Five Ways To Be More Productive (From An Expert)
Illustration by Mr Joe McKendry
Clever tips on how to maximise your time from Mr Charles Duhigg’s new book <i>Smarter Better Faster</i>.
As a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter, Mr Charles Duhigg has always known a thing or two about getting stuff done. But since writing Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets Of Being Productive – where he learned from the likes of Google, Disney and the armed forces – he has become a bona fide expert. Here are his top five tips.
People generate motivation by feeling like they’re in control. Make any chore into a choice. If you have a bunch of emails to read, reply to each with half a sentence where you assert some kind of control or opinion. If someone asks you to join their meeting, you could say: “Sure, I can join your meeting, but I’m going to show up at 10.00am and leave by 10.15am.”
I spoke to a professor who said his least favourite activity was grading students’ papers. So he’d say to himself: “By grading their papers, I help them get through their courses. They pay tuition fees to the university, and the university pays for my cancer research, which saves lives. So the reason I’m doing this is because it helps me save lives.”
A to-do list should be a way of forcing deeper thought into your day. Put a “stretch goal” at the top of your page. A “stretch goal” could be as easy as writing a memo, or as hard as writing a plan for getting a new job. This can be overwhelming, so write out “smart [Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely] goals” underneath – what you want to get done, how you’re going to measure it, what it will take to make it realistic, which resources you need, and what the timeline is.
How do you make teams more productive? Create psychological safety, where everybody feels like they can speak up, and people are attuned to other people. If you have an environment where there are no negative consequences to speaking up, people tend to say interesting things.
The key to productivity is making good decisions. People who make very good decisions are more comfortable engaging in probabilistic thinking. This means they can imagine multiple outcomes and what influences the odds of one of them becoming true. Most people remember their successes better than their failures so their intuition suffers. The most successful entrepreneurs don’t sugar-coat their past.