah. Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. You also talk about outsourcing your outsourcing. What does this mean?

Ari Meisel
I’ve had Magic manage other outsource reliers. In outsourcing we generally have the generalist and we have specialist. Generalist would be the admin sort of VA. The specialist is more like the graphic designers and the programmers and stuff like that. I’ve had Magic manage them in some cases, so then I’m not even having to deal with them. I can have sort of one point of contact.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, Ari, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Ari Meisel
No, that’s the main thing. We have a couple different programs that we offer. We have something called a Replaceable Founder, which is a really great online course and now a one-day intensive workshop that we actually offer here in New York City. That’s something that I would recommend people checking out at Replaceable.fr.

Pete Mockaitis
Cool. All right. Now could you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Ari Meisel
Yeah, I sure can. I just have to pull this up. Too long, but it’s long enough that I can’t remember it. It’s a Robert Heinlein quote, if you’ve heard of Robert Heinlein.

Pete Mockaitis
I think I see his name in text in my mind’s eye, but I don’t recall anything more.

Ari Meisel
He wrote Tunnel in the Sky. He wrote some of the – he was sort of an Isaac Asimov contemporary.

But anyway, he said, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, con a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

Pete Mockaitis
All right, thank you. How about a favorite study or experiment or bit of research?

Ari Meisel
Oh, that’s a good one. The Zeigarnik Effect probably. Bluma Zeigarnik in the 1920s in Berlin was a Russian doctoral student. She discovered this part of the brain that not only pushes us to complete the uncompleted, so it’s like the voice in our heads that pushes us to complete the uncompleted, but it’s also where we sort of process open-ended information.

Pete Mockaitis
So we know that that part of the brain exists. Are there any kind of key implications for how we live our lives differently knowing that?

Ari Meisel
Yeah. Yeah, it’s a really important understanding for us because we actually are more able to recall that kind of information than in any other setting.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s cool. Thank you. How about a favorite book?

Ari Meisel
My favorite book ever is Emergency by Neil Strauss.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s fun. How about a favorite tool, something that helps you be awesome at your job?

Ari Meisel
Favorite tool. That would be Trello, really Trello.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. And a favorite habit?

Ari Meisel
Favorite habit. My nightly sort of brain dump, sorting of ideas that I do in Trello. It’s huge for me.

Pete Mockaitis
Is there a particular nugget you share that really seems to connect and resonate with your folks, that gets them nodding their heads and retweeting and telling you how brilliant you are?

Ari Meisel
Well, I hope so. I think just this concept of being replaceable. It opens up a lot of ideas and philosophies and emotions for some people to understand that that’s a really good thing. It’s not just about replacing yourself in terms of the functions that you do and bringing other people to do them and empowering them, it’s also about re-placing you to the sort of glory and comfort and happiness that you once had.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh, that’s clever. Re-placing, to place again yourself.

Ari Meisel
That’s right.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s profound. Thank you.

Ari Meisel
Thank you. There we go.

Pete Mockaitis
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?

Ari Meisel
They should go to LessDoing.com. We’ve got this really cool little free mini course that people can go through. That’s a bunch of videos. Actually, if they go to Less.do/Foundations, they can get into that.

Pete Mockaitis
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Ari Meisel
Seek replaceability in everything that you do. If you can’t be replaced, you can’t be promoted.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Well Ari, this has been a real treat. Thank you for taking the time and good luck in all you’re up to.

Ari Meisel
Thank you.

330: Becoming Indistractable with Nir Eyal

By | Podcasts | No Comments

 

 

Nir Eyal says: "Time management is pain management"

Nir Eyal shares how habits keep users coming back and how to become indistractable in the midst of such forces.

You’ll Learn:

  1. How habit-forming products win over higher quality products
  2. Four steps to becoming indistractable
  3. How to turn a distraction into traction

 

About Nir

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. 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: Refresh.io (acquired by LinkedIn), Worklife (acquired by Cisco), Eventbrite, Product Hunt, Marco Polo, Presence Learning, 7 Cups, Pana, Kahoot!, Byte Foods, Anchor.fm, and Symphony Commerce. Nir attended The Stanford Graduate School of Business and Emory University.

 

Items Mentioned in this Show:

Nir Eyal Interview Transcript

Pete Mockaitis
Nir, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to Be Awesome at Your Job podcast.

Nir Eyal
My pleasure. So good to be here.

Pete Mockaitis
I really enjoyed learning about you and reading your blog and listening to the podcast, Nir and Far. Could you maybe give us a little back story for sort of your background and how you acquired the nickname of ‘The Prophet of Habit-Forming Technology’?

Nir Eyal
Sure thing. Let’s see. I started two tech companies. The last one was at the intersection of gaming and advertising. In those two industries I learned a heck of a lot about how companies change consumer behavior.

I was at the forefront of apps back when apps didn’t mean iPhone apps because the Apple app store didn’t exist. I was very early in the game back when apps meant Facebook apps and people were doing all kinds of stupid stuff like throwing sheep at each other and things like that and Farmville, if you remember that back in the day.

Pete Mockaitis
Yeah, my buddy Luke was a part of the Farmville team.

Nir Eyal
There you go. I kind of had this front row seat. They were – companies like that were our clients. I had this front row seat to see all of these experiments come and go. I learned a lot about how companies change our behavior. I became fascinated by the psychology of designing for habits. I had this hypothesis that the companies that would be able to make it in the future must figure out how to build habits.

