Tag Archives: Productivity

The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles that Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor

Summary
  1. Most of us are taught from a young age that if you work hard you will become successful, and once you become successful, then you’ll be happy. The only problem is that this formula is flawed and we know today that happiness is the precursor to success, not merely the result
Key Takeaways
  1. The 7 Principles
    1. The Happiness Advantage – because positive brains have a biological advantage over brains that are neutral or negative, this principle teaches us how to retain our brains to capitalize on positivity and improve our productivity and performance
      1. Meditate
      2. Find something to look forward to
      3. Commit conscious acts of kindness
      4. Infuse positivity into your surroundings
      5. Exercise
      6. Spend money on other people and experiences (but not on stuff)
      7. Exercise a signature strength (do what you’re good at)
    2. The Fulcrum and the Lever – how we experience the world, and our ability to succeed within it, constantly changes based on our mindset. This principle teaches us how we can adjust our mindset (fulcrum) in a way that gives us the power (the lever) to be more fulfilled and successful
      1. The trick is to stop thinking of the world as fixed when reality is, in truth, relative.
      2. Have a growth rather than a fixed mindset
    3. The Tetris Effect – when our brains get stuck in a pattern that focuses on stress, negativity and failure, we set ourselves up to fail. This principle teaches us how to retrain our brains to spot patterns of possibility, so we can see – and seize – opportunity wherever we look
      1. When we train our brains to constantly look for and focus on the positive, we profit from three of the most important tools available to us – happiness, gratitude and optimism
      2. This habit, like any other habit, takes time and hard work to make second nature 
    4. Falling Up – in the midst of defeat, stress and crisis, our brains map different paths to help us cope. This principle is about finding the mental path that not only leads us up out of failure or suffering, but teaches us to be happier and more successful because of it 
      1. There is always a “third path upwards” and your only task is to find it. Success is not about never failing, it is about getting back up, using our downward momentum to propel ourselves in the opposite direction. With this skill, you can capitalize on setbacks and adversity to become even happier, even more motivated and even more successful
    5. The Zorro Circle – when challenges loom and we get overwhelmed, our rational brains can get hijacked by emotions. This principle teaches us how to regain control by focusing first on small, manageable goals, and then gradually expanding our circle to achieve bigger and bigger ones
      1. Small successes can add up to major achievements and they all begin with focusing on one small, manageable circle/goal/task at a time
    6. The 20 Second Rule – sustaining lasting change often feels impossible because our willpower is limited. And when willpower fails, we fall back on our old habits and succumb to the path of least resistance. This principle shows that by making small energy adjustments we can reroute the path of least resistance and replace bad habits with good ones
      1. Willpower is ineffective for sustaining change because it gets worn out as it is a limited resource. Humans are energy saving creatures and will always tend towards the path of least resistance. What you have to do is lower the “activation energy” for habits you want to adopt and raise it for habits you want to avoid. The easier, more visible, more palpable the habit, the more likely you are to follow through
      2. The key to creating good habits is ritual and repeated practice until the actions become ingrained in your brain’s neural chemistry. And the key to daily practice is to put your desired actions as close to the path of least resistance as possible. Identify the activation energy – the time, the choices, the mental and physical effort they require – and then reduce them as much as possible
    7. Social Investments – in the midst of challenges and stress, some people choose to hunker down and retreat within themselves. But the most successful people invest in their friends, peers and family members to propel themselves forward. This principle teaches us how to invest more in one of the greatest predictors of success and excellence – our social support network
      1. Spend quality time with a group of people you respect, who push you and who can anchor you during difficult times. These relationships must be fostered even during your most stressful, difficult times
    8. These 7 principles are not only great for you personally but become multiplicative when their ripples influence others to change and adopt happier, healthier habits and lifestyles.
What I got out of it
  1. A good, quick read on some basic principles to achieve happiness. The importance of investing in strong social ties, especially when you’re down and vulnerable and how perception is your reality

Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg

Summary
  1. “Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook. It’s about making certain decisions in certain ways. The way we choose to see our own lives; the stories we tell ourselves, and the goals we push ourselves to spell out in detail; the ways we frame our choices and manage the information in our lives. 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. This is a book about how to become smarter, faster, and better at everything you do.”
Key Takeaways
  1. Productivity is 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. It’s a process of learning how to succeed with less stress and struggle. It’s about getting things done without sacrificing everything we care about along the way
  2. One of goals is to reframe problems in order to notice the hidden opportunities and to open our minds to new, creative connections
  3. Motivation
    1. Motivation is a skill which can be learned and honed and the trick is realizing you have authority over your actions and surroundings. To motivate ourselves we must feel like we are in control. The specific choice we make matters less than the assertion of control
    2. To improve motivation in children, improve their internal locus of control – praise hard work over smarts or outcome
    3. Marines improved motivation of recruits by training them to have a ‘bias for action’ – leads to an internal locus of control. Praise people for doing things that are hard and make the compliment unexpected
    4. Motivation becomes easier when we transform a chore into a choice. Doing so gives us a sense of control
    5. Self-motivation becomes easier when we see our choices as affirmations of our deeper values and goals
      1. The author motivated himself by writing why it was important to him to finish the task at hand. Understanding the why makes it much easier to start and stay motivated
    6. A single-minded devotion to an idea can spur massive change (but this type of fanatical devotion can also backfire)
    7. Sometimes a misstep is the most important footfall along the path to success
  4. Teams
    1. Manage the how, not the who of teams. Psychological safety emerges when everyone feels like they can speak in roughly equal measure and when teammates show they are sensitive to how each other feel (empathy)
      1. How teams work often matters much more than who is on them. The desire for a superstar is a myth – totally average people with great group dynamics can do things superstars never could
    2. If you are leading a team, think about the message your choices reveal. Are you encouraging equality in speaking, or rewarding the loudest people? Are you showing you are listening by repeating what people say and replying to questions and thoughts? Are you demonstrating sensitivity by reacting when someone seems upset or flustered? Are you showcasing that sensitivity so other people will follow your lead?
    3. Good managers – are good coaches, empower others and do not micromanage, express interest and concern in subordinates’ success and well-being, are results oriented, listen and share information, help with career development, have a clear vision and strategy, have key technical skills
    4. Group norms play a critical role in shaping the emotional experience of participating in a team – freedom to speak up, free to expose vulnerabilities, suggest ideas without fear of retribution, no harsh judgments. All behaviors which create a sense of togetherness while also encouraging people to take a chance  (psychological safety)
      1. Allowing others to fail without repercussions, respecting divergent opinions, feeling free to question others’ choices but also trusting that people aren’t trying to undermine you
    5. Great leaders have the uncanny ability to make people feel like they are the most important people on earth
  5. Focus
    1. We aid our focus by building mental models – telling ourselves stories – about what we expect to see. Having a detailed picture in mind of how the plan is supposed to unfold helps you make choices and direct focus better
      1. The author would sit down Sunday nights and write down what he expected to happen the following day and week
        1. What will happen first? What distractions are likely to occur? How will you handle that distraction? How will you know you’ve succeeded? What is necessary for success? What will you do next?
    2. In the age of automation, knowing how to manage your focus is more critical than ever before (deep work – chunks of time where you focus on one task without interruption)
    3. Cognitive tunneling – mental glitch that sometimes happens when our brains have to quickly transition from relaxed automation to panicked attention. Brain focuses on the most obvious stimuli, even if it’s not the best choice
    4. Our attention span is guided by our intentions
    5. Superstars focus on fewer things at once (typically less than 5) – proactively seeking out new opportunities to work with new colleagues and hone new skills and take the ‘risk’ of joining projects in their infancy stage. They also tended to come up with a large amount of theories to try to explain why things were happening, trying to figure out how information fits together
    6. When we’re overly focused on being productive, we become blind to details that should give us pause
  6. Goal Setting
    1. You need a stretch goal, something to spark big ambitions and you need a SMART goal (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, (reasonable) timeline), to help you form a concrete plan
      1. At the top of to-do lists, write the overarching ambition, what you are working toward in the long-term and underneath describe a subgoal and all its SMART components, forcing self to come up with a plan and be more likely to achieve your goal
      2. Stretch goals are jolting events that disrupt complacency and promote new ways of thinking – fine line between a goal which is too big and crushes morale and one which inspires
