Smarter Faster Better – Charles Duhigg

Here are my comments on the book:

How do we do things smarter, faster, and better? To Charles Duhigg, American author of non-fiction books and journalist/reporter for the New York Times, it’s all about making certain choices in certain ways. Contrary to what most people think, productivity isn’t about having the latest and greatest app on our phone that can help us multi-task better (multi-tasking has been disproven), or to aid us in better keeping track of appointments, lists, and to-does. Rather, productivity comes from the decisions that you make on how you execute to get work done. Duhigg dives into eight different ways, each with their own chapter, to become more productive in life and at work. Here are some of the points to the book:

 

1. Have you ever lost the motivation to do something? It could perhaps be that you feel that you don’t have much control over the situation or outcome. A lot of the times this is why people’s productivity at work diminishes, they feel as if they don’t have any control in the outcome or that their input doesn’t matter. No one wants to do a job in which their opinions or methods of handling a situation or task isn’t valid or perhaps even rejected. Find a way to take back that control and that motivation may follow. People who know how to self-motivate, according to studies, earn more money than their peers, report higher levels of happiness, and say they are more satisfied with their families, jobs, and lives. Self-help books and leadership manuals often portray self-motivation as a static feature of our personality or the outcome of a neurological calculus in which we subconsciously compare efforts versus rewards. But scientists say motivation is more complicated than that. Motivation is more like a skill, akin to reading or writing, that can be learned and honed. Scientists have found that people can get better at self-motivation if they practice the right way. The trick, researchers say, is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control.

 

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2. Working with others is sometimes necessary to get things done. So why not learn to work well with them to get even better work done? If and when you have the choice to assemble a team or a group you’d like to work with, make sure that you choose people who, regardless of their ranking or position relative to yours, value social sensitivity and that they allow for an equal voice in the decisions. No one likes working in a group where they aren’t valued or when they voice their opinions, it becomes discounted. It’s not the teams with the most experience, expertise, or knowledge that thrives necessarily, it’s the teams that are able to better synergize. For psychological safety to emerge among a group, teammates don’t have to be friends. They do, however, need to be socially sensitive and ensure everyone feels heard. ‘The best tactic for establishing psychological safety is demonstration by a team leader,’ as Amy Edmondson, who is now a professor at Harvard Business School, told me. ‘It seems like fairly minor suff, but when the leader goes out of their way to make someone feel listened to, or starts a meeting by saying, ‘I might miss something, so I need all of you to watch for my mistakes,’ or says ‘Jim, you haven’t spoken in a while, what do you think?,’ that makes a huge difference.’ In Edmondson’s hospital studies, the teams with the highest levels of psychological safety were also the ones with leaders most likely to model listening and social sensitivity. They invited people to speak up. They talked about their own emotions. They didn’t interrupt other people. When someone was concerned or upset, they showed the group that it was okay to intervene. They tried to anticipate how people would react and then worked to accommodate those reactions. This is how teams encourage people to disagree while still being honest with one another and occasionally clashing. This is how psychological safety emerges: by giving everyone an equal voice and encouraging social sensitivity among teammates.”

 

3. Make sure that you have a backup plan and that everyone involved in it thoroughly knows it. Everyone at some point in time has either experienced or will experience a failed plan. The difference between those who are able to pivot out from it is that they have a detailed plan that they can execute. The better you prepare yourself for all alternatives, the better you are able to streamline the work. Today, Qantas Flight 32 is taught in flight schools and psychology classrooms as a case study of how to maintain focus during an emergency. It is cited as one of the prime examples of how mental models can put even the most dire situations within our control. Mental models help us by providing a scaffold for the torrent of information that constantly surrounds us. Models help us choose where to direct our attention so we can make decisions, rather than just react. The Air France pilots didn’t have strong mental models, and so when tragedy struck, they didn’t know where to focus. De Crespigny and his copilots, in contrast, were telling themselves stories-and testing and revisiting them-even before they stepped onto the plane, and so they were prepared when disaster occurred. We may not recognize how situations within our own lives are similar to what happens within an airplane cockpit. But think, for a moment, about the pressures you face each day. If you are in a meeting and the CEO suddenly asks you for an opinion, your mind is likely to snap from passive listening to active involvement-and if you’re not careful, a cognitive tunnel might prompt you to say something you regret. If you are juggling multiple conversations and tasks at once and an important email arrives, reactive thinking can cause you to type a reply before you’ve really thought out what you want to say.

 

4. Become better at forecasting the future better by learning from both failures and successes. By learning from both successes and failures, you get a better understanding of what worked and what didn’t. This, ultimately, is one of the most important secrets to learning how to make better decisions. Making good choices relies on forecasting the future. Accurate forecasting requires exposing ourselves to as many successes and disappointments as possible. We need to sit in crowded and empty theatres to know how movies will perform; we need to spend time around both babies and old people to accurately gauge life spans; and we need to talk to thriving and failing colleagues to develop good business instincts. This is hard, because success is easier to stare at. People tend to avoid asking friends who were just fired rude questions; we’re hesitant to interrogate divorced colleagues about what precisely went wrong. But calibrating your base rate requires learning from both the accomplished and the humbled. So the next time a friend misses out on a promotion, ask him why. The next time a deal falls through, call up the other side to find out what you did wrong. The next time you have a bad day or you snap at your spouse, don’t simply tell yourself that things will go better next time. Instead, force yourself to really figure out what happened. Then use those insights to forecast more potential futures, to dream up more possibilities of what might occur. You’ll never know with 100 percent certainty how things will turn out. But the more you force yourself to envision potential futures, the more you learn about which assumptions are certain or flimsy, the better your odds of making a great decision next time.

 

By Ryan Lee

 

My rating:
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Check out the book here:

Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK

 

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