How to Turbocharge Your Productivity: An Interview with Bestselling Author Charles Duhigg

Author Charles Duhigg, whose new book Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, talks with Get-It-Done Guy about how to zoom forward on your goals with mental models and a better way to innovate.

Stever Robbins
3-minute read
Episode #401

Today’s episode is an interview with New York Times Pulitzer-prize-winning, best-selling author Charles Duhigg. He’s just come out with a new book, Smarter, Faster, Better. And you may know him for his last book, The Power of Habit. The book is, well, Smarter, Faster, and Better. And as Charles points out, productivity isn’t an absolute. What’s productive at work may be different from what’s productive at home. Productivity varies from one time of day to the next, one day the week to the next, and from person to person. In his new title, Duhigg shares how to recognize what you really want to get done instead of what just makes you busy. Always remember: business is about results, not about, well, busyness. Here are a couple highlights from the interview (listen to the full audio in the top right hand player, or on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify!).

Mental models

Having and using a rich set of mental models is one of the major tools used by highly productive people.

Making a story for your day

  • The most productive people are the ones who discipline their thinking and focus a little bit better. They can train their brains to switch motivation on and off.
  • Building a mental model means we tell ourselves a story about what’s going on as happening, to create an expectation for our reality.
  • We become practiced with what we need to focus on and what we can safely ignore through pre-rehearsing what will happen in a given situation.
  • If you’re on the train, you can make up a mental story of your day hour by hour. Will you shut your email off from 11–12 am to work on a memo without distraction? How will you look when you present during that meeting?

Wanting closure

Closure is a mixed blessing. People with a high need for closure are good at following through and getting things done. But too much closure can lead to blinders, and a lack of flexibility when it’s most needed.

  • The most successful people love a certain degree of closure from tasks they complete or goals they reach.
  • You can gain this sense of closure from to do lists.
  • Put a stretch goal at the top of the page which will push you to achieve something higher.
  • List the steps to get there underneath, using a SMART goal to achieve the stretch goal.
  • Ask yourself:
    1. Have I gotten closer to this ambition (The stretch goal)?
    2. Is it the right ambition?
    3. How am I going to start tomorrow morning?
  • As you check things off, you’ll experience a feeling of closure which will drive you forward.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.