I invested a lot of time into learning about habits and then I kind of came up to a wall when I looked for a … to try and explain to me how to build habit-forming products. I didn’t find it, so I decided to write the book I couldn’t find. That’s why I wrote Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. I wrote the book after interviewing academics and practitioners, a lot of the people who helped build Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and WhatsApp and Slack.

I wrote the book not for them obviously. They already know these techniques. I wrote the book for everybody else. I wrote the book for people out there who are building the kind of products and services that can really help people live better lives if they would only use the product.

That’s why I wrote the book because I know there’s so many people out there like I was that struggled … how to build a habit-forming product that can help people build healthy habits in their lives.

Pete Mockaitis
Well, there’s a whole lot of good stuff there. We had BJ Fogg on the show not too long ago. It’s just a fascinating topic to dig into, habits and how they get formed and the influences associated with them.

Maybe could you just sort of dig into some of the components here in terms of when it comes to your book Hooked and the Hook model? What are some of the building blocks that we can use in forming habits, both in the stuff we’re making as well as just our lives and how we’re influencing our fellow colleagues at work?

Nir Eyal
Yeah, absolutely. My first book is called Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. It was really tailored to people – to business people, to people who are building products and services.

My next book actually that’s coming out early 2019 is called Indistractable. It’s about how to manage these distractions. How to make sure we do what we say we’re going to do? Why is it that we get so distracted when we say we’re going to do one thing and then invariably we end up doing something else?

You sit down at your desk. You’ve got a big deadline looming and instead of working on that project for some reason you’re checking email 30 minutes later for no good reason. My study and research into habits has kind of taken me to both sides of the equation.

But let’s start with Hooked because I think it sounds like most of your listeners are professionals looking to find ways to keep customers engaged. We know that it’s much more cost efficient, much higher ROI to keep an existing customer engaged versus having to spend all of that money to acquire a new customer.

That’s really where my sweet spot is. When customers ask me – I’m sorry, when clients ask me how do I keep people coming back, the answer is you have to build a hook.

That if you look at every habit-forming technology out there, whether that product – the best in the business, the people who keep us checking our phones, companies like Facebook, and Twitter, and Instagram, and WhatsApp, and Slack, and Snapchat, every single one of them has what’s called a hook.

The hook is the basis of my book. It’s this four-step experience that users pass through when they interact with a product. I can walk you through those four steps here in a 30,000 foot view of it at least. There’s a lot more detail in the book, but I’ll give you kind of the overview.

Hook has four basic steps. Every hook starts with a trigger to an action to a reward and finally an investment. I know many of your listeners have heard of BJ Fogg or Charles Duhigg. There’s lots of perspectives there, but … is really designed not for personal habits. This is for product habits. When it comes to a product, you have to have these four basic steps. I’ll walk through them very quickly.

The first thing that you have to do is that you have to define your internal trigger. That’s the first step of the hook. Now an internal trigger is an uncomfortable emotional state. I know for many of your listeners, they say, “Whoa, whoa, wait. This is supposed to be about product design and building great customer experience. What does it have to do with emotions and icky sticky stuff like that?”

The fact is people buy and do everything they do for one reason only. That one reason is to modulate their mood. If you don’t understand that basic psychological fact, then you’re missing something.

Everything you do – it’s called the homeostatic response. When you feel too cold, you put on a jacket. When you feel hot, you take it off. When you feel hunger pangs, you eat. When you feel stuffed, you stop eating. Those are all physiological sensations that make us do something.

The same exact formula exists when it comes to psychological discomfort. When we’re feeling lonely, we check Facebook. When we’re feeling uncertain, we Google. When we’re feeling bored, we check YouTube or the news or sports scores.

You have got to identify, whether your product is something that needs … a habit or not, your first step is to figure out what’s the psychological itch that you are going to satiate for your customers. That’s the internal trigger. You have to know what that is if you want people to do anything.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s intriguing. This itch, it could be big or small in terms of “I’m worried that I’ll be alone the rest of my life and I’ll never find someone,” or “I’m kind of bored right now.”

Nir Eyal
Right.

Pete Mockaitis
Then that whole spectrum. I’m curious do have any sort of insights or research when it comes to which of the – what are kind of the categories of itches and are some kind of way more potent as human motivators than others?

Nir Eyal
There’s a lot of techniques that we can use to find that internal trigger. The criteria here is if you’re building the kind of product that requires repeat use – and we should probably talk just for a second about why should I even care about habits. Why do habits affect my bottom line?

Some of the biggest reasons that habits are so important is that they are a huge competitive barrier that it’s very hard for the competition to swoop in and take your customer away once your user, once your customer has formed a habit with your product.

If you think about people who don’t need a habit, let’s take insurance. Insurance will never be a habit-forming product. It just doesn’t occur with sufficient frequency to ever form a habit. The problem with a product like that – there’s nothing with a business model that doesn’t require a habit, it’s just that your competition can come in very easily and undercut you based on price or some feature.

For example, Geico comes around and says, “15 minutes saves you 15% on car insurance.” Well what happens when somebody else says, “Oh you know what? 12 minutes saves you … percent on car insurance.” Just the next feature or the next discount and boom, your customers have abandoned you.

