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Summary: Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg

“The choices that are most powerful in generating motivation are decisions that do two things: They convince us we’re in control and they endow our actions with larger meaning.” – Charles Duhigg

Feel in control by choosing:

  • Where to work (office, conference room, coffee shop, etc.)
  • How long to focus on a particular problem (work intensely for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 50 minutes?)
  • What to do while working (listen to music, have a cup of coffee, drink a cup of tea, etc.)

Generate meaning by choosing to see the connection between what you do and how it:

  • Benefits other people
  • Increases your skill level
  • Leads to a result that you’ll be proud of

Book Summary: Smarter Faster Better - The Transformative Power of Real Productivity

3 Choices that Increase Productivity:

Increase Focus

Before the day starts, CHOOSE to predict how the day will unfold.

Your mind is a prediction machine. It loves to know whether it’s predictions are right or wrong. Envisioning tomorrow causes the brain to focus intently on what it failed to predict.

“We aid our focus by building mental models—telling ourselves stories—about what we expect to see.” – Charles Duhigg

To stay focused during the day, make the following predictions at the start of the day:

  • Given my current schedule, how much progress do I expect to make today?
  • What distractions am I likely to encounter?
  • How am I likely to handle those distractions?

At the end of the day ask yourself: “What was I wrong about?”

Improve Decisions

When making decisions, CHOOSE to consider the desirable and undesirable outcomes. Then assign approximate probabilities to each possible outcome.

“Making good decisions relies on forecasting the future, but forecasting is an imprecise, often terrifying, science because it forces us to confront how much we don’t know. The paradox of learning how to make better decisions is that it requires developing a comfort with doubt.” – Charles Duhigg

By seeing decisions as a range of possible outcomes with approximate probabilities (i.e. there’s an 80% chance of getting into the college I want to), you’ll be less prone to seek absolute certainty before making a decision. This speeds up the decision process and leads to more action.

“Learning to think probabilistically requires us to question our assumptions and live with uncertainty. To become better at predicting the future—at making good decisions—we need to know the difference between what we hope will happen and what is more and less likely to occur.” – Charles Duhigg

Increase Team Performance

When leading a team, CHOOSE to give team members the authority to make decisions.

If you crave autonomy, so does your team. Empower others to make choices and provide them with a safe environment to do so.

“By pushing decision making to whoever is closest to a problem, managers take advantage of everyone’s expertise and unlock innovation. A sense of control can fuel motivation, but for that drive to produce insights and solutions, people need to know their suggestions won’t be ignored and that their mistakes won’t be held against them.” – Charles Duhigg

“Productivity is about recognizing choices that other people often overlook… 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.” – Charles Duhigg


Smarter Faster Better is a self-help book that explores the science of productivity. Duhigg argues that the key to being more productive is to understand how our brains work and how we make decisions.

The book is divided into eight chapters:

  • Chapter 1: The Power of Habit – This chapter discusses the science of habit formation and how we can use it to our advantage.
  • Chapter 2: The Art of Decision Making – This chapter explores the different ways we make decisions and how we can improve our decision-making skills.
  • Chapter 3: The Power of Focus – This chapter discusses the importance of focus and how we can learn to focus on the things that matter most.
  • Chapter 4: The Trap of Routine – This chapter explores the dangers of routine and how we can avoid getting stuck in a rut.
  • Chapter 5: The Power of Teamwork – This chapter discusses the importance of teamwork and how we can work more effectively with others.
  • Chapter 6: The Art of Innovation – This chapter explores the secrets of innovation and how we can become more creative.
  • Chapter 7: The Power of Failure – This chapter discusses the importance of failure and how we can learn from our mistakes.
  • Chapter 8: The Future of Productivity – This chapter explores the future of productivity and how we can use technology to our advantage.

Smarter Faster Better is a well-written and engaging book that provides a wealth of practical advice on how to be more productive. The book is full of stories and examples from real-world organizations and individuals, which makes it easy to understand and apply the concepts.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the book:

  • The Power of Focus: Duhigg emphasizes the importance of focus and attention in achieving productivity. He explores how individuals and organizations can improve their ability to concentrate on the task at hand and avoid distractions.
  • Setting Stretch Goals: The author suggests that setting ambitious and specific goals can enhance motivation and performance. Duhigg provides strategies for setting stretch goals that push individuals and teams to achieve more than they initially believed possible.
  • Building Mental Models: Smarter Faster Better delves into the concept of mental models and how they can improve decision-making and problem-solving. Duhigg explores various techniques for developing effective mental models that enable individuals to make better choices and navigate complex situations.
  • Cultivating a Growth Mindset: The book emphasizes the importance of adopting a growth mindset, which involves believing that abilities and intelligence can be developed through effort and practice. Duhigg provides examples of how a growth mindset can lead to increased productivity and personal growth.
  • Harnessing the Power of Teams: Duhigg explores the dynamics of effective teamwork and how collaboration can enhance productivity. He examines the importance of psychological safety, clear communication, and diverse perspectives in fostering productive teamwork.
  • Managing Time and Priorities: The author provides strategies for managing time and prioritizing tasks effectively. Duhigg explains the concept of “making time” instead of “finding time” and offers techniques for maximizing productivity and minimizing time wasted on unimportant activities.
  • Motivating and Empowering Others: Smarter Faster Better explores the science of motivation and how leaders can inspire and empower their teams. Duhigg discusses the role of autonomy, purpose, and creating a sense of psychological ownership to foster a motivated and productive workforce.
  • Learning from Failure: The book highlights the importance of learning from failure and using it as an opportunity for growth. Duhigg provides examples of individuals and organizations that have embraced failure as a stepping stone to success and offers strategies for cultivating a culture of learning and resilience.

Smarter Faster Better is a thought-provoking and inspiring book that can help you to be more productive in all areas of your life. If you are looking for a book that will help you to achieve your goals, I highly recommend reading this book.

Here are some of the pros and cons of the book:


  • Practical Strategies: The book provides practical strategies for improving productivity that can be applied in various aspects of life.
  • Science-Based Insights: Duhigg draws upon the latest research in psychology, neuroscience, and sociology to provide insights into human behavior and productivity.
  • Accessible Writing Style: The book is written in an accessible and engaging style, making it easy to understand and apply the principles discussed.


  • Lack of Case Studies: While the book provides numerous examples, it would have been helpful to include more case studies to illustrate the practical applications of the principles discussed.
  • Repetitive Language: Some readers may find the language and concepts repeated throughout the book to be repetitive and unnecessary.


  • For individuals looking to optimize their productivity and habits, this book is a valuable resource.
  • Those interested in the psychology and neuroscience of habits and motivation will find the book informative and engaging.
  • Business owners and managers can benefit from Duhigg’s strategies for streamlining processes and delegating tasks to improve productivity.

Overall, Smarter Faster Better is a thought-provoking and inspiring book that can help you to be more productive in all areas of your life. I highly recommend it.

In summary, Smarter Faster Better is a compelling exploration of productivity and the science behind it. Charles Duhigg provides practical insights and actionable strategies for improving focus, setting goals, developing effective mental models, fostering teamwork, managing time, motivating others, and learning from failure. Whether you’re a professional seeking to enhance your own productivity or a leader looking to create a more productive and engaged team, this book offers valuable insights and techniques to help you achieve your goals and unlock your full potential.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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