This one isn’t a thriller or fiction. It is a fascinating book. But more, below.
Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive by Charles Duhigg
In his international bestseller The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize-winner Charles Duhigg explained why we do what we do. Now he applies the same relentless curiosity and masterful analysis to the question: how can each of us achieve more?
Drawing on the very latest findings in neuroscience, psychology and behavioural economics, he demonstrates the eight simple principles that govern productivity. He demonstrates how the most dynamic and effective people – from CEOs to film-makers to software entrepreneurs – deploy them. And he shows how you can, too.
‘Charles has some wonderful advice for increasing productivity . . . the tips he highlights have most definitely played a huge part in helping me to build the Virgin brand.’ Richard Branson
‘In Smarter Faster Better Duhigg finds provocative answers to a riddle of our age: how to become more productive (by two times, or even ten times) and less busy.’ Jim Collins
‘There are valuable lessons in Smarter Faster Better . . . I never felt like putting it down.’ Financial Times
“A pleasure to read . . . [Charles] Duhigg’s skill as a storyteller makes his book so engaging to read.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Not only will Smarter Faster Better make you more efficient if you heed its tips, it will also save you the effort of reading many productivity books dedicated to the ideas inside.”—Bloomberg Businessweek
“Duhigg pairs relatable anecdotes with the research behind why some people and businesses are not as efficient as others. . . . He takes readers from inside the cockpit of a crashing plane to the writing room of Disney’s Frozen.”—Chicago Tribune
“The book covers a lot of ground through meticulous reporting and deft analysis, presenting a wide range of case studies . . . with insights that apply to the rest of us.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[Duhigg] looks at the numerous ways that people can become more effective, whether in improving motivation, setting goals, making decisions or thinking creatively . . . [He’s] an effective storyteller with a knack for combining social science, fastidious reporting and entertaining anecdotes.”—The Economist
“Engagingly written, solidly reported, thought-provoking and worth a read.”—Associated Press
“Charles Duhigg is the master of the life hack.”—GQ
“A gifted storyteller, Duhigg . . . combines his reporting skills with cutting-edge research in psychology and behavioural economics to explain why some companies and people get so much done, while some fail. Almost all books written in this genre are full of case studies and stories, but Duhigg’s storytelling skills make this book memorable and persuasive. Duhigg succeeds in challenging our mindsets and existing thought processes. It is not just another productivity book. It is about making sense of overwhelming data we live with.”—The Financial Express
“There are valuable lessons in Smarter, Faster, Better. . . . Duhigg is a terrific storyteller, and a master of the cliffhanger.”—Financial Times
“As he did in The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg melds cutting-edge science, deep reporting, and wide-ranging stories to give us a fuller, more human way of thinking about how productivity actually happens. He manages to reframe an entire cultural conversation: Being productive isn’t only about the day-to-day and to-do lists. It’s about seeing our lives as a series of choices, and learning that we have power over how we think about the world.”—Susan Cain, author of Quiet
“A brilliant distillation of the personal and organizational behaviors that produce extraordinary results. Duhigg uses engaging storytelling to highlight fascinating research and core principles that we can all learn and use in our daily lives. A masterful must-read for anyone who wants to get more (and more creative) stuff done.”—David Allen, author of Getting Things Done
“Charles Duhigg has a gift for asking just the right question, and then igniting the same curiosity in the rest of us. In Smarter Faster Better he finds provocative answers to a riddle of our age: how to become more productive (by two times, or even ten times) and less busy, how to be more effective in the world and more in control of our lives. Duhigg has rendered, yet again, a great service with his sharp, lucid prose.”—Jim Collins, author of Good to Great
About the author:
I could not resist but he’s looking a bit more grown-up in Twitter…
My name is Charles Duhigg, and I’m a reporter for The New York Times. I’m also the author of The Power of Habit, about the science of habit formation, as well as Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Productivity in Life and Business (which is available for sale on Amazon on March 8, 2016!)
I’ve worked at the Times since 2006. In 2013, I was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for a series about Apple named “The iEconomy”. Before that, I contributed to NYT series about the 2008 financial crisis, how companies take advantage of the elderly and national violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act. (For those series, I won the National Journalism Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ Medal, the National Academies’ reporting award and other recognitions.)
But let’s be honest, you aren’t visiting this page so I can brag about series and awards. (Unless you’re my mom. Hi mom!)
I’m also a native of New Mexico. I studied history at Yale and received an MBA from Harvard Business School. I now live in Brooklyn with my wife and two children and, before becoming a journalist, was a bike messenger in San Francisco for one terrifying day.
