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How to Work Smarter, Faster, Better

Insights from Charles Duhigg’s Smarter Faster Better.

“The choices that are most powerful in generating motivation are decisions that do two things: They convince us we’re in control and they endow our actions with larger meaning.”

Charles Duhigg

We can feel in control by choosing:

  • Where to work. Coworking spaces around the globe are designed to increase efficiency and productivity; through open-spaces, plants and even sleeping pods to take breaks in.
  • How long we focus on a particular problem/task e.g working intensely for 25 minutes, 45 minutes or however much we like, as long as we are productive.
  • What we do while working e.g listening to music and sipping that fresh cup of coffee or tea.

Generate meaning by choosing to see the connection between what you do and how it:

  • Is a benefit to other people: family, friends, teammates etc.
  • Challenges you, takes you out of your comfort zone and increases your skill level. 
  • Has an end result that makes you happy.

“Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook… 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.”

Charles Duhigg

So what choices can you make today to increase your productivity?

There are three choices according to Duhigg: Choosing to increase focus, Improving Decisions, By Increasing Team Performance.

How  to Increase Focus

Before your day starts, choose to predict how it will go.

There is literature that suggests that our minds are prediction machines; that they love to know whether the predictions made are right or wrong. What this means is that if we choose to envision tomorrow, our brain will, at the end of the day, make an assessment of what it failed to predict or to simply put it; it will wonder what the heck happened during the day and why it did not see it coming.

So Duhigg says that “We aid our focus by building mental models, telling ourselves stories about what we expect to see.

You can therefore stay focused during the day by making such predictions for yourself:

  1. Given my current schedule, how much progress can I expect to make today (realistically)?
  2. What distractions or ‘little enemies of progress’ might get in my way and how will I deal with them?

How to improve decisions.

When making Decisions, choose to consider desirable and undesirable outcomes. Then determine the likelihood of each one.

Here is what Duhigg has to say about improving decision making: “Making good decisions relies on forecasting the future, but forecasting is an imprecise, often terrifying, science because it forces us to confront how much we don’t know. The paradox of learning how to make better decisions is that it requires developing comfort with doubt.”

He further adds that “Learning to think probabilistically requires us to question our assumptions and live uncertainty. To become better at predicting the future–at making good decisions–we need to know the difference between what we hope will happen and what is more and less likely to occur.”

How to increase Team Performance

When leading a team, choose to give team members the authority to make decisions.

At work, if you crave autonomy, so does your team. Choosing to empower others to make choices and creating a safe environment that promotes such initiative to do so is a sure way to work smarter, better and faster.

Duhigg argues that “by pushing decision making to whoever is closest to the problem, managers take advantage of everyone’s expertise and unlock innovation.

He further adds that “a sense of control can fuel motivation, but for that drive to produce insights and solutions, the people need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored and that their mistakes won’t be held against them.”

We recommend that you check out this book for more insights on how to work smarter, better and faster.


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