Smarter Faster Better looks at productivity and how really effective people actually achieve more. The author looks beyond the busy churn to identify powerful habits for being effective, regardless of your sphere of life.
Duhigg makes an important distinction between looking productive and actually being productive. He writes:
There are some people who pretend at productivity, whose resumes appear impressive until you realize their greatest talent is self marketing.
And there’s so much of modern online life in a nutshell, hm?
So we have to be sure that we aren’t using our To Do list as “mood repair” but rather that we are doing the right things in the first place.
How do we do this? Duhigg identifies several important habits for being truly productive:
- Paying attention. Duhigg suggests managing your focus and attention by narrating your life as you go. Can he have been reading Charlotte Mason, or is that just a coincidence? 🙂
- Self-motivation. People who realize that they have agency and can make choices are more effective than people who let life happen to them.
- Wisely allocating energy. Effectiveness isn’t about doing something with every second of every day. It’s about doing the right things at the right time with the right energy.
- Performing scenario analysis. In my pre-kids job, I did a lot of this sort of exercise: given what we know, what might happen in the future? Considering a worst case, best case, and middle ground possibility helps people make better choices and be more mindful of subtle changes to the status quo. Rather than making the false binary choices that our brains naturally like (you can have this OR this), envisioning alternate outcomes allows you to see situations more clearly.
I thought this book was helpful and a good reminder, although it used examples and conclusions that I have–for the most part–read elsewhere. It’s good to read information from different angles. So I’d recommend Smarter Faster Better if you like the habits/goals/life purpose genre, although I wouldn’t say it was life-changing on its own.
If you read the book–or if you have thoughts on productivity outside Duhigg’s examples–I’d be interested to know which habits you think characterize truly effective people?
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