Smarter Better Faster - Charles Duhigg

1. Introduction

Who doesn’t want to be smarter, faster, and better? I know I do, and if you’re reading this summary, then you probably do as well. Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg dives into deep productivity tactics with teaching examples. Everything from goal setting to innovation is covered in this book. If you are looking for an easy way to inspire yourself to reach higher and to make a better, stronger version of yourself, well, this is the place to start!

My Top 25 Golden Nuggets from Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

1. Productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways. Productivity isn’t always black and white – it’s the finest shade of grey, and this book will help you understand why.)

2. Motivation is triggered by making choices that demonstrate to ourselves that we are in control. It’s hard to stay motivated when feeling out of control.

3. Complimenting students for hard work reinforces their belief that they have control over themselves and their surroundings. Who doesn’t like being complimented for their hard work?

4. Complimenting students on their intelligence activates an external locus of control.

5. Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge. Try to have meaning behind everything you do and see how motivation manifests from that. You’ll be surprised how a bit of purpose can change your performance.

6. In the age of automation, knowing how to manage your focus is more critical than ever before. Accomplishing this feat can lead to major advantages in daily information overloads.

7. Reactive thinking is at the core of how we allocate our attention, and in many settings, it’s a tremendous asset. Sometimes, we just need to stop and focus on the latest bit of new information.

8. To become genuinely productive, we must take control of our attention. Are you distributing your attention in the right places?

9. Get in a pattern of forcing yourself to anticipate what’s next. Getting in the habit of thinking ahead can be a huge advantage.

10. All of us crave closure to some degree, and that’s good, because a basic level of personal organization is a prerequisite for success. Don’t let disorganization distract you from the most important things in life.

11. An instinct for decisiveness is great–until it’s not.

12. When we’re overly focused on feeling productive, we become blind to details that should give us pause. Focus is great, but sometimes taking a step back is necessary.

13. If you put people in a position to succeed, they will. Unfortunately, this isn’t happening in the workplace as much as it should.

14. 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. Power and trust can lead to major productivity.

15. Many successful people, in contrast, spend an enormous amount of time seeking out information from failures. Learn from failures so you don’t become one. By spending time appreciating where others have gone wrong, you can avoid making those same, critical mistakes.

16. “People connected across groups are more familiar with alternative ways of thinking and behaving.” -Sociologist Ronald Burt

17. “When strong ideas take root, they can sometimes crowd out competitors so thoroughly that alternatives can’t prosper. Try to hear out EVERY idea before making a decision. Action without all the facts can lead to mistakes that are going to hold you back in the long term.

18. Creativity can’t be reduced to a formula. Sure, some people are more creative than others, but there’s no way to tell which employees will produce the next best creative idea.

19. When information is made disfluent, we learn more. Information that is very straightforward can be harder to retain due to its simplicity.

20. When we encounter new information and want to learn from it, we should force ourselves to do something with the data. What’s the point of learning something if you aren’t going to have a use for it?

21. Smartphones, websites, digital databases, and apps put information at our fingertips. However, this information only becomes useful if we know how to make sense of it. Technology makes information accessible now more than ever, but we still need to master comprehension of what we’re learning.

22. Self-motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper values and goals. This is how I stay self-motivated.

23. Make a choice that puts you in control. Do it and watch your productivity soar. The right choice that allows us to be the master of our own destiny can be the one that makes us more productive than ever before.

24. Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. In my view, this should be the actual definition of productivity.

25. Sometimes you have to foster tension to encourage creativity. This is an interesting tactic that has worked for me in the past.

My Personal Takeaway from Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

One of my favorite takeaways from this book is what Duhigg calls “The Goal-Setting Flowchart”.

Here’s how it goes:

1. What Is Your Stretch Goal? (A Stretch goal is defined by the Business Dictionary as a goal “that cannot be achieved by incremental or small improvements but requires extending oneself to the limit to be actualized”).

2. What Is A Specific Subgoal?

3. How Will You Measure Success?

4. Is This Achievable?

5. Is This Realistic?

6. What Is Your Timeline?

Goals, especially long-term goals, shouldn’t be black and white. Putting too much simplicity on your goals can make them much harder to achieve than is necessary. While there is no need to complicate these goals, you should be prepared for bumps in the road towards your target.

Unfiltered feedback within teams in certain businesses is another valuable lesson learned. There are numerous examples in the book where the culture of a business allows for honest communication/feedback without any type of repercussion. You’ll get to see for yourself how therapeutic this can be for a business to go through.

I believe any business that welcomes open communication is doing it right. Research from Yale, Harvard, Berkeley, and the University of Oregon actually suggests that “group norms play a critical role in shaping the emotional experience of participating in a team.”

Lastly, I want to talk about failure. If you didn’t know already, I am a huge fan of learning from your “mess ups” and believe it is crucial. Even better, learning from other people’s failure as stated in Takeaway #15, “Many successful people, in contrast, spend an enormous amount of time seeking out information on failures.”

Failure isn’t the end – it’s the beginning of your path to success!

Go ahead and take a few of these nuggets and work to implement them into your everyday routine. After a week or two, see if you’re any smarter, faster, or better in your business or at your job. I am very curious to hear your results. Please let me know!


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Anthony Perez
My name is Anthony Perez. I'm the creator of Book Success. I always believed in self-education. By absorbing the thoughts and ideas of the smartest individuals on this planet, you can truly move forward in life. My mission is to deliver these key insights to you. In that way, you can grow and prosper in all life areas.Besides my passion for reading, I help individuals build their brand online. Feel free to say hi on social!