If you don’t form this habit, if you don’t pass customers through that hook, you are at the mercy of these other factors.

If you think about that compared to Google, for example. If I polled your listeners right now, I’m guessing probably 90 to 99% have searched with Google in the past 24 hours and maybe a couple percent have searched with Bing, the number two search engine. Is that because Bing is worse? No.

It actually turns out … studies, when people can’t tell the branding, when they strip out the branding, people can’t tell the difference between the search results. But the fact is we don’t stop and ask ourselves, “Hm, I wonder which the best search engine would be?” No, we just Google it with little or no conscious thought, purely out of habit. That’s all it is. It’s just a habit.

That’s what’s so amazing about these habits is that it turns out once you have a habit, it’s not the best product that wins. Do you hear me right? I’m telling you it’s not the best product. It’s the product that can create the monopoly of the mind, the thing that we turn to with little or no conscious thought.

We wouldn’t even know if Bing was any better because we don’t even give them a chance because we have formed a habit with some other solution. That’s why habits are so, so powerful.

Back to the topic at hand here around these internal triggers, around figuring out what those internal triggers are. The key word here is frequency. When we’re trying to figure out what are our customers internal triggers, we want to figure out what sparks this itch, what’s this need to modulate some kind of mood that occurs with sufficient frequency.

It turns out the research tells us that if we don’t get the user to do the key habit within a week’s time or less, it’s almost impossible to change their habit. There are some exceptions, but the behavior really has to occur within a week’s time or less.

We can talk about what happens if your product isn’t used with sufficient frequency, for example, what if you are selling insurance, how can you build a customer habit. We can talk about that, some ways that you can actually bolt on a frequently occurring habit onto a product that’s not bought frequently.

But what I tend to see, specifically with companies out there that are selling something, like a one-time solution or … product, we are so focused on getting people to check out that we totally neglect finding ways to get them to check in. That’s a big mistake.

This is the future of commerce is finding ways to keep people engaged with us as opposed to relying on these one … transactions that cost us a fortune to acquire these companies and then we lose them to the completion next time.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood, thank you. So now, let’s talk about the action.

Nir Eyal
Sure, the action phase is defined as the simplest behavior done in anticipation of a reward, so the simplest thing that I can do to get relief from the psychological itch.

For example, let’s take Facebook, a lot people think that Facebook is a very habit forming-product. If you are using Facebook because you’re feeling lonely or seeking connection, that would be the internal trigger. The app is simply open the app and scroll a feed.

As soon as you’re scrolling that feed, what happens to your boredom, what happens to your seeking connection? … a little bit. You’ve got that satiation … emotional discomfort occurring just through that simple action.

If you can be the kind of company that figures out even what seems to be trivial little actions, too much thinking, too many steps, too much confusion, any little step that you can remove from the process is going to make the likelihood of the behavior more likely.

I call it the intoxicated test, that you want to build the kind of product and service that is so easy to use that your customer or your user could use it even if they were drunk. That’s how simple your product needs to be, particularly when it comes to digital products.

We want to make sure that’s as easy as possible to get relief from that psychological itch.

Pete Mockaitis
Very good. Thank you. Then next up, reward.

Nir Eyal
The next step of the hook is the variable reward. The variable reward phase comes from the work of BF Skinner who was the father of operant conditioning back in the 1940’s and 50’s. He did these very famous experiments, where he … pigeons, put them in a little box … a disk …. Every time the pigeon pecked at the disk he would give them a little reward, a little food pellet.

What Skinner observed was that he could train the pigeons to peck at the disk as long as they were hungry, as long as they had the internal trigger, they would peck at the desk whenever they had this internal …. Great, called operant conditioning.

But then Skinner started to run out of these food pellets. He literally didn’t have enough of them. He couldn’t afford to … a food pellet every time; he started to give them just once in a while. Sometimes the pigeon would peck at the disk and they wouldn’t receive a reward. The next time they would … at the disk, they would get a reward.

What Skinner observed was that the rate of response, the number of times these pigeons pecked at the disk increased when the reward was given on a variable schedule of reinforcement. We see the exact same psychology at work on all sorts of …, wherever there is mystery, wherever there is uncertainty, wherever there’s a bit of the unknown, we find this to be incredibly engaging and incredibly habit forming.

Best examples online if you think about scrolling the feed on Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter, everything has a feed these days, that’s a form of variable reward. If you think about looking at a deck for some kind of enterprise software and seeking your sales numbers go up or go down, that’s a variable reward that keeps you coming back.

If you think about in the media a story is interesting when you don’t know what’s going to happen next. Everybody wants today’s news, not yesterday’s news. What makes for a good book, a good movie, any of these experiences have to have this variability, this bit of uncertainty. We have to build that into the product. It has to scratch the users’ itch. It has to give them what they came for.

This isn’t just cheesy gamification. This is actually addressing customer’s needs, but leaving this bit of uncertainty, a bit of mystery around what they might find the … time they engage with their product or service.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you, so you’re actually better off instead of delivering just tremendous delight every time, kind of at least checking the box to scratch the itch but sometimes just doing it in spades, like with Facebook newsfeed, “Oh my gosh, that person is engaged now. Wow!” whereas, “Okay Trump did something else,” in terms of how satisfying I find that reading of the newsfeed that day.

Nir Eyal
Right. We want to make sure that it’s actually rewarding, it actually gives people what they want.

