The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz

Summary
  1. Being conscious and intentional about managing your four sources of energy – physical (sleep, fitness, nutrition), emotional (high, positive energy), mental (control of attention) and spiritual (compelling sense of purpose) which helps you live a richer and more satisfying life.

Key Takeaways

  1. Break projects, reading, meetings, etc. down into shorter sprints. This helps you fully engage, get more done in a shorter period of time and at a higher quality. The maximum most people can work at a high level is 90 minutes, 3.5 times per day. After this point, quality goes down so make sure to take consistent “renewal” breaks to get back your focus
    1. Renewal periods are so important not only because they recharge us for the 90 minute intense spurts but also because most great ideas come to us when we let go of conscious control and step away from our task
  2. Deliberate practice is at the core of excellence. Short bursts with clear and specific goals
  3. Sleep is essential for every aspect of your performance and day time naps are a great practice to incorporate (ideally between 1 and 3 PM) as they are perhaps the most effective and efficient renewal breaks
    1. People need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Look to avoid anything stimulating (lights, TV, exercise, etc. within 60 minutes of bed time). Keep a consistent sleep and wake time
  4. Exercise is a great renewal practice – lunch time exercise is a great habit to set if you have the flexibility
    1. Exercise has innumerable benefits from the obvious (endurance, strength, cardiovascular, etc.) to increased brain functions, immune systems and recovery times. Aim for 20-45 minutes 3-6 times per week. A great start is to buy a pedometer and aim to get 10,000 steps per day
    2. Diet – key is not just the food we choose to eat but also how much of it we consume and at what intervals (eat 3-5 times per day and never feel full after a meal). Want to avoid sugar as much as possible. Having a plan for what to eat and when is extremely helpful
  5. Every human on earth strives to be accepted and valued, experience self-expression, feel significant and respected, and work on a team with a shared mission
  6. Awareness increases our knowledge, and knowledge enriches us. The more we’re willing to see, the bigger our world becomes
  7. Because all virtues are connected to others, any strength which is overused ultimately becomes a liability
  8. Can use a journal to become more aware of your energy levels and the quality of your work throughout the day. Everybody’s energy levels wax and wane throughout the day. Being aware of yours can help you become more effective by knowing when to schedule meetings, when to set aside time to think strategically/creatively and when to take renewal breaks
  9. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. That’s why people struggle so much to make changes that last. Become extremely conscious and intentional about your habits, which you want to change and which you want to develop. Once they become habit, they do not take thought and will not deplete your limited source of will power. Aim to only build 1-2 habits at a time as any more will likely not be productive. The time to “automaticity” of a habit varies with every person and every habit but it is extremely important to build rituals which are precise and specific (set a time, place, deadline, etc. for each habit). Also, focus on positive habits (what you want to do) rather than negative habits (what you resist doing)
  10. Enlisting the support of others in building new habits makes you much more likely to follow through
  11. Scheduling your week around changing energy levels:
    1. Monday – low-demand, administrative tasks (setting goals, organizing and planning)
    2. Tuesday – Wednesday – people are at their peak and most challenging work should be done on these days
    3. Thursday – good time for meetings as people’s energy begins to fade Thursday afternoon
    4. Friday – lowest levels of energy so this is good for brainstorming, long-term planning and relationship building
  12. People are very risk averse – losing something hurts much more than gaining that same thing. When feeling very stressed out and reactive, take a deep breath and exhale slowly as this helps ground you and forces you to respond to a situation rather than react to it. So, by being aware of your feelings, emotions, stressors, issues, etc. can greatly help you diminish your stress and reactivity
  13. Must fully accept and be aware of both one’s strengths and weaknesses. Denying either only stunts your growth and admitting your faults only inspires greater respect from others, not less
  14. “Everyone sees reality through a fixed lens which selectively filters our view of the world. We must learn to look through a broader range of lenses.” (pair with Munger’s mental models)
    1. Reflective Lens – ask “what are the facts here?” and “What is the story I’m telling myself about those facts?”
    2. Reverse Lens – looking at any given situation through the eyes of your perceived antagonist
    3. Long Lens – look out into the future, regardless of what’s going on in the present
