Daniel Pink ON: How to Master Time Management & Turn Procrastination into ProductivityOn Purpose with Jay Shetty
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- 1 Feb 2021
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Dan created a phrase he both loves and hates: performative complexity. His definition of this term is the performance of making our lives seem more complicated for no other reason other than, well, to seem complicated.
On this episode of On Purpose with Jay Shetty, Jay Shetty speaks with author and lawyer Daniel Pink about creating a healthy relationship with time, procrastinating productively, and simplifying your life.
Want to make time your friend, instead of your enemy? Check out Dan’s most recent book WHEN: THE SCIENTIFIC SECRETS OF PERFECT TIMING.
See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
The best lives in some ways are unadorned lives, the lives that are not adorned by the trappings of wealth or posturing or status seeking, but are the simplicity of do you have people who love you and do you have people you love?
Hey, everyone, welcome back to you on purpose. The number one health podcast in the world, thanks to each and every single one of you that come back every week to listen, learn and grow. Now, today, I'm super excited because I have been reading these authors books since my teenage years and I found them fascinating. They totally inspired me when it came to behavioral science, understanding the mind, how we think, how we make decisions, how we get driven and motivated.
And I've been a fan ever since, so this is a true fan moment for me. I guess today is none other than Daniel Pink. He's the author of six books about business and human behavior. His books include the long time running New York Times bestseller When, which will be dissecting today a whole new mind, as well as the number one New York Times best sellers drive, which was actually the first book that I read from him. And to sell is Human Guns.
Books have won multiple awards and have been translated into 40 languages and have sold more than three million copies. Now, Don has been a contributing editor at Fast Company and Wired, as well as a business columnist for the Sunday Telegraph. His articles and essays have also appeared in The New York Times, Harvard Business Review and other publications, and in twenty nineteen, London based think is 15, named him the six most influential management thinker in the world, and he lives in Washington, DC with his family.
And today we have to talk about his latest book when called The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, which I know you're going to love. Dan, thank you for doing this.
It's a pleasure to be with you. Yeah.
You literally you were like one of the first people I ever thought of interviewing before I even had a podcast. And I remember saying to, I believe our mutual friend, Dan Shabelle, who I believe you know well as well.
Sure. Of course. I remember saying to him, I was like, I would love to interview Dan.
And he was a guy I can introduce you to my can introduce you to him. And then I didn't have a podcast that so I didn't interview. So we waited. So absolutely worth the wait.
Yeah. Well, thank you so much for doing this. I genuinely enjoyed your books. What you have to understand about human incentives, drive and now timing, which I think is the most fascinating. I recommended this book last year as one of my top ten books, and it's pushing it out as much as I can. So I'm excited to get into it. But I want to actually start off with something that I saw on your Twitter profile. I think it was yesterday or a couple of days ago.
But you you actually recommended Trevor Noah's audio book of crime for a book to study for high school students. And I was understanding why. Why particularly that book.
Yeah, though it's interesting, I, I there's a there's a large presence on Twitter of other social media, of educators, and those are educators among the few people who I actually enjoy interacting with on Twitter. And so there was a fellow who I think was a high school principal who was looking for recommendations for books for high school students to read. And I thought that that Trevor Noah's book included the audio addition was just a great choice for high school students.
I mean, I'm a father of a high school student. My son is my son has read that book. It's just a gripping story of this kid. And I think that what he is telling us gives us all kinds of insight into our world today. He Trevor was the son of a black mom and a white dad, German dad. Growing up, he was born in apartheid era South Africa. And so simply for for Americans, especially white Americans, hearing about that is just I mean, even though, you know, it, it just kind of mind boggling.
And then and then what happens after post apartheid, how he decides what he wants to do, what his relationships are with his mother and father. But I actually listen to the audio addition of this of his book, and it is J. I think, the best audio book I've ever listened to. And the reason for that is that is that Trevor Noah speaks multiple languages and and so and so he goes into some of these languages. But also his ability to do characters and accents is just extraordinary.
It just it's a virtuosic performance and just a gripping read. I can't imagine a 17 year old not being 16 year old, not being just mesmerized by that as I was. And I'm way older than 17. I love that.
Now, it's a great recommendation. I think that's awesome. And it's always nice to hear authors and very successful authors recommending other authors and audio books. I think that's good. If not now, you've made it really, really clear. That's that's great. Tell us about.
I want to start about with your fascination with human behavior in the mind and the way we think and why we do certain things like where did that come from for you? Because, you know, like I said, you were the first person or one of the first people to introduce me into that whole school of thought. And and I just think, like, when you're young and you're at college or you're at school, you don't. You don't really get exposed to these kind of topics.
Where was it for you and how did that start for you?
I guess I'm not totally sure. I think part of it comes from being a pretty quiet kid growing up. I wouldn't say shy, but just kind of a quiet kid. More of an observer. A reader is a kid who went to the library all the time. And so always feeling like I wasn't quite in the center of things, but was kind of on the periphery observing and who was observing. I was there observing these crazy people. And so that I think was I think that was part of it.
I also was fortunate enough when I was in college to I studied a lot of economics, a lot of psychology. And but I ended up I actually majored in linguistics, which is a which is a which is another social science. So I was always keenly, keenly interested in it. I think if I had my if I I can totally see in retrospect in my life that I would have become a professor rather than doing the noble hackery that I'm doing today.