What we’re finding now with Facebook for example, is that when the algorithm got out of whack, when people started saying, “Oh, this is a bunch of crap I’m not interested in,” they stopped using it because it wasn’t addressing the users’ itch. But they moved somewhere else. They didn’t just stop. They just changed their habits. Some people did, not everybody. But they’re changing their habits.

Now we’re seeing the tremendous rise of Instagram. Facebook bought Instagram for a billion dollars. There was a Wall Street bank that just tried to assess what the value of Instagram would be today if it wasn’t part of Facebook, it would be worth over 100 billion dollars. Even though everybody laughed at Zuckerberg when he bought Instagram, this stupid little app.

Zuckerberg really gets habit. He knows that if he doesn’t own his customer habit, somebody else is going to capture that habit. It’s very important that he keeps it. People are starting to migrate over to Instagram because it’s giving them more of what they want.

The internal trigger for using Facebook used to be connecting with friends, loneliness. Then Instagram turns out to be a better solution to solve that problem, but it uses the same exact hook.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you.

Nir Eyal
Which brings us by the way to the fourth step. It’s probably the most overlooked. What’s very different I think from my model from other models is this investment phase. The investment phase is something that the user does … some kind of future reward, some kind of future benefit. It’s not about immediate gratification. It’s an act that the user does for a future benefit.

For example, every time a user gives a company data or content or follows people or accrues a reputation, all of these things make the product better with use. Now why is this so revolutionary?

You think about the history of manufacturing, it used to be that customizing a product was very difficult and very expensive. Henry Ford is quoted as saying that you can get the Model T in any color as long as it’s black. The reason he said that is because it’s hard to customize stuff, especially physical stuff.

But if you think about it, what’s so amazing about these products, specifically things that are connected via the internet, and today everything is connected in some form, is that we can actually improve the product with use.

Everything in the physical world, everything we have made out of atoms, your clothing, your furniture, everything that you use, loses value, it depreciates with wear and tear. But these habit forming technologies, if you think about it, what’s so amazing about them is that they appreciate with use. They get better and better the more we interact with them.

They do that because of this investment phase. If you are not improving the product every time the user interacts with it, you are missing a huge opportunity.

Now, the way this all fits together into this infinite loop is that every time I invest in the product, what I’m doing is also loading the next trigger.

We’ll stick with Facebook just because we’ve been talking about this example. Every time I like something, comment, post, friend, I’m loading the next trigger. I’m giving the company the opportunity to have a reason to send me an external trigger once again prompting me through the hook once again, so a notification, a ping, a ding, a ring, something that tells me, “Hey, come back. Something that you did has some kind of follow up action to it. You should come back and see.”

You post a photo. There’s an external trigger that sends you a notification that says “Come check out what your friend said about your photo.” The action is to open. The variable reward is the uncertainty of what they said. The investment now is you write back, you like, you comment, continuing the hook again, and again, and again until we’re all habituated.

Pete Mockaitis
Understood. Okay. That’s sort of how it all works together. I’d like to look at the opposing side of this. How does one become indistractable in the midst of these brilliant people with huge budgets creating this super hooking stuff?

Nir Eyal
Yeah. Sometimes when people hear this it sounds icky. It sounds unethical. It sounds manipulative. It can be used for manipulation. Anytime that we are using these techniques to get people to do things that we want them to do for our commercial interest, sorry, that’s a form of manipulation.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Manipulation has a negative connotation, but it doesn’t necessarily have to because there’s two types of manipulation. There’s persuasion and there’s coercion. Persuasion is helping people do things they want to do. Coercion is getting them to do things they don’t want to do. Not only is coercion unethical, it’s bad for business.

If we get people to do something they don’t want to do, they complain about it. They regret it. They tell their friends. It’s a terrible business plan. We don’t want to use these techniques for coercion. …. People exercise more, to save money, to get more sales, to use software that helps them use better lives, to use our service that would help them if they would the product.

That’s the disclaimer here as a product maker is to use these techniques to help people do things that they want to do but for lack of good product design, don’t do.

Pete Mockaitis
I’m intrigued a little. I think some folks would say, “I wish I could be on Facebook less and yet I find myself going there again and again.”

Nir Eyal
Perfect. That’s a perfect lead in to my next book called Indistractable, which will be available on Audible starting in Spring of 2019. When it comes to answering this question of how do I use Facebook less, the answer is not to wait for Facebook to make a product that you don’t want to use. Okay?

Pete Mockaitis
Right.

Nir Eyal
So many people today, the tide’s turned against technology. I’m not saying that these guys are not innocent. There’s lots of things these companies do that I don’t like. If you think about monopoly status, if you think about their use of data, lots of things I’m not happy with these tech companies.

However, this one particular question around how do I use the product less, why are they making products that I want to use all the time, don’t hold your breath. If you hold your breath and you wait for them to make a product that is less good, you’re going to suffocate. That doesn’t make any sense, right? They’re not going to make a product that is worse, that you don’t want to use as much.

In fact, if you think social media is habit forming, just wait until we all start using virtual reality and all the other stuff that’s going to come down the pipe in the next few years. This is going to look like nothing.  We’ve got to build the skill of becoming indistractable. We haven’t been taught how to cope with all of this distraction, all of these things – the cost of living in a world with so many good things.

