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Smarter Faster Better

Updated: Aug 11, 2020

The transformative power of REAL productivity

Andrea Seydel Live Life Happy Unconventional Book Club Highlight

Charles Duhigg the Author of The power of habit, combines cutting edge productivity and the neuroscience of how we learn. He takes us through eight concepts to expand productivity that include innovation, motivation, mental models, and the correct way to set goals. He explores the habits and routines that put real productivity within closer reach.

Smarter Faster Better is based on the science of productivity. Productivity means different things to different people but ultimately it is the name that we give our attempt to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least amount of effort.

1. Motivation

Research shows when people believe they are in control they tend to work harder and push themselves more. Making decision is one way we prove we are in control and enhances self efficacy. Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control. Also see choices as expression of control, but also affirmations of goals and values.

If you can link something hard to a choice you care about, it makes the task easer. Make a choice into a meaningful decision (why) and self motivation will emerge.

TIPS FOR MOTIVATION: Increase locus of control, prove to ourselves that choices are meaningful, connect small tasks into bigger picture, take a moment to ask WHY? eg. Why am I forcing myself to run up this hill? Why am I returning these emails? Why am I folding this laundry?

2. Teams

Any group over time develops group norms, or collective norms about appropriate behaviour. But with Teams you need to give up some control which can affect motivation and productivity. There needs to be trust, effective listening, support and inclusion.

Strong teams encouraged open communication and admit mistakes and weak teams discrouaged it. Strong teams showed enthusiasm and loyalty. In science they call it psychological safety- a shared belief held by members of the team that the group is a safe place to take risk, that the team will not embarrass punish or reject a team member. e.g. Saturday night live cast gelled. There is No "I" In TEAM expression, it's is a bunch of "I's" together. Studies show we have to manage the the how of teams not the who. Forming a collective intelligence. Psychological safety begins with the team's leader.

3. Focus

Automation is in nearly every aspect of our lives. But as Automation becomes more common the risks the our attention spans will fail has risen. Also cognitive tunnelling with reactive thinking and mental models are other challenge to focus. The key is forcing yourself to think.

Our attention span is guided by our intentions. We choose to focus on the spot light or let it be relaxed. Automation dim the spotlight. Cognitive channeling narrows the spotlight and mental models dim the spotlight. We can get better at focus. TIPS FOR FOCUS: Get into the habit of narrating your life as it's occurring, control where your attention is going, build mental models that put you in charge, force yourself to envision your day while driving, talk to yourself about what you are seeing, talk with others and hear them, anticipate what's next, what others will say next, decide what deserves your attention.

4. Goal Setting

As humans we crave closure, in science it's called cognitive closure. To make a decision and stick with it and to move on to the next question feels productive. Too high need for closure has a downside. Instinct for closure has multiple components: Need to seize and commit to projects or a goal, urge to freeze and debate question or second guess. Typical System called SMART Gaols: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timeline. Academic studies show the power of Stretch goals and how they serve as jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking. Stretch Goals: Dream big and stretch. Goals are still audacious but within the realm of possibility. Break stretch goals into SMART components or concrete steps.

TIPS FOR GOAL SETTING: write down stretch goal, then a specific subgoal, apply SMART, list all small tasks needed to meet stretch goal, against timeline, change TO DO lists to tasks matching up with stretch goals

5. Decision Making

Learning to think probabilistically requires us to question our assumptions and be uncertain. A good decision maker, we need to know the difference between what we hope to happen and what is more or less likely to occur.

Our assumptions are based on experiences, but they are often biased examples. For example we are more likely to remember successes and forget failures. Research shows successful people seek out informations on failures. Force yourself to really look at what happened in failure, for future better decision making.

6. Innovation

Human creativity is just problem solving. when strong ideas take root it can crowd out other good ideas, sometimes the best way to spark creativity is by disturbing things enough to let some light in. Creativity needs novelty, surprise, and other elements that cannot be planned. Creativity come from old ideas mixed into new ways, from being in a new perspective, don't let creativity blind out other ideas and potential.

7. Absorbing Data

The amount of information embedded in our daily lies has skyrocket. But we have not increased our ability to absorb and cerated information blindness.

Best way to absorb data is to use disfluencey- transform what life throws at you. Do something or manipulate the information in some way. Use information and or take action on the information in some way. TIPS TO ABSORB DATA: Do something with the data right away, look at every choice as a experiment, make sense of data for you.


Smarter Faster Better is based on the science of productivity. Productivity means different things to different people but ultimately it is the name that we give our attempt to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least amount of effort. All his tips put real productivity within closer reach!!

For a highlight of this book listen to my Live Life Happy Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts or visit

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