Now, that's it's interesting always how people got to where they got to. And I'm fascinated that you haven't fully dissected your journey and broken it up into little pieces. And I quite like that. I think it's I think it's very humble of you.
Well, I also think it's thank you for that. I'm not sure that it's humble as it is accurate. I think a lot of times these these different vantage points in looking at these journeys, and I and I like the metaphor of a journey, the different vantage points in looking at these journeys. So if you're in it and you're in you're you're you're you're navigating your way, at least for me, there was much, much less intention than one would think and much greater kind of half asseri luck that that kind of thing.
I think that in some cases, just because it makes us more comfortable existentially, we look back on these things and say, oh, there was a clear narrative to that journey. Yeah. And there might be I think that the retrospective look is actually that is valid.
And I know that you spent a lot of time in Japan. Right, when you spent some time in quite some time in Japan. Sure. Yeah. What what's that. What's the culture like or what kind of influences have you taken from that culture.
Oh it's like yeah, it's a really, really interesting question, probably more profound than I realize. I think that one of them is the virtue of simplicity in Japanese design in certain forms of Japanese culture. There is a premium on that simplicity. And I think in in many cases, in many realms of particularly American and particularly kind of elite, well-educated American circles, there is this kind of performative complexity. I mean, forgive even that phrase. Performative complexity is know it's total B.S. because it's an example of performative complexity.
Basically what it is, is that people want to feel smart. And the way that they want to feel smart is by making things really complicated. And and and and to me, one of the things I absorb from spending time there is actually the Keita's form of intelligence is to make things as simple as you, possibly simple and clear and elegant as you possibly can, whether you are writing a book, whether you're making a film, whether you're building a house, whether you're raising a family or anything like that, there's a virtue in that kind of simplicity and clarity.
So I think that's probably the thing that sunk in the most for me. That's so profound.
I'm so glad you said that. I didn't know what you were going to give and neither did I. And and I and I love that because I've always thought that for a while I was my all my work is inspired by two statements. One statement is a statement often attributed to Martin Luther King, where he said that if you want a new idea, read an old book. And so I have this fascination with timeless wisdom and kind of great. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And then the second one is from Einstein. And when he said that if you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well enough. And so I've always been fascinated with simplification and your work does that very, very effectively. Apart from performative complexity, which I believe. I don't know if you just made that up right now, but it's a great idea. I did. I did. I can have it because I don't want to ever say it again.
And sometimes I feel like I feel this pressure as as a as a thinker or a sharer or whatever you want to call us. You know, I have this pressure of like, oh, well, maybe I'm making this too easy to stand. And actually hearing you say that is so refreshing to me because I'm like, no, I want people to be able to practice and just get it in one. So that's a beautiful part of culture. And what part of the culture did you feel that was the architecture?
Was it language? Was it you know, where was that in the culture?
I didn't have any mastery of the language. That was hard for me to do. That was hard for me. Although I think there is something even in the pictorial aspect of the language where a single character, a single image. Represents something that's actually they can actually something be fairly complex, so if you take out a notion that is complex, like luck, there'll be character for luck. I know it's true, obviously, and that's true obviously in Chinese as well.
I just I just thought that when the if you look at even Japanese aesthetics, it's an even Japanese cuisine. It's unadorned, you know, like like really good Japanese cuisine is unadorned. It isn't French where there's like ladling sources and all kinds of stuff on it isn't heavily garnished and displayed in this grandiose way. It is pure, it is simple, it is unadorned. The essence speaks for itself. And there's there's a there's a there's a lot to be said for that.
Even if you look at like even Japanese cuisine where you go into a place and all they serve is ramen. So they're trying to do everything. But you're going to get the best bowl of ramen you've ever had because that's all they serve. And so I think that that has been that way of thinking, has probably had a bigger effect on me than than I realize. In fact, in some ways, your question is making me understand that that had that had a bigger effect, because I do think that there is that simplicity is clarity and simplicity to me are those are things that I as a as a as a creator and as a consumer prize.
Very, very deeply. Yeah.
I mean, you're a phenomenal public speaker as well. And if anyone's never seen done on stage, just go on YouTube and just watch them on stage, whether it's TED or other events. But have you ever reset simplicity or clarity out of interest, like other themes that you see yourself writing about? Or do you have you ever been down a rabbit hole on one of those and discovered anything fascinating about simplicity and clarity? Because I think you're spot on that really.
Those are the two things we're always seeking out, right? Whether the decision making or whether it's in how we feel about ourselves or a relationship we have in our lives. I'm intrigued because I definitely studied those from my meditation mind for. Right, right. But I'm intrigued to hear about if you found anything scientifically that's fascinating.
Yeah, that's another really interesting question.
I don't think I've ever intentionally gone gone after that. But there is there is a decent amount of there's a decent amount of of research showing aspects of this. So, for instance, so so I'll give you I'll give you something profound and something mundane. So so on the on the on the mundane is it's a concept, it's a concept in linguistics which which is known as processing fluency, processing fluency and all processing fluency means. Is that the message, the words, the communication you're making goes down easily or.
