Today on the podcast:

Johann is a writer and journalist who has written for the New York Times, Le Monde, the Guardian and other newspapers.

His TED talks have been viewed over 70 million times, and his work has been praised by a broad range of people, from Oprah to Noam Chomsky to Joe Rogan. His previous books, Lost Connections and Chasing the Scream, are international bestsellers.

This is Johann’s second appearance on the podcast. In June 2020, we recorded episode 281 titled Johann Hari on Lost Connections and Uncovering The Real Causes of Depression and Anxiety (And The Unexpected Solutions) where we dived deep into his incredible book Lost Connections.

That was and still is one of my favourite ever podcast episodes and today I’m looking to do a deep dive into his new book Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention in today’s episode.

This is a fascinating conversation with a gifted storyteller and even nicer person. Enjoy.

Episode Outline

  • 04:09 The reason for writing the new book – Elvis, Graceland and his nephew
  • 11:24 Why we can’t pay attention today
  • 16:45 Smoking a spliff vs being distracted – how being distracted is twice as detrimental as smoking weed
  • 19:57 Flow states and the impact on your mental health
  • 28:06 Why the pre-commitment strategy can work for phones addiction (and your favorite junk food)
  • 39:54 The impact of sleep on attention and mood
  • 50:46 Why the culture at large has a poor relationship with sleep
  • 59:00 Why social media makes you angry and how to have a better relationship with it

Key Points

  • Even a split-second of looking down at your phone in the middle of a conversation can throw the entire interaction off. Similarly, a distracted person has twice the amount of lost IQ as someone who had just smoked a spliff. There are four ways in which “multitasking” negatively affects your ability to pay attention and think: 1) the switch-cost effect; 2) the screwup effect; 3) hampered creativity; 4) hampered memory.
  • Most people, when asked to remember the happiest moments in their life, they remember moments of flow states. Flow states, therefore, are desirable if you’re keen on improving your mental health. There are three core steps to getting into a flow state:
    • 1 – Pick one clear goal;
    • 2 – Choose a meaningful goal;
    • 3 – Make sure your goal pushes you to the edge of your abilities.
  • Social media unfortunately highlights negativity because those types of content typically get the most clicks and time-on-screen. One alarming result of this is the increasingly toxic political attitudes of our day. We need to become aware of this phenomenon and break out of the cycle if we want to have a better relationship with social media.

Powerful Quotes by Johann

  • Most people, when asked to remember the happiest moments in their life, they remember moments of flow states.
  • If you just sleep six hours a night for a week, you’re at the same level of exhaustion and attentional impairment as if you were drunk.
  • You can have a house party or you can clean the house; but, you can’t do both at the same time. In the same way, your brain can either be awake and alert or it can be cleaning itself; but, it can’t do both at the same time.
  • We will pay attention more to things that anger or frighten us, than to things that make us feel good.

Guest Info

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