The emergence of ChatGPT has stirred major buzz around the world and massive disruptions across multiple industries. Along with its potential to optimize business processes and operations, skeptics and traditionalists still think that it’s a major cause of distraction than a helpful tool to assist humans.
What does it take for people to adapt their behaviors and adopt this new technological breakthrough?
On today’s episode of Startups On Demand, I am joined by Nir Eyal, Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products and Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life.
Today, we talk about how people can embrace new technologies by adapting and adopting, the breakthrough of large language models like ChatGPT, how to control both internal and external triggers for distractions, and the importance of time boxing for a better workflow.
Omri: What is your take on ChatGPT and AI? Is it helpful or is it a distraction?
Nir: I think the world is definitely bifurcating into two kinds of people. There will be people who increasingly have their time, attention, and lives controlled and manipulated by others, and there will be people who will say “no, I will stand up for myself and I will control my time, attention, and life because I am indestructible.” So ChatGPT and large language models – are just the evolution of the world becoming a more engaging, more habit-forming, and frankly a better place. I don’t necessarily think that these things are bad. I think they’re wonderful. People tend to freak out about technology, as they always have, if you go back to television, radio, bicycle, all the way to the written word – all of these technologies were followed by moral panic. But we, humans, always do the same thing – we adapt, and we adopt. We adapt our behaviors to make sure that we get the best out of all these technologies without letting them get the best of us, and we adopt new technologies to fix the bad aspects of the last generation of technology.
So in my books, I try to facilitate both. The first part, helping people adapt their behaviors, that’s what Indistractable is all about. If you don’t take steps to learn this new reality of living in a world with so much abundance with information at our fingertips and entertainment always at a click away, if you don’t know how to be indistractable, you’re going to get mowed over. So we have to adapt our behavior to this new reality, and we need to adopt new technologies to fix the last generation of tech, and that’s what my first book, Hooked, is all about, is how can we use this psychology to make better products?
Omri: How would you approach the conflict between modern technologies, like ChatGPT, to the deep works of writers?
Nir: I played with ChatGPT quite a bit, and I don’t think it has the same quality. ChatGPT is really good at regurgitating what’s already out there. I think it makes people better writers. For example, my daughter, she’s 14 and she’s taking world history class. She had a question that she needed to answer, which was “why did people during the Ottoman Empire resist industrialization?” She looked thoroughly at Google, but she couldn’t get a definitive answer to this question. I saw that she was struggling so I went to ChatGPT and asked the same question. It gave me an answer in 3 seconds, and that’s amazing because during my generation, we would go to the library and it would take us 3 hours. For her, it took her 30 minutes to Google it. Today, with ChatGPT, it only took 3 seconds. Now, that’s not good writing. That’s good regurgitation of what’s already out there. Good writing is to take that and some kind of unique insight and combine it together.
Omri: What does your current time management workflow look like and how do you stay away from distractions?
Nir: External triggers are only 10% of the causes of our distractions. 90% of the time that we get distracted is not about what’s happening outside of us, it’s about what’s happening inside of us, specifically inside our own heads. These are internal triggers, which are uncomfortable emotional states that we seek to escape: boredom, loneliness, fatigue, uncertainty, anxiety, etc. 90% of the time, the problem is the feeling and how we don’t know how to master these emotions. So step number 1 to becoming indistractable is to master these emotions or they will become your master. Step number 2, which is my workflow, is making time for traction. If you can’t look at your calendar and know what to do with your time, you can’t say you got distracted. Why? Because you can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it distracted you from. The third step is to hack back the external triggers. Even though it’s only 10% of the time, there are a bunch of easy things we can do: changing notification settings, etc. Finally, we prevent distraction with packs. Packs are the last line of defense – the firewall against distractions where we make a promise between ourselves and others as the last line of defense so that if the 3 other techniques fail, we are kept on our task at hand.
Omri: What are some practical things that you do to fight distraction?
Nir: One technique I use every day is the 10-minute rule, which is all about giving in to any distractions in 10 minutes. And these emotions, they’re like waves – they crest and they subside. And by the time those 10 minutes have passed, you’ll be right back at the task at work that you said you were going to do. 9 out of 10 times it works. It’s about showing yourself that you’re capable of resisting temptation. That’s the important thing here, that you have agency. And over time, you’re building that capability to resist longer and longer.
Omri: What is your advice for people who combine different productivity tools?
Nir: To-do lists are terrible when you use them by themselves because there’s no constraint. You can always add more and more and more. The reason that people believe that they’re bad at time management is that they use this crappy technique that time after time tells them “you didn’t finish what you said you were going to do.” You’re not broken – this technique is broken. To-do lists are a temporary repository of how you want to spend your time. But the critical thing is your calendar. Put the things in your to-do lists in your calendar, because if you haven’t planned time for it, it’s not going to get done.