Practical lessons on productivity

Sanjay Tripathy reviews Caroline Webb's book 'How to Have a Good Day'

Published 7 years ago on Dec 03, 2016 4 minutes Read

A long flight ahead, made me pick up the latest book, which is creating a buzz — Caroline Webb’s How to Have a Good Day. The catchy title made me wonder what is it exactly about this book that enthuses readers and netizens. So I thought it would make for a good read while waiting at the lounge.

A former partner at McKinsey, Webb, uses her years of experience and her knowledge of psychology to design methods that will help you have a good day, every day. Any method that will help people have a good day at work or home is welcome, so Webb’s book will come as a long-awaited manna from heaven to many.

Statistics, surveys and news reports all proclaim the same thing. People today are highly dissatisfied, demotivated and frustrated. They are stressed out, and that stress has been carried over to all aspects of their lives. This has led the people who are productive to be happy nowhere — neither at home, nor at work.

This is where the simplicity of Webb’s ideas will bear fruit — in the lives of the common men and women, who are craving for something external to change their lives. No surprises though, the change has to come from within. You have to act on your stressors to reduce them. You have to find ways to reduce your stress, and no external factor is going to do it for you.

A few of the ideas are too simple and I am sure they are already being followed by many, but some are truly different. For instance, singing songs for yourself before a stressful event, or meeting or faking happiness. No matter what defines a good day for you, Webb has a tip for you. A tip that will help you have many more good days.

The book is arranged for easy reference depending on the area of your life you are targeting. The multiple areas include: priorities, productivity, influence, relationships, thinking, and resilience.

Each chapter is again arranged into sub-chapters or sections so that you can easily refer to the part you want to focus or improve.  More importantly, the book is written in a reader-friendly manner. She does not delve into the theory of science; she takes the practical approach. So, when she talks about behavioural science, she does not preach about science itself, rather she talks about behavioural science-based tweaks you can do for yourself.

She cites examples from our daily activities, especially from our workplace. For instance, while trying to explain the importance of ‘Single-tasking’ under ‘Productivity’, Webb talks about how, when you multitask, you are actually reducing productivity instead of increasing it. She gives the example of Microsoft employees who were interrupted by an email during their daily activity. It took them fifteen minutes to regain their thought process, whether they replied to the mail or not. The loss of focus due to interruptions, according to Webb, makes it difficult to complete any task that you have set for yourself during the day.

Similarly, Webb explains the need to pose a question and refresh and reboot, with several examples, in order to get your creative juices flowing. Using the example of a freelance art director, Webb talks about how the director was stuck on the idea of how to market a new air freshener that removed odour as well as killed germs. In order to get over the rut of stale ideas that the team was proposing, the director started asking open or rhetorical questions like, “How does the product fit into people’s lives?” or “Let’s say the product knocked on our door and we opened it. What would we see?” These questions removed the mindset of just finding the solution to understanding the product for the solution, thus allowing fresh and new ideas to grow in the team’s mind.

By the end of the book, I could not help but wonder as to how many lives this book will change. If you are receptive to suggestions and can change yourself, even in small ways, read this book and adapt its ideas to your life. Then wait for the magic of behavioural science to happen. A good read for everyone, irrespective of whether you work in an office or work at/from home.