8 most productive ideas linked to improving productivity

“Never mistake motion for action” – Ernest Hemingway #MondayMorningWakeUpCall

‘Productivity’ is often interpreted in different ways by different people. One person might spend an hour exercising in the morning before heading off to work consider the morning productive while another might use that time meditating and a third might consider an extra half hour of sleeping in productive.

Charles Duhigg, in his latest book, Smarter Faster Better, defines productivity, simply as, “the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.” Smarter_faster_better_book_summary

And in his attempt to deconstruct why some people are more productive than others, his conclusion, through extensive research, is that “productivity is not about working more or sweating harder. And it’s definitely not a product of spending longer hours at your desk or making bigger sacrifices. Rather productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways.”

His book Smarter Faster Better explores eight ideas that seem most important in expanding productivity and is about how to recognize the choices that fuel true productivity through these eight ideas.

Here are the eight ideas, and the choices you can make around them, to help you become smarter, better and faster at everything you do (if you apply them).

  1. Motivation
    1. You are more likely to be motivated if you are given the opportunities to make choices that provide you with a sense of autonomy
    2. If you can link something hard to something that you care about, it makes the task easier. Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge
  2. Teams
    1. Teams need to believe that their work is important
    2. Teams need to believe that their work is personally meaningful
    3. Teams need clear goals and defined roles
    4. Team members need to know that they can depend on one another
    5. Most important, teams need psychological safety. To create psychological safety, team leaders need to model the right behavior
  3. Focus
    1. To be able to stay focused and calm amidst chaotic environments, develop the ability to build mental models, envision what will happen before hand. Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what’s next.
      1. Think through what will occur first? What are potential outcomes? How will you preempt them? Telling yourself a story about what you expect to occur makes it easier to decide where your focus should go when your plan encounters real life
    2. “The key is forcing yourself to think. As long as you’re thinking, you’re half way home”
  4. Goal-setting
    1. SMART goals need to be combined with ‘stretch’ goals
    2. SMART goals force people to translate vague aspirations into concrete plans.. it’s the difference between hoping something comes true and figuring how to do it. However, they can cause
      1. Person to have tunnel vision, to focus more on expanding effort to get immediate results
      2. You get on a mindset where crossing things off your to-do list becomes more important than asking yourself if you’re doing the right things
    3. Stretch goals are defined as “If you do know how to get there, it’s not a stretch target”. Numerous studies have shown that forcing people to commit to ambitious, seemingly out-of-reach objectives can spark outsized jumps in innovation and productivity.
      1. Stretch goals serve as jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking rather than the tunnel vision of SMART goals
      2. Important caveat to stretch goals: If a stretch goal is audacious, it can spark innovation. However, it can cause panic and convince people that success is impossible because the goal is too big. There is a fine line between an ambition that helps people achieve something amazing and one that crushes morale

5. Managing Others

  1. Push decision making to whoever is closest to the problem
  2. Lean and agile management techniques tell us employees work smarter and better when they believe they have more decision-making authority and when they believe their colleagues are committed to their success
  3. People need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored and that their mistakes won’t be held against them

6. Decision Making

  1. Envision multiple futures (probabilistic thinking) to make better decisions and
  2. Develop your Bayesian instincts (intuition)

7. Innovation

  1. A method to jump-start the creative process – taking proven, conventional ideas from other settings and combining them in new way is remarkably effective. Most original ideas grow out of old concepts and the building blocks of new ideas are often embodied in existing knowledge (previously known ideas mixed together in different ways…in a manner no one had considered before) especially transferring knowledge between different industries or groups
  2. Be sensitive to your own experiences. Pay attention to how things make you think and feel. That’s how we distinguish clichés from true insights. (Steve Jobs – “Best designers are those who have thought more about their experiences than other people”)
  3. Create a little bit of chaos. A little disturbance can jolt us out of the ruts

8. Absorbing Data

  1. You can absorb data better by forcing yourself to do something with the new information you’ve just encountered
    1. Write yourself a note explaining what you just learned
    2. Figure out a small way to test an idea
    3. Graph a series of data points onto a piece of paper
    4. Force yourself to explain an idea to a friend

So move over citius, altius, fortius and make way for smarter, faster, better.

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