I would love to hear from you. I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK/Cornerstone for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily choose to review.
I don’t read many self-help or how-to books although recently I’ve been reading some that intrigued me and this was one of them. After all, who doesn’t want to be smarter, go faster and do things better? We all want to be productive, so the title was a big hook for me, and I imagine I’m not alone.
Charles Duhigg is the author of a very popular, well-liked and positively reviewed book, the bestseller The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change. Although I noticed that many of the reviewers mentioned his previous book and drew comparisons, I haven’t read it and I won’t be able to add to that debate. (In short, a few of the reviewers felt that this book wasn’t as good or as useful, from a practical point of view, as the previous one). After reading the comments, now I’m curious about his previous book.
But, as for Smarter Faster Better, it is a book where the author explains how he started wondering about the different levels of productivity people obtain. We all know individuals whose days seem to last more than 24 hours if we’re to judge by the amount of activities and achievements they manage to pack in. In an attempt at trying to find out how they do it, Duhigg collected studies, reviewed theories, interviewed people, checked stories… The book, which is divided into a series of chapters (Motivation, Team, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation, Absorbing Data, Appendix and Notes), consists of the discussions of some cases that Duhigg then uses to illustrate a point or theory about the particular item and its importance. On talking about motivation, Duhigg uses the case of a young man who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and eventually decided to join the Marines. He explains how their training focuses on making them attach a meaning to their chores, ask questions that remind each other of what their goal is and what they are trying to achieve, and also the importance of feeling one has a choice. In the chapter about goal setting, he asserts the importance of having two types of goals, SMART goals (we’ve all read about those) but also stretch goals, overarching goals that look at something bigger, as, otherwise, we might end up with a list of tiny little achievable goals that don’t build up to anything. I enjoyed the examples used (that include, among other: the Toyota way of running a factory, focused on making people feel free to report mistakes and also share their ideas for innovations, teachers’ creative use of data about their students to transform a failing school into a successful one, and also include the use of mental images by airline pilots that help them make the right decisions when things go wrong), and the hypotheses and advice make sense to me. The book is well written, and although some examples and cases will feel more relevant to some people than others, there is a big variety and I personally thought they all made interesting points and some were fascinating, to say the least.
Some of the reviewers complained about the fact that the book is not very practical. The author includes, in the appendix ‘A Reader’s Guide to Using These Ideas’ (I wonder if this is in response to comments or it had always been there) that summarises the concepts in the book, and applies them to the author’s difficulties finishing this book. This summary sets up some of the points as more relevant to individuals, and some to companies or teams. I’ve noticed that there’s a summary of the book available for sale separately (here), and I wonder if it might consist mostly of this part of the book (as it says: ‘in less than 30 minutes’). Although I guess the advice can be found there, what makes the book memorable, at least for me, are the stories and that ties in with one of the points in the book about absorbing data. The absorption and understanding of data can be increased by creating disfluency, by having to work with it and making it less accessible. That obliges us to engage with the data and to make it ours, to make it matter to us and to find ways of using it that might not be evident or interesting to others. Therefore, if you have to read the book and go through the case studies, you might appreciate other points of the stories and remember the cases as they are relevant to you, rather than trying to remember a point as a headline with no context. So yes, if you can and are interested in the topic, I would advise reading the whole book (and it isn’t quite as long as it looks like, as there are detailed notes about the studies at the end that take up the last 33% of the book). If you have doubts, you can always check a sample of the book. But if you just want a taster, I share a quote:
Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. It’s about making certain decisions in certain ways. The way we choose to see our own lives; the stories we tell ourselves, and the goals we push ourselves to spell out in detail; the culture we establish among teammates; the ways we frame our choices and manage the information in our lives. Productive people and companies force themselves to make choices most other people are content to ignore. Productivity emerges when people push themselves to think differently.
I’m not sure if this book will make a massive difference to my productivity, but it has made me reflect on a number of things and I’m sure I’ll keep thinking about it for a long time. If I had to choose a point in particular, I’d say it has made me think about team and group dynamics, and I particularly liked the concept of ‘psychological safety’ (a “shared belief, held by members of a team, that the group is a safe place for taking risks”). If only…
In summary, an inspiring book, full of cases and stories that deserve to be read in their own right and concepts and suggestions that will mean different things to different people. It’s not a quick read or a ‘follow these few steps and you’ll be more productive’ kind of book, but it’s a well-written, researched and thought-out book that might help us understand better what makes us tick.
Thanks to NetGalley and to the publishers for the book, thanks to all of you for reading and don’t forget to like, share, comment and CLICK!