Secrets of Being Productive

Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, is back with another book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. This is another well researched book full of scientific research but told in compelling stories.

Duhigg is a talented writer, but I’m not 100% sure that he always hits his point. However, we can learn about motivation, decision-making, power of teams, focus, goal setting (something I’ve learned to shun, but that’s another topic for another day), and more.

I’m only half-way through the book, but I’ve gleaned some insights for personal development.

He leads with motivation. We think of motivation as either something people are born with or something an authority figure forces people into.

Motivation is more like a skill, akin to reading or writing, that can be learned and honed. Scientists have found that people can get better at self-motivation if they practice the right way. The trick, researchers say, is realizing that a prerequisite to motivation is believing we have authority over our actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves, we must feel like we are in control.

Duhigg tells stories as examples such as residents in a “nursing home” who thrive by rebelling against the immense set of rules and restrictions. They rearranged their rooms out of the standard configuration. And when cabinets were fastened to the wall, they found crowbars and tore them loose.

One way to prove to ourselves that we are in control is by making decisions.

Duhigg describes how the Marine Corp. changed its training to force recruits to make decisions. As they made decisions, they gained confidence.

I read this and thought about how in just about my entire life I’ve been just slightly rebellious. I could talk about one of my brothers being more rebellious, but he reads this blog, so I can’t tell stories šŸ˜‰

But I almost never went over a line into open rebellion. And you could play Freudian psychologist and probe my relationships with my father or mother. Good luck with that. But I have always been determined to go my own way.

I lost motivation at university when I discovered that I’d never be actually designing and building electronic circuits. That is what I did on my own as a high school kid (instead of studying Latin like I should have been). So, I just said I’ll go elsewhere. Eventually I got deeply involved with computers and a whole career opened.

That was mild. I basically formed my own curriculum at the university–philosophy, literature, politics, math, languages, accounting (huh?), writing. And it was all to my later benefit. But my professor who approved all this kept asking my what my major was. “Getting out of school with a degree,” I’d reply

We should applaud a child who shows defiant, self-righteous stubbornness and reward a student who finds a way to get things done by working around the rules.

It served me well. And I was introverted in my rebelliousness. Even today. But something to think about even as an adult. Motivation is a learned skill that we hone by making our own decisions.

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