  7. Managing Others
    1. 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
    2. By pushing decision making to whoever is closest to a problem, managers take advantage of everyone’s expertise and unlock innovation – decentralize decision making
    3. People need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored and that their mistakes won’t be held against them
    4. A commitment culture, one which is totally committed to its employees, customers and other stakeholders outperformed every other type of management style in pretty much every meaningful way. This mindset establishes a sense of trust between workers, managers, customers and other stakeholders. They avoided layoffs. They invest heavily in training with higher levels of teamwork and psychological safety. Valued making employees happy over quick profits. Long-term thinking and decision making
  8. Decision Making
    1. Envision multiple futures and then force yourself to figure out which ones are most likely and why (probabilistic thinking). By anticipating futures, you are much better prepared to make wiser decisions
      1. At the heart of this is the importance of making decisions in a deliberate fashion
    2. Can hone our Bayesian instincts by seeking out different experiences, perspectives and other people’s ideas. By finding information and then letting ourselves sit with it, options become clearer
    3. Think of losses as experiments – experiences to be learned from
    4. Learning how to make better decisions via probabilistic thinking requires our developing a comfort with doubt
    5. Probabilistic thinking is the ability to hold multiple, conflicting outcomes in your mind and estimate their relative likelihoods. The most successful are most comfortable admitting to themselves what they don’t know
    6. Probabilities are the closest thing to fortune-telling but you have to be strong enough to live with what they tell you might occur
    7. One of the biggest secrets to learning to make better decisions is accurate forecasts and this means exposing yourself to as many successes and disappointments as possible
    8. The people who make the best choices are the ones who work the hardest to envision various futures, to write them down and think them through and then ask themselves, which ones do I think are most likely and why?
  9. Innovation
    1. Creativity often emerges by combining old ideas in new ways and “innovation brokers” are key. To become a broker yourself and encourage brokerage within your organization:
      1. Be sensitive to your own experiences. Paying attention to how things make you think and feel is how we distinguish cliches from real insights. Study your own emotional reactions
      2. Recognize that the stress that emerges amid the creative process isn’t a sign everything is falling apart. Rather, creative desperation is often critical – anxiety can be what often pushes us to see old ideas in new ways
      3. Remember that the relief accompanying a creative breakthrough, while sweet, can also blind us to alternatives. By forcing ourselves to critique what we’ve already done, by making ourselves look at it from different perspectives, by giving new authority to someone who didn’t have it before, we retain clear eyes
    2. Creativity is simply connecting things – taking old ideas but combining them in ways never thought of before
    3. So much of the creative process relies on achieving distance and not becoming overly attached to your creation
    4. When strong ideas take root, they can sometimes crowd out competing ideas so the best way to spark creativity is by disturbing things just enough to spur new ways of thinking
    5. The creative pain should be embraced. Feeling scared is a good sign and must learn how to trust yourself enough to let the creativity out
    6. Creativity is simply problem solving. Once it is viewed through this lens, people stop seeing it like magic
  10. Absorbing Data
    1. When we encounter new information, we should force ourselves to do something with it. Write yourself a note explaining what you just learned, or figure out a small way to test an idea, or graph a series of data points onto a piece of paper, or force yourself to explain an idea to a friend.
    2. Every choice we make in life is an experiment – the trick is getting ourselves to see the data embedded in those decisions and then to use it somehow so we learn from it
    3. There is a huge difference between finding an answer and understanding what it means
    4. Information blindness – inability to take advantage of data because it is so plentiful
    5. Ability to digest large amounts of information by breaking it into smaller pieces is how our brains turn information into knowledge
    6. Experimenting, although most of it will fail, forces you to think more, become more sensitive to patterns and more likely to pick up on valuable insights
    7. Creating mental, or even physical, “folders” in which to put information in helps people organize and absorb information
    8. Once a frame is established, it is very hard to see the other side and gain fresh vantage points. One of the best ways to solve this problem is to provide a formal decision-making system that denies our brains the easy answers it craves. It forces ourselves to make questions look unfamiliar
    9. By making information more disfluent, we paradoxically make it easier to understand because we force ourselves to truly think about it and understand it. Information easily obtained and read is easily forgotten
What I got out of it
  1. A good read on 8 key pillars to become more productive. By being more deliberate in your choices, in how you approach and think about problems, in how you interact with team members, in how you take notes, over time you can become a better and more productive thinker and decision maker

