My life is fairly busy these days. I know that it’s in vogue to have a “busy life” and it’s also in vogue to stop glorifying the world of “busy,” with many people choosing to use the word “full” or other such phrases instead. But call it what you will, things are busy. I work, I have a family, I volunteer, I like to keep on top of the world of positive psychology, I sit on boards, and I still try to get my 7.5 hours of sleep each night (haven’t figured out the physical activity bit – still working on that). So a book with the title How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life was hugely compelling and promising.What I discovered, however, is that Caroline Webb’s book is far more than simply having a good day. It’s not just about having; it’s about being. It’s not just about good; it’s about meaningful and vital. It’s not just about a day; it’s about your daily routines that lead to the creation of important work and life paths. The title of this book vastly undersells its promise and what it delivers.
Webb’s subtitle to her book is more indicative: harness the power of behavioral science to transform your working life. Though there again, this is more than just your working life as many of the insights and applications are meaningful in all aspects of one’s life and being. Bring your whole self to this book.
I am awed by the density, yet readability, of Webb’s impressive writing. Webb has been a management consultant for a top firm (McKinsey) and an executive coach. Her depth of knowledge and ability to present important ideas shines through. Every page is filled with meaningful anecdotes coupled with scientific research. This is not a book to be read quickly and then tossed aside. Here are a few things that stood out for me.Start by setting intentions
In the coaching world, we talk a lot about “intentions” but this isn’t common language in the working professional world, so Webb also weaves through language like “priorities” and “direction.” This is taking the deliberate time to think about what you want your working day to be like.
Webb shares research from the wonderful world of neuroscience to explain what happens when we go through events on auto-pilot: how your brain makes decisions and why that’s both a good and a bad thing. Webb also shares the importance of checking in on your assumptions. We all make them, so it’s not about avoiding them. It’s simply about being aware and questioning.Help yourself be productive
Webb calls this “singletasking” though I’ve also seen it referred to as “chunking” or “monotasking”. We are done with the “multi-tasking” imperative of the past several years. Now we know that the brain works best when we give it dedicated (though limited) focused time on the tasks that we need to do. Webb has concrete ideas on how to chunk out your day and stick to your plan, even including necessary downtime to allow your brain to renew and refresh.
Harness positive relationships
We often go through our workdays automatically, not really being fully aware of the other people with whom we come in contact. We may see them as their position (that VP), or their group (that person from HR) or even as an obstacle to our goals.However, Webb encourages us to make the most of these important relationships with people with whom we genuinely spend a lot of time and collaborate on meaningful work. As Webb says, “Our highly social brains are wired to constantly assess the state of our affinity with others.” Through setting intentions and asking quality questions, we can create solid connections and relationships with those around us at work. Webb also includes many helpful tips on how to resolve conflict, because sometimes that happens too.
These are just some takeaways from the first half of Webb’s book. Hopefully you can already see the value that she is imparting to her readers. She goes on to talk about how to be “your smartest, wisest, most creative self” and how to have impact and influence in what you say and do. She wraps it up by helping you to be more resilient and energetic. There are lots of wonderful aha moments here too, but I don’t want to steal her thunder too much.
Webb has formulated an impressive book that will help many. I know I’m already using some of her ideas. As I wrote this review, I took the time to really focus on what I needed, finding a quiet place with sunshine to allow me to work most effectively. I blocked the time in my calendar, and made sure I was well-rested. After this, I look forward to a healthy lunch and some social learning interactions this afternoon. A good day indeed!