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How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life Hardcover – February 2, 2016
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“How to Have a Good Day is a smart, thorough, and eminently practical book. Just about every page offers a science-based tip to help you become better off — or, in many cases, just plain better.”
—Daniel H. Pink, author of To Sell is Human and Drive
"Behavioral science has come of age in recent years, and it has begged for a world-class translator. Now we have one. Caroline Webb’s peerless translation of the behavioral sciences into tools for shaping the quality of our day is the book we’ve been waiting for. Play with just 2% of the ideas in this book, and you might just end up changing your life's course. Words like 'magisterial' come to mind. Bravo."
—Tom Peters, co-author of award-winning bestseller In Search of Excellence
“Finally, a practical book based on evidence. How to Have a Good Day is grounded in state-of-the-art research on behavior and neuroscience, and animated with vivid examples from professionals who have successfully applied Webb’s advice. It might even leave you looking forward to your next tricky conversation or challenging task as an opportunity to try out her tips."
—Adam Grant, Wharton professor and New York Times bestselling author of Give and Take and Originals
"How to Have a Good Day is an extraordinary book — a wonderful mix of science, practical advice, and stories based on Caroline Webb's years of experience helping a huge range of people transform their professional lives for the better. Every chapter is studded with engaging real-world examples that ring true and illustrate how to make the most of the book's suggestions. Whatever your personal definition of a good day, you'll have more of them after reading this book.”
—Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and co-founder of Quiet Revolution
"Almost all of us work in environments where our time is stretched far too thin. How to Have a Good Day helps us rise to that challenge, containing ideas and techniques that show us how to be at our own personal and professional best every day."
—Tony Hsieh, New York Times bestselling author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.
"Webb has given us a great gift: she has synthesized all the advice coming out of labs around the world, filtered it for quality, and illustrated it with well-chosen examples. The appendices alone will save you dozens of hours per year — particularly on email — and help you create more great days for yourself. This is the only self-improvement book you will need in the next five years."
—Jonathan Haidt, NYU-Stern School of Business, author of The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind
"There's a big difference between having a great, productive day and having a bland, ordinary one. Caroline Webb deftly explains how to squeeze the most out of twenty-four hours, to create more of the former. Very useful."
—Sir Michael Moritz, Chairman of Sequoia Capital
“A powerful toolkit to improve both work and wellbeing. From email and meetings to making the most out of every day, Webb shows us not just how to be more productive, but how to be more fulfilled along the way.”
—Jonah Berger, Wharton professor and bestselling author of Contagious and Invisible Influence
"Imagine what your life would be like if you could simply 'choose' to have a good day. Webb makes a powerful case that we can. Best of all, she shows us how. Webb gets her arms around the vast body of information coming at us from behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience, and distills the best of it into the kind of practical advice a wise friend might offer. It's the book Daniel Kahneman might write if he'd been working in the business world for twenty years. Masterful."
—Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, co-authors of the bestselling Difficult Conversations and Thanks for the Feedback
"This is a brilliantly useful book. Caroline Webb has a quite exceptional range of organisational experience. She uses it to review a vast span of the latest academic 'thinking about thinking' in the clearest possible way. And then she applies this wisdom to help us all sort out the frazzle of our own working day. Her approach is utterly straightforward but based in deep insights into how human beings really behave."
—Peter Day, BBC Business Correspondent, Presenter of In Business and Global Business
“Years ago I was a rower, and in sport everyone knows you need to pay attention to yourself, your intent and your mindset, to be at your best. This book reminded me of all I learned from those days about the importance of having the right attitude. I found it a great, practical guide to applying these and other helpful psychological insights in business – something we do all too infrequently. Built solidly on the latest research, brought to life with storytelling, it offers many simple ways to boost your performance and give you a better day at work – and if you’re a leader, it will show you how to make sure that your colleagues are on top form, too."
-—Matt Brittin, President of Google Europe, Middle East & Africa, former rowing World Championship medalist and British Olympic team member
"How to Have a Good Day speaks to every area of your workday and shows how making a few critical adjustments to your everyday behavior will leave you amazed by the results. By applying the lessons in Webb's book, all based on science, you’ll maximize your performance and be more energized than ever."
— Marshall Goldsmith, bestselling author of Triggers, MOJO and What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
“An absolute must read for the millions of people struggling to overcome the challenges and stresses of work and family life. Caroline Webb’s deep dive into ground-breaking new behavioral and neuroscience research gives us the tools to empower everyone to have a better, more fulfilling day, every day. Finally, we can say, ‘Good morning,’ and mean it!”
—Linda Kaplan Thaler, Chairman of Publicis Kaplan Thaler and co-author of Grit to Great
“The quest for self-improvement usually takes place on a well-trodden path, with many different gurus offering guidance. But the advice, in addition to being contradictory, often lacks solid foundations. Fortunately, How to Have a Good Day is the breakout exception to this category. The evidence and examples packed inside its pages leave the reader in no doubt that Webb's advice will make a real difference. Better days lead to better lives, and this extraordinary book will lead to both.”
—Chris Guillebeau, New York Times bestselling author of The $100 Startup and The Happiness of Pursuit
“In How to Have a Good Day, Caroline Webb offers practical advice rooted in the latest science and psychology for anyone who wants to take a more intentional approach to life and enjoy the greater productivity and success that comes from doing so. If you want to stop reacting to your life and start living it, this book will get you moving in the right direction."