All right. So, so it's it goes down easily. Now, that's a virtue in and of itself. But one of the things that we know from from linguistics and some from some social psychology is that. Processing fluency enhances believability, not only understanding, but believability, and there's a dark side of this, of course. And so what you see is that things that enhance processing fluency are effective in getting your message across. An example would be repetition.
OK, we know that like repetition is effective. Repetition increases people's understanding. It increases their believability. Now, there's a downside. There's a downside to that, even things like rhyming. There's some brilliant research showing that that that messages that rhyme are not only considered more understandable, but actually more believable alliteration lists and things like that. So so we do know something from science that that clarity and simplicity are obviously extraordinarily are extraordinarily effective. That's the mundane rhymes increase processing fluency.
OK. I think the more profound thing is that when you look at, say, things like your listeners, your some of your listeners are probably familiar with the famous grant study out of Harvard where they followed a group of men. It was its time as all men, I think it was all white men in graduated from Harvard in the nineteen forties, something like that.
And they followed follow. I might be a little bit off in the years they they and they followed them through the course of their lives, checking massive longitudinal study. They also did it with they later did a group of working class men, all men from from Boston. And one of the things that you see from the grant study is that if you don't like what makes somebody satisfied, what makes somebody happy with their life? And it turned out that is completely unadorned.
It's basically, do you have somebody you love and do you have people who love you? Period. Full stop. That's it.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's and that know, so so the adornment that we were talking about in Japanese cuisine, that the lack of enjoyment in Japanese cuisine is that are the best lives in some ways are unadorned lives of lives that are not adorned by the trappings of wealth or performative complexity or posturing or status seeking. But are the simplicity of do you have people who love you and do you have people you love?
Yeah, that is truly one of the hardest things to understand right now as well, because I was literally speaking to on another podcast is interviewing Peter Diamandis recently.
And you're obsessed with the future. And we're talking about how, you know, he thinks the world's improving and the future is changing. And we could we could live on another planet and we could do all this kind of stuff. And it's at the same time, I remember a couple of years ago, I got to visit one of the blue zones in Sardinia. I don't know if you've come across bluejackets. I'm sure you know.
I know. I know. I've actually ordered I've actually there's there's there's a wine from that from Sardinia. Oh, no, I'm the grape. I'm spacing out. And what the what the what the what the varietal is. But there's a I've actually gone out and looked and ordered wine from Sardinia because for that very reason that's incredible.
Huggin what is Maloja. I don't drink. I have no idea what that wine is or help you out. But but yeah. So when I went there and I was, I was, I lived with some of the people in a town in the village and I was looking at their lifestyles. And I also interviewed Dan Buettner, who talks about the blues. Ah. And, you know, it's you look at that simplicity and you look at that that stability of like growing up in a village, farming the land, natural exercise, not needing to do any hit workouts or any any weights exercise is it is it is really, really special to see that.
And and I like trying to entertain the paradox of what parts of our lives are better, simpler, and what parts of our lives are better with some. And maybe complexity is the wrong word. Yeah, complexity, not even the opposite of simplicity. Maybe there's another point. That's a great point. Yeah. Maybe there's another element to like the opposite of simplicity, but a complementary, paradoxical version of simplicity that because I find in and of myself and I'd love to hear what you think like I what I get fascinated about, excited about is the.
The correlation between simplicity and then strategy, like like simplicity and then like ambition or drive or focus, and I find like often today people you know, people maybe connect simplicity with laziness or lack of focus or, you know that.
But you're speaking in a much more deeper, essential level of clarity.
Yeah, yeah, I think that's right. And it's interesting. There is a it's an interesting it's in some ways a linguistic question. No joke about like what's the right word to describe what you and I are talking about because I feel like you and I are talking about something. Well, at least what I think is important and quite interesting. But our vocabulary that or at least in English, might be impoverished and doesn't have the quite the right, the right right term for that.
I think you used a really important word. They're essential. I think it's partly about what's essential. It's partly about what what is what is what is fundamental. And I do think that this idea that that we know that simplicity and ambition can be easily twinned, no question about it. I mean, you mentioned that one of your guiding quotations was from was from what was from Einstein, who was talking about simplicity. And he ended up I mean, among his among his breakthroughs were with something that is so profoundly complex that most of us don't understand it beyond the equation we memorized in seventh grade.
Talking of essentials, I do want to talk about, because I think this book is so essentially driven so by everyone who has read it and have recommended it before we have this book, when that I want to talk about, I think time is one of those things, how we use time, spend time, create time, what we make time for. Like time is one of those things that, of course, is and the way we use an essential, essential, essential part of all of our lives.
And I think when we're talking about simplicity or clarity, I think one of the biggest things we lack simplicity and clarity on is time. And and for me, I've definitely noticed how open life is when your book came out. I've tried to remove people from having to live their life based on a timeline or an expectation. And I realized that because my life went in a completely different direction, whereby I became a monk at twenty two and didn't have my first job until twenty six and today lead one of the most meaningful, fulfilling lives in the world, thanks to all my experiences.
