Overview: To be more productive, Duhigg suggests paying attention to motivation, goal setting, focus, and decision making. 1. Motivation: Make a simple choice early on that allows you to take the first step, and connect your choice to things you care about. 2. Goal Setting: Set BIG aspirational, stretch goals that kick your ambition into high gear. Then apply specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (S.M.A.R.T.) goals to break down your BIG stretch goals into more chewable, digestible ones. 3. Focus: Draw a mental map of your day. What will it ideally look like? How will it go? Strategize how you could deal with obstacles that might get in the way. 4. Decision Making: Envision more than one potential future. Consider seeking out different experiences of others; reach out and objectively consider the data. Sit with it for some time and then decide.
2. Motivation: When we feel like we’re in control, we’re happier. Psychologists have long known that happy people see the locus of control within them—they get to call the shots—and depressed people see the locus of control outside themselves, thus often feeling like victims. Duhigg discovers this first tenet of his book by talking to, of all people, the Commandant of the Marine Corps. The Corps discovered this motivational insight and used it to reshape boot camp by allowing more choice, asking “why,” and praising freedom of action rather than robot-like rule adherence. Insights:
a. Make a simple choice early on that allows you to take the first step: I’m going to check my email only three times a day.
b. Connect your choice to things you care about: If I limit my email checking, I’ll have more time with my kids.
3. Goal Setting: We all want to accomplish big things. We might want to get a graduate degree or get in shape, even run a marathon. Duhigg calls these stretch goals because they force us to reach beyond what might feel comfortable. And to get to such stretch goals you need S.M.A.R.T. goals (or objectives) that lead you there. Not new, S.M.A.R.T. goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
a. Stretch Goals: Set BIG aspirational goals that kick your ambition into high gear. I’m going to get in shape and run a 5K.
b. SMART Goals: Take the BIG stretch goals and break them down into more chewable, digestible ones that don’t scare you, and put real specifics around them.
4. Focus: As we live our lives and pursue our goals, obstacles get in the way. As they say, life happens when you’re planning something else! We’re bombarded with distractions—the internet, social media, YouTube, email—and if we keep wandering down those rabbit holes, we’re less likely to reach our stretch goals or any goals for that matter. Focus happens when we form mental models of where we want to go—much like having a story or a map in our heads to guide us amidst all the life distractors.
a. Draw a mental map of your day. What will it ideally look like? How will it go? Today, I’ll have an awesome meeting with the CEO.
b. Strategize how you will deal with obstacles that might get in the way.
5. Decision Making: You can have all your ducks in a row, like being motivated, having goals big and small, and being focused, but still not be able to make timely or good decisions. As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. So how to translate good intentions into good decisions?
a. Envision more than one potential future. You might want to get a new car. You think about either turning in your car (reducing the hassle of selling it yourself), or you consider all the money you might make by being your own sales person.
b. Consider seeking out different experiences, reach out and consider the data. Then sit with it for some time before deciding. So, maybe you call up a few friends who have sold their own cars and find out what that takes and mull over that data before making your final decision.
6. More Stuff: The book also addresses things like managing others and encouraging innovation.
a. Manage How Teams Operate—People have an equal voice to express ideas, decisions get pushed to the person closest to the problem, people have a sense of control, and the environment is safe.
b. Encourage Innovation—Combine two old ideas into a new one, watch your own biases, note that stress can create the energy to accomplish things, and be aware that creating something new can make us unwilling to take the next creative step.
Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg (Penguin Random House, 2016). Reviewed by Steve Gladis, May 2016.