—Bryce G. Hoffman, author of American Icon
About the Author
Caroline Webb is a former partner at McKinsey and Company, where she worked for over a decade, before starting her consulting firm, Sevenshift, to help clients be more productive, inspired, and effective at work.
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To be clear on what “How to Have a Good Day” is not: it requires no deep plumbing of the psyche, it pushes no “alternative” way of thinking. The topics are well known. We all know procrastination is bad, we may know multi-tasking is a fallacy. But why? And what can I do about it today? The author, professional career coach, researcher, and reader of 600(!) books on the topic of behavioral science, has distilled the best, most illuminating discoveries to help those of us who know better, but can’t do better. As declared in the title, yes, there is a measure of science-talk, but this is no science text. HTHAGD kicks off with an introductory primer on the concepts in play. Yet rest assured any haughty terminology has been thoroughly humanized, without being cerebrally neutered. Though even the author allows the book is navigable even if you skip chapter one.
The remaining chapters drill down on seven topics, such as productivity, resilience, etc. Each topic is loosely pegged to a real individual’s overcoming of their respective obstacle (e.g. priorities). Webb threads in the most revelatory science and explains why this subject’s course of action worked. She then details the actionable things we can do (a specific breathing technique, a check-list, a mantra, and so on) to bring into our day. All the “tips” are packaged at the end of the chapter. So indeed, the book is built to be revisited by topic, say, two years from now on your worst day ever at work.
An exhaustively comprehensive Rx for our everyday challenges. At once probing of our mental innards, and plainly, wonderfully practical. We know it does us no good to have another wasted day. With this book, we need no longer search in anguish for what to do about it. Fantastically beneficial from the first sit-down.
It’s a practical guide to getting the most out of your work day—the end goal is not only better productivity, but also a personal sense of fulfillment. Don’t worry—this isn’t just feel-good fluff. What’s different about How to Have a Good Day is that author Caroline Webb supports her advice with a strong foundation of research from three behavioral science disciplines: psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience.
How difficult is the subject matter?
If the phrase “behavioral science” in the book’s subtitle makes your eyes glaze over with boredom or intimidation, again, not to worry. The entire book is written in a friendly, conversational tone. Its introduction contains a “Science Essentials” section that explains in plain language each of the three science disciplines from which Webb draws her research. The rest of the book is organized around seven topics the author identifies as “building blocks” for a good day: priorities, productivity, relationships, thinking, influence, resilience, and energy. Webb does a good job balancing scientific evidence with practical advice and testimonies from real-life people working in a variety of industries. There are no graphs, charts, or equations to bore you to tears. Instead, you can expect to learn interesting tidbits such as the following: in one study, participants who looked at a picture of a black-and-white banana perceived it as “slightly yellow” even though it was completely gray. This is an example of confirmation bias, the tendency to focus on information that confirms our assumptions and to filter out information that counters our assumptions.
How can this book help me in my daily work?
Think of How to Have a Good Day as a Swiss army knife of behavior hacks. You’ll get a lot of methods to try out with examples of how these have worked for the author and her clients. While you may not find all of the advice appealing, I believe this book is worth reading even if you just come across a few hacks to try. Those few hacks could make a significant impact on the quality of your work day. And who doesn’t want a better work day?
What’s the main takeaway?
I’ll let Webb tell you in her own words: “We miss a big opportunity if we simply let the day happen to us.”
What are some key nuggets?
Here are a few that stood out to me:
• “Multitasking can feel like a stimulating and efficient way to deal with having lots to do, but we’re actually far more productive if we singletask—that is, if we do one thing at a time.”
• “People hear criticism far more vividly than praise—so be more vocal in showing appreciation for the things they’re doing.”
• “…the best small goals are those that help us take baby steps toward big goals that really mean something to us.”
If you read this book you’ll also learn how to respond to requests with the “positive no,” the benefits of “extreme listening,” and why “smartphone daycare” is a great idea.
While the testimonies in this book span a wide variety of industries, the majority of profiled individuals are in high-level managerial or executive positions. My educated guess is that this apparent bias is just a reflection of the author’s typical clientele. I think it’s also likely that Webb has gleaned the most effective methods from these individuals because their keen insights are the result of much experience.
If you’re not in a managerial/executive position, you may wonder, “Can this book still apply to my work?” In my opinion as a non-managerial worker, yes, absolutely! For example, Webb points out researchers’ findings that a sense of autonomy is important for motivation and that when we set our own goals, we’re more likely to achieve them. But how is this helpful when we must complete tasks that others have delegated to us? Webb advises that we can still “find a way to link an assigned task to things that matter to us, even if it’s a tangential connection.” She suggests asking questions such as, “What bigger aspiration or value of mine does this task speak to?” or “How does this request support something that matters to me?” If detail is important to you, for example, you can use this value to create a masterfully organized spreadsheet and take pride in your thoroughness.
You can also reverse-engineer Webb’s tips for managing a team by applying them to your perspective as a team member. Ask your supervisor if you can have a discussion with him or her—not about how you think they could do a better job of managing you, but about ways they can help you do your best work.
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I am looking forward to interviewing her this summer, doing a deep dive on self-improvement.Read more