And so it's just it's fascinating. There were times in my life where I felt like I was behind people that I should be in line with. There are times in my life where I felt I was ahead of people. There are times when I felt like I was trying to figure it out. And I think a lot of people usually feel like they're behind ahead or equal to. And that's kind of how we make sense of stuff. And that's what when this book came out, which I know was like maybe a year ago, year and a half ago, maybe the company is going to it's to me that was I was fascinated that you were able to pinpoint and go so deeply into time, which I always thought was so much more fluid.
And so I get the first question I want to ask you and please take this wherever you like. I don't feel constricted at all because I like what we're kind of creating right now is just, you know, why what fascinates you about time the most that you are so deeply drawn to?
And you wrote a whole book about timing.
Yeah. So that is actually. I'm going to put the answer to that in more of the mundane category, the reason for the impetus for it was just frustration more than anything else. It wasn't any kind of deep conceptual fascination. So so here we are. I'm talking to you from this is this is my office here in Washington, D.C. It's the refurbished one car garage behind my house. I live there, right there. And so I would come to my office and do stuff to work.
And at a certain point I realized I would have I have a to do list and maybe I would have appointments on the calendar. But I wasn't intentional at all about what I was doing. Stuff like like like I would write when I felt like writing, I would make phone calls. When I felt like making phone calls, I would do interviews when I felt like doing interviews and it wasn't intentional about it. And that and I said, that's, that's great.
That's, that's crazy. Like I'm actually a fairly kind of rash and I like to think I am at least fairly rational evidence based guy. And I'm making these decisions about when to do things. I'm not even making decisions. I'm just kind of stumbling my way into it. And so I said, well, there's got to be some guidance out there on on when we should do things. And I found to my surprise that there wasn't. And that got me really curious.
I said, well, I wonder if anybody's ever researched this. So I started looking around for research and it turned out there was a huge amount of research on this question, but it was splattered all over the place. It was in literally two dozen different domains. So it wasn't like you say, oh, there's a sociologist who studies timing. Well, there might be. There is. There are. But there are also biologists who do that.
There are economists who've studied that. There are microbiologists who have done study epidemiologist. There's a whole field called chronobiology. And so what you had was you had literally two dozen different fields asking, very similar in some case, identical questions. And what I said is like maybe it was painful, but if I go wide enough and deep enough into this research, I can begin to piece together the evidence based ways to make better, smarter decisions about when to do things, when to do things in a given day.
But also to your other point, when we think about our lives, our lives are episodic episodes have beginning's episodes and middles and episodes upends the whole idea. The journey metaphor you introduced earlier is like journeys have beginnings, middles, and they have ends. And it turns out that there is some fascinating research on how our cognitive abilities change over the course of the day and then more episodically, how beginning's affect us, how midpoints affect us, how endings affect us.
There's research on how groups coordinate in time. There's a research on how the way we think about time affects our behavior. There's research again. All roads lead back to linguistics. There's research based on on the some some interesting research showing that the way that languages configure their verb tenses, it can predict people's savings behavior, as crazy as that sounds. And so so it ends up being something that is going back to another one. Another one of your words.
It ends up being essential. It ends up being fundamental because we are temporal creatures. That is, we have we talk about colloquially about biological clocks, about a biological clock. But essentially what we have we know from from biology is that special chronobiology that we essentially have clocks in every cell in our body. I mean, we are walking time pieces. And again, depending on your notion of time, sort of philosophically, existentially, we are in some ways moving through time.
At the very least, our conversation began in the past. That's right.
It's going to end in the future. The people who are going to listen to the recorded version of this are listening to something that happened in the past. But but those people haven't done anything yet because that's in the future. And so we're sort of swimming in this essential element of our lives. And so what I was just trying to do is just make it understandable.
I say my assumption is that the most common relationship and I believe everyone has a relationship with money, we have a relationship with time. We have a relationship with anything, knowledge, wisdom, etc. And so our relationship with time for most people is I always feel like I don't have enough. Right. That is a very clear relationship that we all have, which is like, I don't have enough time.
I can't make enough time. I can't find time. Like we say all these words which are all about making, finding, creating, having, what does that do? What is that mindset toward time?
How does that actually affect our behavior, our relationship with time? We can think of it as an ally. We can think of it as an enemy. In some ways that's over. That's oversimplifying in that case. But I think if what we're trying to do and one way to make time, your ally rather than your enemy, is to recognize the effect of an invisible that it has on your life. So if you look so, I'll give you an example of what we know from let's just take the unit of a day, what we know very clearly from a whole array of research is that our brain power does not remain constant over the course of the day.
Our brain power changes over the course of the day. So doing something at 9:00 a.m. is not the same as doing something at 3:00 p.m.. Period. Full stop. Now, there's some complexity underneath that. But the main idea is that our brain power doesn't remain constant. Over the course of the day, the best time to do something depends on what it is you're actually doing. So once you understand those kinds of hidden, invisible rules, you can begin to make time your ally rather than your enemy and end up mitigating some of those feelings that you never one never has enough time.
In many cases, people who don't feel like they have enough time, sometimes not always, sometimes it's not a it's not a sufficiency of time issue. It's a sufficiency, a priority issue. What they actually don't have any clarity about their purpose is their priorities. And so there the other thing that we know is that when time becomes extremely salient in our lives, we underperform and I'll give you in certain circumstances over unhappy in certain circumstances. So a great example of that is in professional services, but particularly in the practice of law is the billable hour what we know.