Right now we are talking thousands of miles apart from each other on a free service that technology has made possible. If you would have told me as a kid that this would be possible, I would say “Nah, that’s science fiction. No way are we going to have all this stuff,” video calling and classes for free, and the word’s information at your fingertips. It’s amazing.

But the cost is that we have to learn these skills to cope with managing our attention. How do we become indistractable? Well, it’s a great question. It intrigued me for five years. Since I published Hooked this is all I’ve been thinking about. I tried all kinds of techniques. What I ended up with was another four-part model. I have a thing for four-part models.

The first thing to realize is that distraction starts from within, that time management is pain management. We talked about earlier when it comes to building habit-forming products about how important it is to attach your product or service to an internal trigger.

On the flip side, as a user, this means if you are doing something that you don’t want to do – if that’s the definition of distraction is something I didn’t intend to do and I did anyway – you have got to understand that distraction starts from within.

The icky sticky uncomfortable truth that a lot of us don’t want to face because it’s so much easier to blame Facebook or the sugar industry and the baker who makes the cookies and Coca Cola for making sweet beverages and all of our problems we can blame on somebody else, the icky sticky truth is that we don’t like to face is that these internal triggers start from within.

Pete Mockaitis
It’s like I’m bored, and that’s why I went to Facebook.

Nir Eyal
That’s right. If you can’t stand hanging around your kids because they’re driving you crazy and so you’re checking Facebook to escape from them, that ain’t Facebook’s fault. If you sit down at your desk and you check email/Slack because you can’t stand to work on that really hard boring project right now, that’s not Slack’s fault. We have got to figure out what’s going on inside us and fix the problem or learn to cope.

Now some of this problem comes from the workplace. I was giving a talk and I asked this question to kind of prove this point. I said, “Look, here’s how we know it’s not the technology’s fault because if you won the lottery tomorrow, you have 40 million dollars in your bank account. You never have to work for money another day in your life. Do you still check your work email account? Do you still check those Slack panels at 11 o’clock at night?”

This one woman stood up in the front row one time and she said, “Yeah, I’m going to use my email one more time to send everybody a message that says ‘Screw you suckers!’” I think that’s about right. It’s not the technology. It’s if anything our addiction to work.

So many of these internal triggers come from the workplace. And in large part, and I talk about this a lot in the book, they come from sick work cultures, cultures that cultivate and create these negative emotional states that we seek to escape with our devices.

The first step, we can go a lot into the culture and how we change the culture of a company, but the first step, big picture, is to find those internal triggers, learn to cope with them, and to help our organizations become healthier environments that don’t create so many of these internal triggers that we seek to escape. That’s the first step.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, let’s get the overview, then maybe I’ll dig in.

Nir Eyal
Okay, I’ll do the overview real quick. The first step is to manage our internal triggers. The next step is to make time for traction.

The idea here is that so many people complain about distraction, but when I ask them what did the news or Facebook or your boss or your kids distract you from? What were you so distracted from today? They take out their calendars and I look at the calendars of most people and they’re blank. There’s nothing on their calendar.

The fact is you cannot call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from, which means we need to get into the practice of scheduling out every minute of our day. It’s okay to schedule time to do nothing. I want you to schedule time to do nothing. I want you to schedule time to think.

But if you don’t schedule your day, somebody else will, your kids, your boss, your significant other, Facebook, Donald Trump, somebody’s going to eat up that time unless you decide what you’re going to do with it. That’s making more traction.

The third step is to eliminate, to hack back those external triggers. We know that two thirds of people who own a smart phone never adjust their notification settings.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh my gosh, wow.

Nir Eyal
Right? Crazy. How can we start to complain that technology is addictive and it’s hijacking our brains and it’s irresistible if we haven’t taken ten minutes to turn off these goddamn external triggers … don’t serve us?

To be clear, they’re not all bad. If an external trigger helps you wake up in the morning or reminds you to go exercise, that’s great. It’s leaning towards traction. But if it’s not, if it’s making you do something you … want to do, it’s leading towards distraction. We have to turn it off.

Pete Mockaitis
Oh yeah. I am just – that is a shocking statistic to me because whenever I get a new app, I get a notification from that app. I’m like, “No, no, no OfferUp.”

Nir Eyal
Exactly.

Pete Mockaitis
“I wanted you to notify me if someone wanted to buy the thing I put up. I did not want you to notify me if one of my random friends is now using OfferUp. I don’t care. This needs to go.”

Nir Eyal
Absolutely.

Pete Mockaitis
I guess I’m pretty merciless on that. I’m stunned to hear that two-thirds are like, “Okay, whatever. Sure you can interrupt me in any way at any time about anything.”

Nir Eyal
Yeah. Crazy, right? I don’t think we have a right to complain about technology being too addictive until we start to take these simple steps. That’s why I’m not worried. I love teaching people how to hook others to form healthy habits. I also think it’s on us to make sure that we don’t get unhealthily hooked. That it’s our job as consumers to take these very simple steps to put technology in its place.

Frankly, I should say actually, I misspoke there, all distraction. Because look, if you haven’t dealt with those internal triggers, it’s not going to be just Facebook, it’s going to be the television set. If it’s not that, it’s going to be radio or it’s going to be magazines or it’s going to be trashy novels. It’s always going to be something unless if we figure out how to deal with distraction at large.

Pete Mockaitis
Okay, got it.