  15. A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. People do more things than ever but have lost control of their attention. People learn much better when information is delivered in pieces over spaced periods of time. Emphasize doing one thing and doing it well over trying to juggle too many tasks and not doing any of them well. Nobody can truly multitask and it only leads to lower quality work. Aim for absorbed attention rather than “continuous partial attention”
  16. With increased precision, specificity and by having clearly defined goals, you can drastically shorten meetings and have them be much more productive
  17. Completing office-wide personality tests might be helpful in order to see people’s personalities, how they prefer to work, whom they naturally get along with, etc.
  18. CEO can also stand for “Chief Energy Officer” – their position and power make them extremely important in the process of nurturing and encouraging people to create schedules which make them most efficient and effective
  19. Developing a culture of humility, especially amongst the leaders, is extremely important and part of what makes teams / companies enduringly successful
  20. What keeps people long term is the organization’s reputation, the satisfaction of employees with the organization’s people decisions and having at least one positive relationship with a direct supervisor. In essence, value people and they will value you
  21. Must build a culture of trust and transparency (pair with Dalio’s Principles)
  22. On any given day, decide what the most important thing you have to do is and do that first. Set aside 45-90 minutes where you can focus solely on this goal – trading partial attention for absorbed attention. Shut off your cell phone, email and any other distractions during this time. Schedule time at the end of your work day to determine the most important tasks you need to complete the next day
  23. Meetings absolutely must have a rigorous agendas and clearly defined goals. Schedule meetings in 15 minute blocks instead of 30 and set a culture which is strict on starting and ending meetings on time (pair with Dalio’s Principles)
  24. Setting aside set times and separate rooms for creative / strategic thinking and brainstorming is a great practice
  25. “The ability to learn faster than competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage a company can achieve.”
  26. Management and team retreats can be very beneficial but only if the employees are offered some sort of follow up
  27. Important to clearly and precisely define goals for each role and what success looks like. This increases accountability and quality of work
  28. Values and behaviors which fuel us are more subjective and personal and each person has to discover them for themselves. Values are a source of identity, clarity and strength – knowing what you stand for gives you great energy and purpose. You must take the time to stop, think and define what your values are, consciously cultivate them and ask yourself if your life and behaviors match these values. A good way to define what you stand for is by determining the traits or characteristics which you most dislike in others. Ask yourself as often as possible, “How would I behave in this situation at my best?”
  29. People perform at a higher level when they are working towards something higher than their self-interest. Giving freely builds trust, deepens relationships and reinforces values that serve the greater good
  30. A good thought experiment is to think of something you love doing so much that you would be willing to do it for free. Try to find an outlet for passion and see if you can devote some percentage of your time to it
  31. “Purpose extends our sphere of influence not through the accumulation and exercise of power, but by giving us a clear route to adding value to others.”
  32. Integrity, honesty and humility are the values that employees most value in their leaders. Egocentricity is the value they least like to see in a leader
  33. “The core principle is value-driven attentiveness to the needs of followers: supporting, coaching and mentoring them; celebrating their contributions; pushing them to take risks, learn, and grow; and inspiring in them a strong sense of purpose around meaningful goals. Transformational leaders set high standards and encourage those they lead to be less concerned with their personal agendas and more concerned with looking out for one another and for the organization as a whole. Transformational leaders also tend to be focused on “why” – the purpose of their actions. By contrast, conventional “transactional” leaders are more narrowly concerned with “how” – the tactics and steps required to reach any given goal.”
  34. Every leader should strive to embody “servant leadership” – serve those around you as best as possible and find your highest calling
  35. Consciousness is king among virtues
  36. Important to have a view of “realistic optimism” – hopeful and positive perspective with a recognition that the desired outcome may not occur
  37. Leaders who avoid conflict often cause more harm than those who are more direct – must balance honesty and appreciation 
 More info found here

What I got out of it

  1. Find a good balance between physical, spiritual, emotional and mental and you will perform better. Break your working spurts into 90 minute sessions maximum, followed by renewal sessions

 

 

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