So if you are a lawyer practicing in a law firm, not working for the government or doing that or are a nonprofit or something, you build yourself out by the hour. And so what you do is that you have, you know, a way to well, I'm going analog here, but you have on your computer or scribble down an account of what you're doing, literally, in some cases in six minute increments. And what we know from research there is that that makes people that is incredibly rewarding to people sense of autonomy.
And so so there are all kinds of things in our relationship with time that if we reconfigure it, we can feel a little bit better, do a little bit more and better.
Is productivity even the goal of time?
Because I feel like today one of the biggest challenges that I get asked at least and maybe your children experience this or maybe what I see outside in the world of social media is a lot of people today spend a lot of time over thinking and procrastinating, and that's seen as a negative thing. And people are often overthinking scared and procrastinating or they judge themselves and then they start getting into this kind of like a vicious circle and cycle of feeling like, oh, like I'm wasting a lot of time here.
Tell me about what you found, what even your thoughts on on productivity as a goal of time vs. be the effective use, if possible, of procrastination and other thinking, procrastination and productivity.
OK, let's talk about what productivity is. I'm going to be literal. Productivity is the amount of units you produce over a given amount of time. So it is inherently time-based because time is in the denominator of productivity. OK, so so again, I'm not sure that productivity is necessarily the best measure. I say that as a writer. OK, so I could be like I could be a productive like suppose I wrote more words per hour today versus yesterday.
I would literally be more productive. But am I am I a better writer? I don't know. It probably doesn't matter. Like, what are the words. Right. And so and so in some ways, productivity is the notion of productivity. And that very literal sense is an artifact of our being, an economy where we are producing identical mass produced goods. And so efficiency was the was the highest value because everything was the same. And so what you wanted to do was in a given denominator, make the numerator larger.
That's how you increase that. That's a way to increase productivity or keep the numerator the same and shrink the amount of time in the denominator. So. So that's what that's what that's what productivity is. I think a way to you know, a looser way to measure things is is quality and quality contribution impact those sorts of things. And certainly for certain kinds of professions, like being a writer, writing more words is no measure of my contribution to the world.
Yes, if anyone's listening and watching right now and like Dan, I'm I just feel like I procrastinate. I overthink a lot and I waste time. What would be your response to that?
OK, so let's. OK, so. So that's a product. So that's a productivity thing. Now let's let's talk about let's let's talk about procrastination because we know a lot about procrastination. OK, OK. Procrastination is not always bad. OK, sometimes you're procrastinating for a reason because you haven't worked it out because you're still incubating an idea. OK, so it's not inherently bad, it's not like all procrastination is bad. The second big idea here is that procrastination is basically in general the downside, the dark, the negative procrastination is just an emotion regulation problem.
Right. It has nothing to do with time. It means that you are unwilling to confront something and therefore are not given something so disturbing to you that you would rather actually sabotage yourself than confront it, that in some ways you're making a quasi rational decision that the pain of confronting man, can I really write this is greater than actually not writing it in the first place. And so so we know this from a lot of research. Procrastination is an emotion regulation issue.
And so what you have to think about is what is the emotion that you're avoiding? And is there a small step? Is there a way in some ways to trick yourself into either confronting it directly or to do something to just get yourself going and that that the action ends up confronting the emotion. But a lot of times. But again, just in certain circumstances, it's hard to say. The fact that you're not ready to start is a signal that it might be a very, very positive signal.
It could mean that, hey, I'm still incubating this. I think as soon as you start labeling and going, oh, my procrastinations bad and this is not place to be in your right, you just everything all of that is just avoiding the actual emotion, which is a signal or a sign or an alert that's kind of trying to get your attention and you just keep putting it away. And I think what that leads to and this is something which I find fascinating book, it's like starting things that kind of feel like, you know, knowing when to start a business or knowing when to start a project is like the hardest thing in the world.
And I'm sure you get this a million times. But like, tell us about the research behind starting something and and what you found was most critical there. There's very rarely prospectively a perfect time to start something, but there are ways to give ourselves a little bit of a different it's like a lot a little bit of a psychological edge. And this is the work of Katie milkman Jason Reece and Hengjun Di. They did it at Penn University, Pennsylvania.
And they had this idea of of what they call the fresh it's called the fresh start effect. And a way to understand the fresh start effect is like this, that certain dates, certain days, certain dates are what social psychologists called temporal landmarks, temporal landmarks. That is, they they stand out in time the way a physical landmark stands out in space. So, again, back to the journey metaphor. You're navigating your way. You're trying to find your way.
Oh, there's a landmark. I know where I am. Oh, there's that building. I have a sense of where I am. Temporal landmarks are navigational tools in some ways, but certain temporal landmarks have a peculiar psychological effect. What they do is essentially they operate. It's kind of a restart. What they say is that. On certain days that are fresh start days, you essentially relegate your previous bad self to the past and open up a fresh ledger on your new self.
All right. And so there are certain days that actually are you're more likely to start something and you're more likely to succeed while starting it. So what does this mean? Let's be concrete here. You want to start something, you're probably better off doing it on a Monday rather than on a Thursday. You're probably better doing it on the day after your birthday rather than three days before your birthday. You're probably better doing it on on the like the first day of summer rather than three days before the first day of summer.