Nir Eyal
Oh, and there’s one more step I forgot to tell you about. The last step, you know how we talked about traction is actions you take that you want to do, distraction is the opposite. The opposite of traction is distraction. Distractions are all the things that we do that we don’t want to do.

The last of the four steps that we can take is to help us make traction – sorry, distraction less likely. We do that through pacts, all kinds of ways.

This comes from Ulysses in the Odyssey. Ulysses is sailing his ship past the island of the sirens. They sing this magical song that any man who hears wants to crash his ship onto the island of the sirens and dies there, so Ulysses comes up with this idea.

He says, “I want you to tie me to the mast of the ship and no matter what I do and what I say, don’t let me go,” because he knows he doesn’t want to get distracted. He doesn’t want to do something that he knows he doesn’t want to do. It works and he sails his ship right past this … and he didn’t become distracted.

We can use the exact same techniques ourselves. It turns out that there are literally thousands of free apps and Chrome extensions and tools that we can use to build these pacts in our life.

For example, whenever I want to do focused work, I use this little app. It’s free. It’s called Forest. I type in how much time I want to do focused work for and in that period of time if I pick up my phone and do anything with it, there’s this little virtual tree … die.

Pete Mockaitis
It dies.

Nir Eyal
Okay, stupid little virtual tree. Who cares about this virtual tree, right? But it’s enough of a reminder, “Oh, you took a pact with yourself not to look at your phone.”

Another thing I like to do is I find a focus friend. Many times when I do writing and writing is really hard work, it doesn’t come naturally for me, I’m very frequently tempted to get distracted, Google something or check email. I write with a buddy. I have somebody, a focus friend, who I get together with and we write together. You can do this in the office too. Find a colleague.

Then the final thing I’ll mention, and by the way, in the book I mention literally dozens of different things you can do. Another thing I do, I use this website that I liked so much I actually became an investor in it. It’s called FocusMate.com. FocusMate.com, all it does is you pick a time when you want to do focused work and then you’re connected with somebody else, somewhere in the world for that period of time.

In that time you log in, you see them on your – it’s a video feed. They see you. You say, “Hello. How are you doing? Go.” Then you start working. It’s amazing how just seeing that person holds us accountable. It’s a pact that we make with that other person to only do focused work during that period of time.

In short, these four techniques of managing internal triggers, making traction more likely, hacking external triggers and then finally, making distraction less likely, if you do these four things, you will manage distraction. You will become indisractable.

Pete Mockaitis
That’s powerful and so cool. I’ve heard of a number of these tools, but Focusmate, wow, that’s another one. How does the person know if you’re looking at your email?

Nir Eyal
They don’t. By the way this is one of dozens and dozens and dozens of different things we can do. The idea isn’t oh, this is the solution for everyone. The idea is to use these techniques, to try them on for size. Some work for a while, then you have to find a different solution. Some work for some people and don’t work for others. The idea is it’s a process.

Becoming indistractable is like personal growth, you’re never done. There will always be potential distractions, but by identifying where your problem is, “Oh, it’s the internal triggers,” or “Oh man, it’s these external triggers,” or “I haven’t made time for traction,” or “I need to make distraction more difficult”—By understanding where the problem is we can do something about it.

… I think every other book I’ve ever read on this topic is like this ten things you can do. It’s not organized. It’s not clear in people’s brains where these different techniques fall into place. Then of course it becomes very difficult to utilize them.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Now I want to go deep into the root of things at the start when it comes to just acknowledging your internal itches there. I think that one fundamental one is I’m just actually not okay with being bored for more than one minute.

Nir Eyal
Yeah.

Pete Mockaitis
I think that’s pretty common because it’s sort of like – I’m thinking about the train right now in Chicago, the L. Often 100% of people in a train car will be on their phones I’m looking at. Maybe they’re doing fantastically wonderful things, that it’s rewarding and fulfilling and satisfying for them, but my hunch is it’s not. That some of them are just killing the time and they could be putting their mental energies into something that serves them better.

How do you grapple with that one? I’m not comfortable being bored anymore because I’m used to being constantly entertained.

Nir Eyal
Yeah, well the first step is to ask if it’s really a problem. If you take the train every day and during that time – there’s this myth that people can’t multitask. I know you’ve heard that a lot, right? That we can’t multitask, we can’t multitask. That’s not really true. We can multitask.

… what we can do is utilize different channels. We can’t utilize the same channels. I can’t ask you to solve two math problems at the same time. I can’t ask you to watch two television shows at the same time. I can’t ask you to watch – to listen to a podcast in each ear. But we can certainly multitask different channels.

Actually, this utilizes a technique we call temptation bundling, where we can take something we enjoy, something we like as a reward and use it to help us build a habit, to incentivize a behavior that we may not really enjoy.

For example, … I never liked working out. I just didn’t like going to the gym. What I used was this technique that has been well researched now. I actually listened to my podcast as my reward for going to the gym. That’s the only time I listen to podcasts.

I’m using different channels. I’m exercising with the physical channel and I’m listening with auditory channel. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that.

If part of your commute to work involves enriching yourself with listening to an audiobook or a great podcast, that’s fantastic as long as it is intentional. If you’ve planned ahead – for example, for me, every night from 7:30 to 9:30, that’s my social media time. That’s time I literally have on my schedule for checking Facebook, and Reddit, and YouTube, and all the stuff that I want to check online, but it’s only for that time.