The Organized Mind by Daniel J. Levitin

Summary
  1. How to organize your life to spend more time on the rewarding rather than mundane things (externalize as much as possible, set routines, remove the unnecessary)
Key Takeaways
  1. Be adamant about finding ways to externalize your brain as much as possible. This leads you to forget less, be less stressed and gives your brain the space and capacity to focus on truly difficult problems which you enjoy
  2. Brain organization is amazing but not always optimal
  3. Organized mind leads to good, effortless decision-making
  4. Happy people don’t have more, happy people want what they already have
  5. Decision overload leads to being less productive and loss of motivation
  6. Attention is the most essential mental resource for any organism
  7. Layers of people let leaders let go and gain a zen like focus since they don’t have to worry about their schedule, etc.
  8. Attentional filter best picks up on change and importance
  9. Switching attention comes with a very high cost. Limit multi-tasking!
  10. Don’t need to limit information, just need consistent and efficient ways to organize it all
  11. We are hardwired to impose structure on the world
  12. Active sorting, what you need to do right now, is vital for organization, efficiency and productivity
  13. Fundamental principle of being organized is to shift to-do list, information, whatever you can into an external source
  14. Consciousness lies on a continuum
  15. Sustained attention relies on noradrenaline and acetylcholine
  16. Develop zen-like focus by giving all your attention to one thing at a time
  17. Memory not just a replaying of a past experience but a rewriting of past experiences
  18. Best remember what is unique, leaves an emotional imprint
  19. Must be able to zoom in and out (detail vs. whole picture, what Elon Musk is incredible at)
  20. Categorize – gross/fine, functional equivalence, things similar in particular situations
  21. Writing things down conserves mental energy by not having to worry about it
  22. If it takes less than 2 minutes, do it immediately
  23. Home and work environments are an extension of your brain – make it easy, calm and organized
    1. Have things used often visible, hide otherwise (helps you relax, avoid distributions)
  24. Create a junk drawer for things which cannot be organized
  25. Create different work spaces for different kinds of work
  26. Batch emails, create a special account which only a few people have
  27. Child like sense of wonder leads to very strong memories
  28. New acquaintances – write down why and how you met, their expertise, who introduced you, other context
  29. Can leverage other people’s expertise and use them as your external brain
  30. On average, people are Terrible at detecting lying and if people like us
  31. Being transparent enables social ties and makes it easier for people to forgive us
  32. Indirect speech – quantity, quality, manner and relation
  33. People have a very hard time ignoring information which is later shown to be false
  34. Daydreaming helps recalibrate/restore the brain (multitasking does not)
  35. For any large task, break into small, actionable chunks
  36. Chunking is much more productive and having a clear start/stop time helps you form solid memories
  37. Experts know what to pay attention to and ignore much better than novices
  38. Sleep – unitization, assimilation, abstraction
    1. Memory consolidation occurs within the first two hours of NREM and last 90 minutes of REM (alcohol disturbs both of these cycles)
    2. Jet lag hack – before traveling east, get into sunlight early in the day and before traveling west, avoid sunlight early and expose yourself to bright light in the evening
  39. Must disconnect sense of self-worth from outcome of a task
  40. Successful people paradoxically fail much more than “failures” but their reaction to failure is much different as they consider it a learning experiences
  41. Creativity comes from integration of executive and daydreaming mode
  42. Arrange life for flow moments – reduce change, be comfortable, avoid distractions, easy environment, etc.
  43. If make it big, have assistants take care of everything so you can focus 100% on the task at hand
  44. People typically ignore base rates when making decisions
    1. Bayes rate – take base rate and relevant information into account before making a decision
    2. Decisions must be made with long-term view, use probabilities and expected value over the long-term
    3. Don’t fall for denominator neglect (ignoring the scale, magnitude of safe car rides whenever we hear of a horrendous crash)
  45. Effective leaders
    1. Adaptable, responsible, high in empathy, able to see problems from all side
    2. Have high social intelligence and flexible, deep analytic intelligence
    3. Quickly understands opposing views, how people came to hold them, how to resolve conflicts in ways that are perceived to be mutually satisfying and beneficial
    4. Adept at bringing people together who appear to have conflicting goals
    5. Uses empathy to allow people or organizations to save face in negotiations
    6. Often great storytellers
    7. Build cohesive teams through mutual trust
    8. Create shared understanding
    9. Provide a clear and concise set of expectations and goals
    10. Allow workers at all levels to exercise disciplined initiative
    11. Accept prudent risks
  46. Function best when under constraint but allowed to be creative within this constraint
    1. Internal locus of control vital for self and employees
    2. Employee morale and performance improves when understand how their work fits into the big pictures
  47. Best filing system requires least  searching time, transparent to anyone, easily described, external brain
  48. Tickler files/reminders for deadlines, must know how long the task will take to complete
  49. 10 parameters max for optimal decisions, 5 is optimal though
  50. Take 10 minutes post meeting to summarize, write down action steps, etc.
  51. With information overload, must teach children to be critical, independent, clear and complete thinkers
  52. Not so important to know a fact as to know where to find/how to verify
  53. The more sense/dimensions you can involve, the better your recall will be
  54. In the pursuit of learning, slower is often better
  55. The greatest scientists tend to be artists as well
  56. Appendix – how to create your own 4 fold (Bayesian) decision making table for medical decisions or anything else
What I got out of it
  1. Really interesting book. Externalize your brain, get into flow by being 100% on the task at hand, junk drawer, chunk, weave other senses/emotions into whatever you want to better remember