Let's say you're one is a religiously observant, you know, the day after or the day of a religious holiday rather than four days before that religious holiday. And so you can in some ways use to have that sense of where you are temporarily and pick the right date to start something.
Yeah, I can so relate to that. And my problem is I'll try to start something on a Monday. I'll fail on Tuesday and then I wait till the next Monday and.
Well OK, so, so that's, that's, that's a mixed bag. That's a mixed bag. It depends on it depends on, on how deep the failure was on returns, on how deep the failure was on Tuesday. Now there's another strategy for all of this. Yeah. Is we're all of this. I mean, it's reasonably well known. And in some ways it's it's interesting because I think it's analogous to our conversation about simplicity and the opposite of simplicity or simplicity and complexity in that I do think that in many cases we have been seduced into the idea of moonshots and big, hairy, audacious goals.
I think that they're important, but I think that they're oversold in a way. And what's undersold, just think about it. Just think about as a pricing issue, OK? So, so, so the big, hairy, audacious goals, moonshots, I think they're overvalued. And I think what's undervalued is small wins. And once again, there's a lot of there's a lot of evidence of that starting from Karlov like 30 years ago. Small wins are enormously important because what small wins do is that they small wins can overcome that procrastination problem.
Small wins can then lead to other small wins and other small wins that cascade into something into something bigger. So a strategy for overcoming procrastination, a strategy for many things is to go is to go for small wins. Let me give you an example of that. So so the one strategy that I that I've heard of, I mean, I just I called it this. It's not originally for me. It just sort of out there. I call it J5 n J5 m, not J.Y. And that stands for just five more.
OK, and so if you don't feel like doing something, you say, OK, you know what I'm going to do a man, OK, so so I'm doing some research right now, getting these papers. Some of them are incredibly boring. OK, you know what? I can't stand it. I want to quit. You know what? I just read five more pages. Just five more pages. I'll read that, OK. Oh, my God.
I got a boatload of email here. I can't deal with it. I just want to go inside and have a drink. You know what? I'm going to just do five, five more five more emails and we'll do that. You know what? I'm tired of writing. OK, just five more sentences. That's it. And that, you know, that can get us going, give you a small win. And what happens a lot of times is that just five more becomes just ten more.
Just twenty more. Something like something like that. Yeah, I really like that one.
That's that's an awesome strategy. I think that's it's very simple. I use it all the time. I'm not joking around. I use it today. I use it today. When I looked at my email file and I was like, oh God, I've already answered enough. I'm like, OK, just five more. And you know what I did, I just I did that and I got it done and I probably ended up answering eight or something like that.
Another one, a very well-known technique. I use it. I have no shame in using it. You're probably familiar with it. Your listeners are probably familiar with it. Is is the Pomodoro technique, which is which is a bit Pompadour is Italian for tomatoe. And so, you know, you set a A timer. I have one on my computer that I use on very dark days ahead of time or for whatever. I do it for twenty five minutes and I just can't bear this, OK?
I can't research this anymore. I can't read this anymore. I'm sick of writing. OK, here's what we're going to do is twenty five. Twenty five minute. I'm not gonna do anything else, I'm just going to do it for that. Twenty five minutes and. And that can. Yeah and that can. And I think let me, let me extract from this as always, a large theoretical lesson and it's this all right. That a lot of times in our understanding of what makes human beings tick, we think that belief precedes action that you have to convince yourself and then that is the impetus to act and in many cases, more cases than we realize.
The arrow runs in the other direction.
But getting yourself to act can actually trigger the belief. Yes. And that's a very, very important a very, very important lesson that that's so true.
And that's really it's kind of like we were like, I can't make my mind up right now, given that same is exactly that belief where you're just spending so much time trying to make your mind up and decide something. And what I love about what you just said is, is around that hole, the small wins element of just I always feel like when you can get into a good rhythm and pattern of keeping promises to yourself and keeping small commitments to yourself, you start to trust yourself.
And when you start to trust yourself, you can then trust yourself with bigger chores. The problem is, like you said, is that we go for these moonsault goals and naturally we fail it then and we don't trust ourselves. And I feel like self trust is like the big issue when it comes with time is that you're like, well, do I even trust myself with this much time? Do I even trust myself to complete that? And you're right about the small wins, whether it's making your bed or just five more or, you know, all of these principles that you're laying out like that just builds trust in yourself.
I'll give you something else that builds trust with yourself that that's related to this concept, which is again, is research based. It's built on the I've written about this. I wrote about it in that book. I've talked about it before is the work of Teresa Mobileye at Harvard Business School. And she found that the single biggest day to day motivator on the job is making progress and meaningful work. So the days we're making progress, the days we're motivated, we come back the next day feeling motivated.
But one of the challenges is that is that we never have a good we often don't have a good sense of how much progress we're making. And so one of the one of the things that I've done for this is now for like eight or nine years now is at the end of every day. I have a program called a Progress Ritual, and all I do is I just basically say, what would you get done today? And I just list what I got done today.
