What’s it about?

Smarter Faster Better (2016) merges personal stories and business research to show that being productive isn’t just about managing your to-do list but about making the right choices and sustaining the right mindset. This summary offers advice on staying motivated, keeping yourself on track, and working in teams effectively to maximize your creativity, productivity, and success.

About the author:

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the New York Times. His first book, The Power of Habit, stayed on the Times’ bestseller list for over 60 weeks.


While everyone can be productive, not everyone knows how:

Every day, there is some kind of task we need to achieve, and there are a lot of ways to do that. The space between the task given and the success you need to reach it is the choice you make as you move from one to the other. Our choices make a massive part of our day to day life. And whether these choices improve or hinder our productivity, it’s totally up to us.

Which path should we choose? How can we reach success? Is success not meant for everyone?

If you proceed in this reading journey, Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer prize winner, will give you the answer to all of these questions in more than one view.


1st secret: motivation is your must-have key to be more productive in your life and job:

Back in the day, most of the workers had a boss to answer to. Now, a lot of people are self-employed and doing jobs that don’t oblige them to report back to a superior authority. This means that fewer bosses are breathing down your neck, so you can decide how to spend your time and energy more freely. Therefore, it is only up to you to determine what goals you want to achieve in a specific time and what choices you want to make to achieve them.

You are not born with motivation; it is a skill that should be improved and embraced within you. The more you practice motivation, the more motivated you will be in everything you attempt to do.

You can enhance your motivation by following some steps:

  1. Let your choices put you in control: you have to self-motivate. When you believe that you are the one in control of the situation, you will put extra effort into achieving your goal.
  2. Make significant decisions: question why a particular decision is vital to you and why you want to make it. This also contributes to the fact that you are the one in control of your own life decisions.

When you fail to take these steps to better your motivation, you will be at a state of “emotional numbness” – the lack of motivation.

Remember to give yourself a tap on the shoulder no matter how the decision you made turned out; this will boost the way you feel about yourself and the situation.


2nd secret: teamwork makes the dream work only if everyone is working willingly:

Researches from Harvard, Yale, The University of Oregon, and Berkeley, ensured that the norms – behavior, traditions, rules, and standards – decide your feelings in a team. Building a good team is more natural when good norms exist.

Psychological safety within teams:

This is the trust that hovers around in a team. It means that you feel safe to express your personal opinion without the team falling apart. You know you have a pretty good team when all of the members are honest, brave, and themselves. Teammates should also know that all of them are equal and understand each others’ feelings.

Everyone in the team is unique in his way, and what he does individually doesn’t count; what counts is what they all do together. This is the soul of a team; what they can solve all as one.

Teams need the following to succeed:

  • The realization of the importance of work
  • The feeling that their work is worthwhile
  • Lucid goals and clear roles
  • Psychological safety

If you ever become a leader in a team, be sure to set the right examples for your members by doing the right things and making the right decisions. This is the key to any team’s unity.


3rd secret: losing focus is way beyond your budget. Keep your eyes on the prize if you want to be productive:

Whenever you are faced with an emergency, you feel a lot of pressure while your mind is full of confusion. Your first move would be to direct all your concentration on the most apparent stimuli, even if it’s not the right call. This is when most of the mistakes happen – the concept of “cognitive tunneling.” 

Cognitive tunneling will direct your focus on what is in front of you, removing all the other details you probably should focus on out of the picture.

It is essential to draw a picture in your mind of the things you expect to encounter daily. Immediately imagine what will happen from the beginning to the end in the form of mental images or stories so that whenever cognitive tunneling occurs, it won’t overpower your mind.

Every company wants an employee that can deal with hard situations in total control. The more you ready yourself, the less you will be caught off guard, and the more productive you will be.

If you want to fulfill more, think ahead. Create a picture in your mind, and you will always be prepared. 


4th secret: while your goals can help you succeed; they might lead you to failure as well:

There is no doubt that it feels good to come up with a solution to a problem, judge a significant issue with confidence, or make the rights decisions when it counts. This is “cognitive closure,” and it is essential if you are one to crave success, but, in overuses, it can hurt you because it keeps your concentration on big goals that you forget other detail that should count as well.

Since 1980, the perfect goals are the SMART ones:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measurable
  • A – Achievable 
  • R – Realistic
  • T – based on a TimeLine 

While this is a useful guide for a goal, it’s not ideal. Making sure the goal fits into the SMART standards sometimes makes the person lose sight of the real goal and pursuing it.


5th secret: you need to make people feel safe and needed to win their loyalty over:

Everyone wants to be included in a team that cares about them and makes them feel safe – it’s within human nature. 

In 1994, Stanford professors, Haron and Baron, showed through their research five different workplace cultures:

  • Star culture: where the best of talents and most expensive tastes lay.
  • Engineering culture: no stars, only people who are solving hard problems all the time.
  • Bureaucratic culture: they have spelled out rules and rituals to follow.
  • Autocratic culture: they have the CEO as a boss, and all the employees work within his approval.
  • Commitment culture: the culture that believes in cultures, values workers, and having a great relationship.

The commitment culture succeeded the most because it has a high level of trust between the workers, managers, and customers. And because this culture focuses on lifelong plans for the employees, there were very few lay-offs, which contributed to the company’s growth.


6th secret: there are no limits to your abilities:

From the shampoo brand you purchase at the store to the projects you fund, you will always be in positions where you have to make decisions. Making a decision forces you to forecast the future, but many wrong choices will be made in this case because no one knows the future. Dealing with this issue requires skills, and one of them is “probabilistic thinking.”

Probabilistic thinking is the capability to consider many different results and estimate their chances of occurring. You need to question your expectations so that you can make the right decisions. Your expectations have better chances of being right if you’ve been through a lot of experiences – the iconic good, bad, or ugly.

There are numerous ways to predict the future; picture multiple scenarios and possibilities.


7th secret: keep the creativity alive within your ideas. Repeating the same thing over and over again will only end you up with the same results:

Successful people learned to invent new and creative ideas through the following steps:

  • Transfer knowledge: no knowledge should go to waste; maybe mix a previous knowledge with a new one to achieve a goal.
  • Understand your experiences: focus on how you feel about some ideas and concepts. 
  • Be careful: the satisfaction that comes with a new idea or breakthrough can be great, but it may also stop you from moving forward.

To be innovative, you have to be extra and think beyond your comfort zone; only then will you fulfill extraordinary results. 


8th secret: take your time to understand what you need to do, then do it:

Ever since the massive growth in technology, the internet has played a big part in our lives. We take in a tremendous amount of data daily. You need to know how to process all this information because you might be at risk of “information blindness” – this is when you fail to take advantage of data.

Information blindness can be easily avoided by:

  • Breaking down the data: large amounts of data can be hard to take in. Break them into smaller, more possible units.
  • Transform data into something new: make sense of all the data you receive daily, and create something unique and special from it.

Your choices determine your success. So, grab the opportunity in every situation to make a change and learn.