Evernote: Unleashed by Jason Bracht

Summary
  1. Good read on Evernote and how to use most effectively
Key Takeaways
  1. Organize Reading Notes: if you use an e-reader which allows you to highlight quotes or add notes as you read, you can easily copy those highlighted sections and notes to an Evernote note (saved in a notebook for your reading notes) so that you can keep track of all that information all within one fully synced app. This is especially useful if you are doing research of any kind and want to consolidate all the different sources of notes you have taken (whether you wrote them in the text itself or on a separate document).  
  2. Make the ultimate to do list: instead of keeping a bunch of disorganized piles of to do lists everywhere, create a to do list notebook in Evernote and then have a separate to do list for each of your roles. That is, have a to do list for work, a to do list for home, a to do list for you hobbies, and so on. This will keep your life much more organized and allow you to easily switch between the different aspects of your life so that you can focus on what you need to do at the moment.  
  3. Make a distraction list: the internet is a vast and magical space. In the middle of working, you might decide that you need to look up some totally unrelated fact because suddenly, you want to know what the average life span of a great white shark is.  
  4. Here are a few tips for using the tag feature effectively:  
    1. Think in keywords: your tag should not be a whole sentence.  
    2. Your tag should represent the main idea of the note. 
    3. Establish a system so that you are consistent with your tags.  
    4. Leave no note untagged!  
  5. A “Pixelator” tool that blurs parts of the web clipping that contain sensitive information and should be kept anonymous (i.e. – faces, credit card information, addresses, and other personally identifiable information). 
  6. The note will automatically be stored with the same title as the subject line of the Email but you can modify it if you wish and remove any unnecessary information from the email so that it’s stripped down to only the information you want to keep.  
  7. Beef up Security: with Evernote, you have the option to enable a two-step verification process  
  8. For example, link it with your gmail account so that starred messages will automatically be sent to Evernote.  
What I got out of it
  1. Some small gems about Evernote to help increase productivity 

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

Checklist Manifesto

 

Summary
  1. Atul Gawande provides clear evidence that checklists can be tremendously beneficial in order to successfully handle complex situations
Key Takeaways
  1. Discusses how checklists have helped pilots, surgeons and many others to help navigate complex situations
  2. The mundane tasks are the ones that are the most forgotten and therefore the most important to include
  3. Must get over ego and accept that a checklist, no matter how seemingly simple or naive, can help
  4. The checklist must be brief, practical and usable
What I got out of it
  1. Checklists must be brief, practical and usable and this framework can be applied to nearly anything in your life. I think it is extremely important to get over your ego and buy into this concept because the vast majority of our errors stem from simple, everyday tasks that can be easily avoided if using one of these checklists

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What the Most Successful People do Before Breakfast by Rhonda Byrne

What the Most Successful

 

Summary
  1. A practical guide into how you can tame your mornings and set yourself up for a productive day, all without losing your sanity
Key Takeaways
  1. In order to get the most out of your mornings:
    1. Track your time
    2. Picture/create the perfect morning
      1. Exercise, painting, good breakfast, meditation, prayer, sketching, practice a skill you want to acquire, work on a project that’s always being pushed back, playing with kids, studying, etc.
        1. Think of things you will literally want to jump out of bed for
    3. Think through the logistics
      1. Where can you save time, outsource, partner up, etc.
      2. Pretend you had all the money and time in the world, how would it look
    4. Build the habit
      1. First steps require the most willpower, once you turn it into a habit though you won’t even have to think about it
      2. Choose one habit at a time to incorporate
      3. Chart your progress
      4. Do things that put you in a good frame of mind – what you’re grateful for, appreciation e-mail, etc.
    5. Tune up as necessary
What I got out of it
  1. A very quick and good read. Vanderkam details how and why to make mornings the most productive part of your day.

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