And I keep a record of that. And I have to say, I almost never look at the list, but it's the act of doing I mean, seriously, I almost never look at the list, but it's the act of doing it. So I so I just take a moment. It's it's a it's a it's a ritual. All right. And I don't have to tell you, former monk, the importance of rituals in. And in human understanding, right, so it's a it's a ritual, it's a punctuation mark at the end of the day.
What do you get done today, Dan? OK, this is what I got done.
But what I love that. How do you do that for other people? So if you're leading teams, if you've got a small team, a big team, a company, how do you kind of help people realize the progress they're making?
Yeah. Besides, you can do for yourself. Yeah. How do you do for others. I mean, you could do it. You can do it. You can do a version of what I'm talking about for your for your team. I mean, what I would want to do is, is I would want to get I would want to build that habit and others rather than have them rely on me for that. I would want to build that habit and others.
So what you could do is you could have you could ask your team to just to send you that at the beginning, not as a way to monitor them, but as a way to engage and just as as a as just as a way to build that habit and then eventually have them continue the habit without sending it to you.
Yeah, absolutely. I'm going to try I'm actually going to try that out. I'm 100 percent going. What did you get done today? Just write down the things you get done. I mean I mean, it's a very simple concept. We always we often have a to do list at the beginning of the day, like have it done less at the end of the day.
And it's almost like a to find your mind. Right, because you know that if you got three things done yesterday, you might want to get four done today. And so you push a bit further. Right.
I think a lot of times also when we're scrambling around, we don't have a sense of what what we've accomplished. So sometimes it can be and sometimes it can be. It can be affirming. So I know that many days where I feel like I haven't gotten anything done during the course of the day, I stop and I do my little progress or do well. Again, we're talking like Jake. Thirty seconds. I am not anything elaborate. I'm like, oh.
Oh, OK, I actually got more done than today and then the days where I didn't get much done. You're like, Oh come on man, you've got to got to do a little bit better than this. Come back.
When you're coaching yourself, you're coaching. Yeah, that's a good way to put it. In many ways you are. What you're doing is you're just giving yourself your coaching. If you think about it like like like a sport, it's like like like in track and field or in swimming or something like that. Your coach is there with a stopwatch saying here's was your time today, OK, or here's how much you lifted today. You have a sense of are you making progress?
You're not making progress. Yeah, I love that one thing. I want my audience. Everyone is listening right now. Watching I want you to be aware of is that literally Don Imus brings out everything from, like, productivity. I've done some of the tests with you guys before, and I've read the book when we talked about, you know, all all of the different productivity times for different types of people based on what time you sleep and what time you wake up.
And that's great. I'm not going to ask all those questions because they're in the book. And that's why I recommend the book. I want to was done stuff that isn't in the book or is extending the book. And I think one of the biggest questions I do get asked that I do want to talk about is relationships, because I think dating and getting married and knowing when to either pop the question or when you should expect the question like these, like these like some of the biggest challenges in the world for on a personal individual level for people.
And so tell me about some of the work that you found when it came to not just like when's the best time to get married, but it's almost like when did people when did what did you find when people said they knew or they felt they'd found the right person?
Yeah, that one is that one is more inscrutable. I have to say. I wrote about that only very, very tentatively because I wasn't sure about the research on that. I mean, what it says is that. In general, in America, marriages are more likely to last if people get married after age twenty five than before age, I think thirty four somewhere around there. But again, that doesn't mean if you get married at age thirty five, you're going to get a divorce.
You get married at twenty eight. I mean it's, it's like there's a slight, there's a slight effect there. There are some interesting effects on education. So that one, one big effect is that especially in America today, people with more formal education are more likely to get married and stay married. People with less formal education are less likely to get married and less likely to stay married if they are. And there's also seems to be an effect, whatever your level of education on getting married after you complete your education rather than before.
But again, I don't think you take those large population insights to make a decision about whether you're going to spend the rest of your life with someone you love. I can recommend a book that is. Well, one of the leading scholars of of marriage, really in social psychology of marriage is at Northwestern. His name is Eli Finkel. He wrote a very good book called The All or Nothing Marriage, about how marriage is about how marriage has changed a lot of what we know about healthy marriages and also how marriage has changed in America over the last two hundred years.
It's a it's a really, really it's a very, very interesting book.
All or nothing married. Yeah, all.
I don't think Marriage by Eli Eli Finkel, which, you know, there's a lot of really good research, a lot of good a lot of good research in there. And there are some relationship advice in there, too. Among the most important things are you what do you attribute to someone's inherent personality and what do you attribute to circumstance? So if your spouse so if your spouse snaps at you say you say, oh, my God, my spouse is the biggest jerk there ever was, or you say, oh, my spouse is having a bad day.
And people who make the attribution that it's circumstantial, not surprisingly, end up better off than people who say, you know, attribute the behavior to someone's inner jerkiness, right?
Yeah. No, it would be fascinating also to look at things like amount of time couples spend together, but amount of time couples spend arguing on useful arguments maybe too. Yeah, yeah. There's other there's other there's other research out there. There's a guy I'm spacing on. This is a guy named Gottman. I think it's. Yeah. John Gottman. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. He's done some research on marriage and one of the knots.
