As an introspective person who studies habits and behavior, Dan Ariely is a great inspiration to me. He is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight.

Dan Ariely is the author of New York Times best sellers Predictably Irrational, The Upside of Irrationality and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty.

After a life changing trip to the burn center, he became obsessed with decision-making. He noticed that people repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions, in many aspects. We are predictable animals, and Dan hopes his research can help change some of these patterns.

Today, I'm excited to share my interview with Dan Ariely where he shares his habits and routines that allow him to create meaningful work and help people.

What Are the Most Influential Habits in Your Life?

One influential habit I have is not to waste time on things I don’t want to waste time on. I think there’s a risk of getting sucked into Facebook, YouTube, or other things, and if I do those things, I do it for a very short time; I limit myself.

And another good set of rules I follow is to exercise. A few years ago I made a deal with my cousin that we’re going to exercise 3 times a week, define what exercising means, and we’re going to visit only once a week on the weekends; that deal has been incredibly helpful for me.

How Do You Set Goals and Manage Time?

I do lots of things. I use Pomodoro and mostly my calendar: writing down the things I need to accomplish and when I am going to work on them.

How Are You Modeling Your Life?

I basically have lots of things coming at me that are really interesting, and I look at my objective, which is trying to help people. I measure “being helpful” by how many people I can help, and by how much. I engage in projects impacting society and people’s lives.

Can You Describe Your Work Process and Thinking Behind It?

A few years ago, I decided I only wanted to work with people I love, such as in academia, which makes it easier for me to surround myself with people I love and also makes me genuinely happy. Hence, I pick my collaborators very carefully, and that makes our priorities really interesting as well. My priorities include having social time, working with people I love, and making progress on different impactful projects.

What Do You Eat for Breakfast?

I used to have 2 meals, either yogurt with granola or an omelette. It depends on my location and availability of both meals.

Surprisingly, I very recently did a process for a company called “Day 2.” It checks the amount of bacteria in our gut and gives recommendations for what we should eat. For example, they told me that a bagel with cream cheese is not ideal for me, however, a croissant is much better. It was intriguing to find this information and since I’ve found out about this, I’ve tried different items for breakfast. I realize it takes time to create behavioral change, I certainly want to have a better, suitable diet not just for breakfast but for other meals during the day as well.

How Do You Train Your Body and Mind?

I do try yoga and meditation but I’m not very successful. Whenever I close my eyes, it takes about 10-15 seconds for my to-do list to pop up, and I’m not, so far, able to not get distracted by that. I do, however, try to learn online; I’ve taken a couple of Coursera classes and downloaded videos for me to learn more and to get inspired. I love to read; I get lots of books. Also, a lot of people want me to review their books, so I get an influx of pre-selling books and those comprise mainly of my reading material.

How Do You Meet and Connect with People?

Of course, conferences! Social media is also a great way to connect. I prefer meeting people face-to-face, and I find those connections to be more useful and helpful for me.

What Are Your Sleeping Rituals?

Haha! I change time zones all the time, so I don’t really have a good structure for this. However, wherever I am, I try not to sleep later than 1 am and wake up at 7 am. The only ritual I follow is have a hot shower before going to bed, and setting an alarm clock to wake up; and, I never hit the snooze button! I think the snooze button creates confusion, and I wish alarm clocks didn’t have the snooze function.

What Are Your Investing Habits?

In terms of financial investments, I invest in low-cost mutual funds, and I look at them once a year. Whenever I have money left over in checking, I turn it into savings and at some point, I move it into my investment portfolio; but I use the simple approach to put money there, rebalance, and for my psychological well-being not look at it too often.

Over time I’ve saved money that used to go in buying desserts because I’ve stopped eating them. Most of it goes into my flights, as I travel a lot.

I am however still trying to adapt more habits throughout this process.

What Books, People, Experiences Shaped Your Thinking?

I took a month off, I did something called the "Israel Trail." It made me realize walking, connecting with people, meeting friends, and going into nature is a great mechanism to take time off and reflect on things. That month was tremendous: we had different rules each day and met new people almost every day. We invited people to walk with us, some we knew, some we didn't. We had a few rules: no phones from 7 am to 7 pm, what is said on a trail stays on a trail, and the last rule was everyone introduced themselves with an embarrassing story. Those set of rules created room for interesting discussions.

More Interviews

If you are interested in more in-depth interviews with high achievers, check all my interviews in the habits and routines series.