Category / Self

I recently presented a new talk about how to manage digital distraction using the Hook Model. I hope you enjoy the brief video below.

Also, I’ve been thinking of writing more on this topic. Let me know what you think.

Is this an interesting topic? Do you struggle with digital distractions?

Tell me more about what might help or what questions you’d like me to tackle so I know what direction to take my research and writing.

Thank you!

– Nir

dealChanging habits is hard. But what if there was a way to dramatically improve your odds of quitting even your worst habits? What if this method was shown to be over 8 times more effective than traditional methods at helping people quit a stubborn addiction like smoking? Would you try it?

As I discussed in part 1 and part 2 of this 3-part series, the technique involves a wager. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that when people put money down, they were much more likely to accomplish their goals. In this case, people who risked $150 of their own money to win a $650 bonus prize were dramatically more likely to quit smoking than those who used traditional smoking cessation methods. Surprisingly, this group also beat out those who were offered an $800 reward with no deposit for staying smoke-free.

Credit: nerissa's ring IMG_5363Diets don’t work. Studies show that temporary fixes to old habits actually make people gain weight. Essentially, the dieter’s brain is trained to gorge when off the diet and inevitably the weight returns.

In my previous essay, I shared the story of my father’s struggle with bad eating habits. He had put on weight over the last few decades and despite several attempts, he had trouble taking it off. In his late 60s he faces pre-diabetes and a daily ritual of taking a handful of pills.

But over the last five months, something has changed. He’s found a new way to resist the temptation of the food he’s been trying to stop eating for years.

Dad pic

Dad and me soon after coming to America.

When my family immigrated to the United States in 1981, my father weighed 185 pounds. He came chasing the American dream but got more than he expected. Along with a new, more prosperous life for his family, he also acquired some bad habits.

For one, he took up smoking because, as he sheepishly admits, “that’s what business people here did back then.” And to ward off the boredom of long car rides between sales calls, he began eating American-made junk food.

Eventually, he stopped smoking. However, the junk food habit got the best of him. His weight ballooned by over 50 pounds and in his late 50s his doctor told him he was pre-diabetic. If he didn’t change soon, his doctor warned, he’d be at risk for serious health problems.

Nir’s Note: This book review is by Sam McNerney. Sam writes about cognitive psychology, business, and philosophy.

OverwhelmedMany of us feel we’re drowning in the rising tide of emails, updates, and digital distractions. According to a survey by the Families and Work Institute, the majority of American workers report feeling overwhelmed or overworked. In her new book, Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time, Brigid Schulte acknowledges that although the deluge of to do’s is inevitable, there are ways to regain our sanity.

Schulte writes about cognitive overload, work life balance, and gender bias in the workplace. She mixes personal anecdote with psychological science to discuss the stress of day-to-day life. Primarily, she discusses how our perception of work influences how we work. Schulte insists that being overwhelmed and feeling overwhelmed are two different things.

Diabetes CupcakesI had just finished giving a speech on building habits when a woman in the audience exclaimed, “You teach how to create habits, but that’s not my problem. I’m fat!” The frustration in her voice echoed throughout the room. “My problem is stopping bad habits. That’s why I’m fat. Where does that leave me?”

I deeply sympathized with the woman. “I was once clinically obese,” I told her. She stared at my lanky frame and waited for me to explain. How did I hack my habits?

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

The first step is to realize that starting a new routine is very different from breaking an existing habit. As I describe in this video, there are different techniques to use depending on the behavior you intend to modify.

12721092Here’s the Gist:

  • Duncan Watts is a sociologist and principal researcher at Microsoft Research. His latest book is Everything Is Obvious (Once You Know the Answer): How Common Sense Fails Us.
  • Personal preference, though not entirely arbitrary, is likely constructed and justified on the fly.
  • According to Watts, the problem with prediction is not that we’re good or bad at it, but rather we are bad at distinguishing predictions that we can make from those we can’t.
  • Business should embrace “strategic uncertainty” and “measure-and-react strategies.”

Nir’s Note: This book review is by Sam McNerney. Sam writes about cognitive psychology, business, and philosophy.

At a special event in the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, the CEO of Apple Tim Cook riffed on Apple’s latest gadget, the Apple Watch. “It’s the most personal device we’ve ever created,” Cook said.  “It’s not just with you; it’s on you. And since what you wear is an expression of who you are, we designed Apple Watch to appeal to a whole variety of people with different tastes and preferences.”

Nir’s Note: This book review is by Sam McNerney. Sam writes about cognitive psychology, business, and philosophy.

The Power of NoticingIn Moneyball, Michael Lewis tells the story of Billy Bean, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics who transformed the A’s using sabermetrics, the data-driven approach to understanding baseball. Bean noticed that instead of using data to predict player performance, baseball professionals relied on faulty intuitions and anecdotes. Commentators debate how effective sabermetrics actually is, but Bean’s original insight—that we can’t learn that much about baseball just by watching—changed the game.

The essential theme of Max Bazerman’s new book The Power of Noticing: What the Best Leaders See is similar. Like Bean, the best leaders don’t make decisions based only on what they can see and what they can recall. Instead, they ask for more information, question the status quo, and are aware of common biases. Becoming a “first class noticer,” as Bazerman phrases it, isn’t necessarily about noticing things-in-the-world but becoming conscious of our systematic mistakes. Here are three suggestions from The Power of Noticing.

Nir’s Note: This post is co-authored with Stuart Luman, a science, technology, and business writer who has worked at Wired Magazine, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and IBM.

Fomo

“I wish that I could be like the cool kids,” goes the catchy hook for the hit song by Echosmith. The official video has been viewed over 15 million times on YouTube, perhaps tapping into something deeper than mere adolescent angst.

We all want to be like the cool kids.

In 2013, the word “FoMO” was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. The “fear of missing out” refers to the feeling of “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere.” Although the terminology has only recently been added to our lexicon, experiencing FoMO is nothing new.

“You teach best what you most need to learn.” – Richard Bach

editorial portrait of Nir Eyal | Engage MagazineI don’t usually write about personal and revealing matters, but recently I’ve noticed something I don’t like about myself–I check email too often.

This confession doesn’t come easily, because, ironically, I am the author of a book titled Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming ProductsIt is a guidebook for designing technology people can’t put down. There’s just one problem–I can’t put my technology down.

I ritually check email when I wake up in the morning. If I’m out to lunch, I’ll sneak a peek on my way to the restroom. I even look at my email when stopped at a red light. Most troubling, I catch myself emailing instead of being fully present with the people I love most. My daughter recently caught me scrolling on my iPhone and asked, “Daddy, why are you on your phone so much?” I didn’t have a good answer.