This is not surprising. One of the biggest things that you see is I'm not if I'm characterizing it right, is, is not only not arguing per say, but how people argue. Yes. And and so somebody has to do with the attribution. The other thing, one of the biggest signals, I think, in government research is when people express contempt for their partner. Not surprisingly, that's a marker of things gone awry. Yeah, yeah, you're right.
He talks about learning how to fight. Is the number one skill needed in a relationship, not knowing how to plan date night or how to, you know, just how to communicate. That is specifically fight and yeah, really useful. One thing I want to definitely dive into today is around this and you talk about in the book is about, you know, when's the right time to end something, because I think we're always fascinated by it. And we talked about like, when do you know when you should start something?
When's the perfect time to start? Yeah, I think one of the things we're not very aware of when it comes to business work, leases, whatever it may be, is ending. What have you learned? And not just in the book, but what have you learned from just your own life and experience? And just like when you found is the right time to end something, that's a harder call to make?
One of the things that I do know for sure, though, is that endings are much more important than I realized before I did this research, that endings have a profound effect on our behavior and these have a profound effect on how we remember entire experiences so famously. You know, this is fairly well known is that how it experience ends has a disproportionate effect on how people remember the entire experience and also even how we evaluate people's lives, too. So there's a famous piece of research on where they give somebody a description of a fellow who for twenty nine years was a wonderful guy, great CEO, generous and whatnot.
And then in his thirtieth year, he became a jerk and then unexpectedly died. And they said they had people say, how moral of a life did that person leave? And then they had a different set of group. People evaluated a different character. This character was a total weasel and jerk for twenty nine years and his thirtieth year, he decided to become a good guy, being more generous, and then he suddenly died. And so what they what they found was that someone who was a good guy for twenty nine years and a jerk in his last year was rated as a slightly less moral than someone who was a complete jerk for twenty nine years and happened to be a good guy is in his final year.
So, so. So how's. And has a big effect on us, on how something ends, has a big effect on on how we remember it, how the presence of ending has a big effect on our motivation. So when we see the end of something, we end up kicking a little bit harder. So it's a way to a way to get yourself off the dime. And certain kinds of procrastination situation is to impose an ending. So, so but endings.
Endings matter. Endings matter a lot. And I think that one of the things that we need to do in organizations, in our family lives and whatnot is is mark endings and and establish rituals around endings, because that ends up being a deep source of meaning for people. Hmm.
Yeah, great answer. I love that example. That's that's super powerful. And I think everyone needs to think about that because often it's like we put so much what you're saying and what I'm learning from this. And you're so right. And I'm and it's only hitting me now, too, is we put so much effort into starting something like so much effort like weather or relationship or whatever it is like we're excited and all these enthusiasm. Then when you break up or you end the business or you reject someone or someone gets fired or whatever it may be, that process is always handled.
Really corny. Yeah. And and and that's actually what people remember. Absolutely right. Yeah. And that's scary to think about when when you when you think about that for a moment. But yeah. No, it's absolutely brilliant and I hope we can continue to talk offline as well. I'm going to end with what we do, which is to rapid fire around the super fast, the blanks for this one. So these are OK. Are you ready?
Yeah. Time should always be on your mind, but not obsessing your mind.
OK, get on, OK, Segun, taking breaks, taking breaks is one of the most powerful bang for the buck things you can do for your mental, physical and professional well-being. Number three, every day I must every day I must contribute.
I love that you excel in your career when people excel in their careers, when they contribute. I love it.
Brilliant. OK, these are your final five. These are answers in one sentence. All right. I'm sweating now. Well, one word. Yeah. OK, ready to make it to the end here? Yeah, absolutely. So the one lesson you feel helped you the most throughout your career, not caring what other people think about me.
Great answer. I love that. What do you want to leave your kids with that you didn't have growing up? A deep and unshakable work ethic, nice, OK, if you could create a law that everyone in the world had to follow, what would it be?
Say, please and thank you. Ice, great, awesome. OK, two more questions left, folks, question what is something that you know to be true that many people disagree with you on, something that you're so sure about that a ton of people are not gonna tell you what the world is less fair than it seems.
So you believe the world is less bad than it seems. And I disagree with you on that. Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's a whole nother conversation. I don't know what I mean when I say people.
I might be reflecting my own kind of biases here, but I think especially well-educated American people.
Sure. Great. Good answer. I mean, it's an intriguing point. OK, fifth and final question. What is the biggest lesson you've learned in the last 12 months?
It never works to go against the grain of who you are.
Wow. Very profound. But it is tough questions, man.
Are you on to them pretty quickly and well. So thank you. Answer them quickly. I love that.
This is so brilliant.
I really hope we get to meet in person and wonderful and. Yeah. Thank you so much for doing this, everyone. Dan's got a ton of great books to sell its human drive, a whole new mind when going into these books that they're absolutely incredible. He's an incredible storyteller. I mean, incredibly accomplished. I can't even stop, but I'm just grateful that that took this time to be with us today. And I feel that you had me.
It's been a lot of fun.
Hey, guys, this is Jay again, just a few more quick things before you leave. I know we try to focus on the good every day, and I want to make that easier for you. Would you like to get a short email from me every week that gives you an extra dose of positivity? Weekly Wisdom is my newsletter. Write down whatever's on my mind that I think may uplift your week. Basically little bits of goodness that are going to improve your well-being.
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