If anyone knows the difference between being busy and being productive it’s Charles Duhigg. The Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for The New York Times and author of The Power of Habit has made a name for himself plumbing the science of productivity, and this week he’s joining us on the podcast.
This Week’s Discussion
Charles is, by any measure, a very productive person — he wrote a bestseller while working full-time and raising a family. And even though success begat success, he started to feel like he was treading water and didn’t want to come home every day after work to spend another five hours answering emails.
So he started calling researchers who study productivity as well as very productive people he admired to learn why some people manage to do so much while others struggle to reach the inbox zero promised land.
Those phone calls and conversations are what led to his second book, Smarter Better Faster.
In today’s show we talk about many of the key principles Charles detailed in his book, including how pilots used "mental models" to land a severely damaged aeroplane, how the worst automotive manufacturing plant in the US turned itself around when new owners gave the workers more control, and what it means to be truly productive.
On a sunny morning in 2010, Qantas Airways flight 32 taxied onto a runway in Singapore, requested permission to begin the eight-hour flight to Sydney, and lifted into the bright sky.
Our Upgrades of the Week
Every week we like to round out The Upgrade with upgrades we’ve made in our own lives. This week’s upgrades are about little convenient indulgences:
Charles: Charles has decided that it’s completely OK to watch TV when flying. He usually tries to do work on planes and says he used to feel a little guilty indulging in mindless entertainment, but now he’s deemed aeroplanes a safe space to take a break and watch a show.
Also he’s been considering the emotional drain of answering emails and has started thinking of each message as a suggestion instead of a command. That makes it easier to say no or ignore messages altogether.
- Melissa: Melissa’s been considering what her time is literally worth, and when it’s worth paying someone to do a time-consuming task instead of doing it yourself. As such, she’s been using a grocery delivery service instead of going grocery shopping.
- Andy: I’ve been reclaiming my Saturdays as a safe-harbour for sloth. Yeah, being lazy on a Saturday isn’t reinventing the wheel, but I always feel guilty when I don’t make any substantial use of my limited free time. Screw that. If I want to sleep in, order takeaway, and watch Netflix for 10 hours in my underwear, I will.