I’ve taken what otherwise would be a distraction at any other time of the day and I’ve turned it into traction because it’s done with intent. I’ve planned ahead and it’s on my calendar that that’s when I’ll do it.

Pete Mockaitis
Got you. If folks do find they’re in a place where it’s like “I’m going on Facebook,” “I’m going on YouTube instead of paying attention to my child or talking with my friend who’s in front of me at a restaurant or something.” Once you notice “Hey, I got this itch that I seem to have this need to scratch compulsively and I wish I didn’t.” What do you do?

Nir Eyal
What do you do? Let me give you a few techniques, okay? The first thing that we try and do is to actually fix the problem. If the problem is something that we can solve, if it’s a deeper issue, if it’s caused by a difficult life situation, a toxic work culture, these are things that we need to actually fix in our lives or they’re going to just keep coming up again and again and again.

It’s finding the things that we can fix and then learning to cope with the things that we cannot fix. I’m not naïve enough to say that everyone can just leave their job or fix everything in life. There are pains in life. Life involves some degree of suffering.

The problem is that we expect our technology or a pill or a bottle to make everything pain free, so we shouldn’t be surprised when we become dependent when we haven’t learned how to cope with pain. Time management is pain management. We have to learn that. Here are a few quick techniques that we can use. Again, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

One technique that we can use that psychologists tell us is incredibly effective is to name the internal trigger.

If we can name the source of the discomfort and look at it as an outsider would, meaning you’re working on a big project, it starts to get kind of boring and you start reaching for your phone, you literally start saying to yourself, “Oh, there my hand goes reaching for my phone because I’m feeling what? This project is difficult. It’s hard.” We start literally talking to ourselves like a third party will talk to us, like a good friend might talk to us.

Then what we want to do is to use a technique called surfing the urge, kind of like a surfer on a surfboard, where we allow some time for this negative – this uncomfortable sensation to wash over us.

I use a technique called the ten minute rule, where I will just give myself ten minutes when I catch myself about to get distracted or even in the middle of the distraction I say, “Okay, what am I feeling right now? I am going to give into this temptation. I am going to do this distraction, but in ten minutes.” I literally set a timer. I tell myself “It’s fine. I can give into that distraction. No problem. In ten minutes.”

Then all I have to do is in that ten minutes just do this exercise, just surf the urge, get curious about that sensation, be with that discomfort. Don’t do what I used to do which is tell myself, “Oh, there’s something wrong with me. I must be a loser.” I beat myself up. I was so mean to myself. Instead, it’s normal. It’s something that happens to every person. It’s happened for every human being that ever lived.

This is how we get stronger is that when our body tells us oh, this is something difficult that you’re trying to grow into … totally normal response to have these negative emotional states. To just stick with it for ten minutes and almost always what you’ll find is that sensation subsides. That’s how we develop our ability to manage pain, which is how we manage our ability to manage time.

This is why every other technique out there hasn’t worked for people because we have all these productivity tips, but fundamentally even if you use these productivity tips, if you sit down at your desk, and we’ve all felt this – you have a to-do, you know what to do exactly, but then it’s hard and I don’t want to right now and it feels bad. If we don’t cope with that, if we don’t learn these techniques to overcome that discomfort, we’re never going to be our best.

Pete Mockaitis
Beautiful. Thank you. Well, Nir, tell me, anything else you really want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about some of your favorite things?

Nir Eyal
No, that’s – we covered a lot. You asked some fantastic questions. If anybody wants more information, my website is NirAndFar.com. That’s N-I-R, spelled like my first name, Nir and Far. Not near like the real word, but like my name, NirAndFar.com. Yeah, I hope you come to the website. I’ve got some resources there. Again, the book will be out early 2019.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome, thanks. Now can you share with us a favorite quote, something you find inspiring?

Nir Eyal
Yeah, so one of my favorite quotes, it’s actually a part of the mantras that I repeat to myself every day. It’s a quote from William James, the father of modern psychology. He said “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” I think that’s a really important life lesson that the art of being wise the art of knowing what to overlook.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. How about a favorite book?

Nir Eyal
There’s a lot. This is always such a tough question for me because so many of my friends are authors. I always get in trouble.

I’ll say one of my latest favorite books is a book actually about addiction, which I think is the best book I’ve read about what addiction really is. I think most people don’t understand what addiction really is about. They call everything addiction. But there’s a book by Stanton Peele called Recover. Recover and Peele is spelled P-E-E-L-E, Stanton Peele. I really, really enjoyed that book. I thought it was fantastic.

Pete Mockaitis
Thank you. How about a favorite tool?

Nir Eyal
A favorite tool. I mentioned a few of them. One of the tools I don’t think I mentioned, maybe I did, it’s called Time Guard. Did I mention Time Guard?

Pete Mockaitis
I don’t think so.

Nir Eyal
Okay, so Time Guard is a terrific tool. It’s not my favorite app. It’s free. Here’s how Time Guard works. Remember we talked about pacts and how you can see these pacts with yourself, kind of like Ulysses did? The way Time Guard works is it will block out certain apps and websites on your phone when you don’t want access to them.

Remember how I told you how I allowed myself social media time between 7:30 and 9:30 and I turned a distraction into traction? Well, Time Guard, if I slip up and I accidently open up Instagram, Time Guard doesn’t let me use it. It turns off the connection to that specific app or YouTube or whatever you want it to whenever I try and use it during the off hours.

It was really great at breaking that bad habit. Now it doesn’t happen as often because I’ve learned that it doesn’t work during those times, but Time Guard is a great tool for breaking that habit.

Pete Mockaitis
Of all these habits you’ve formed and broken, what’s one of your favorite habits?

Nir Eyal
Wow, there’s so many habits. It’s hard to decide. I think one of the habits that’s really served me well – and a lot of people don’t know that there’s a slight nuance between a routine and a habit, so it might be worth clarifying.

A habit is behavior done with little or no conscious thought. A routine is just a behavior frequently repeated. When people say reading is a habit or running is a habit or working out is a habit, it’s not really a habit unless you do it with little or no conscious thought. I can’t call any of those things, even though they’re helpful things, habits. I would call them routines.

But I think one of the healthiest habits I have is changing my food habits. We know that health and fitness is not made in the gym, it’s really made in the kitchen. Over years and years of changing my diet, I’ve started to create this habit of preferring healthier food. I think that’s really – I hope … we’ll see how long I live. I hope I don’t jinx it by saying this. But hopefully it will become a habit that serves me well in years to come.

Pete Mockaitis
Excellent. Is there a particular nugget you share that seems to be frequently cited and quoted back to you?

Nir Eyal
I think – I don’t know if I can make this a nugget size, but I’ll try my best. The message I really want to leave folks with is that we can do this, that when people think about distraction that the current narrative is that it’s someone else’s fault. It’s the big tech companies that are hijacking our brains. That’s just not true.

In fact, believing it is dangerous because what this does – we know that – there’s been several studies now that show that the number one determinant of whether someone can reach their long-term goals is their belief in their own power to do that goal. This is incredibly important.

If you believe that your brain is being hijacked, if you believe that you’re powerless, you make it so. That’s the message I really want to leave folks with is that we have the power to manage distractions. We have the power to become indistractable.

Pete Mockaitis
All right. Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?

Nir Eyal
Sure. This has to do I think with the workplace because so many of our internal triggers come from toxic work cultures. My challenge – and I know this isn’t easy and it’s not something that everybody can do and that’s why it fell into this challenge category.

I want you to observe your workplace culture around responsiveness to technology. I want you to see if you might be able to at least spark a conversation around why your company is as responsive as it is. If you have a great tech culture, that’s terrific.

The reason I think this is such an important challenge is what we find is when companies start looking at this problem of tech overuse, what we find time after time is that tech overuse in the workplace is a symptom of a larger dysfunction, that if your company can’t talk about this problem of tech overuse, there’s all kinds of other skeletons in the closet you can’t talk about.

What companies are finding is is that when they open the dialogue, when they create a work environment with psychological safety where people feel safe talking about this problem, which by the way, nobody likes. Even hard charging bosses don’t like checking their email at 11 o’clock at night. Nobody likes this problem.

The idea, the challenge here is see if you can spark a conversation with a colleague about the responsiveness through technology in your work environment and if there’s some things you can start doing to potentially change that culture. I’ve got some resources on my website as well that can help you with that and reach out if there’s any questions.

Pete Mockaitis
Awesome. Nir, thank you so much for this. This was a real treat. I wish you tons of luck with the upcoming book and all you’re up to.

Nir Eyal
Thank you so much. This was really fun.

091: The Path to Truly Productive Leadership with Michael Dolan

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Michael Dolan says: "Sometimes being truly productive looks like not doing anything at all because you realize you need stillness, you need space, you need a break."

Michael Dolan shows us the way to deeper development as truly productive professionals.

You’ll Learn:

  1. Pitfalls to look out for that hinder a deeper development
  2. What’s a “positive no” how to deliver one
  3. Tips and tricks to upgrade your workflow process

About Michael
Before he found his calling as an executive coach, Michael spent 15 years in corporate management, leading teams in the advertising, consumer marketing, and design industries, where he gained deep appreciation for the intense personal and organizational demands that successful executives must meet everyday. Michael has five years of experience as a Senior Coach and Director of Business Development for Coaching Services at The David Allen Company.

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029: Gaining Quicker Traction in Your New Role with Dr. Michael D. Watkins

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Dr. Michael D. Watkins says: "I think that the foundation of every great transition, regardless... of your level, is your ability to speed up the learning process when you come in."

Professor, author, and consultant Michael Watkins shares best-practice strategies and tactics for getting the optimal start in a new role at work.

You’ll learn:
1. The most critical ingredient for a successful transition
2. How to accelerate your arrival at the “breakeven point” for your new role
3. The key questions to discover what you REALLY need to know quickly

About Michael
Dr. Michael D. Watkins is a Co-founder of Genesis Advisers and Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at the IMD business school. Previously, he was on the faculty at the Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. Dr. Watkins wrote The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Smarter and Faster, which The Economist recognized as “the on- boarding bible.” The enduring classic has sold more than a million English copies and has been translated into 24 languages. The revised and expanded 10th Anniversary Edition released in 2013. At IMD, he is the Director of the “Transition to Business Leader” program. At Genesis Advisers, he leads a team that designs enterprise transition acceleration solutions for client organizations. Dr. Watkins is the author of numerous additional books and articles on leadership & transitions published in the Harvard Business Review and other top publications.

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