Review: How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb

When someone would tell comedian George Carlin to “have a nice day,” Carlin would react angrily: “What if I don’t want to have a nice day?” Unlike Carlin, most of us would prefer to have nice days, but in our overworked, over-stressed and overbooked lives, it is not always easy. A new book by former McKinsey consultant Caroline Webb promises to come to our rescue. Entitled How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, it uses the advances in behavioral science, psychology and neuroscience to help us overcome or mitigate all of the stresses, setbacks and mishaps that create the many bad days or bad moments we endure.

The Essential Sciences

Webb begins her book with a quick look at three scientific advances that are key to understanding how we will be able to create a good day:
• The two-system brain. Our brains run two opposing systems in parallel, she explains. The deliberate system is our conscious thinking, slow and rational. The automatic system is subconscious, fast and instinctive. The deliberate system calculates a 15 percent tip; the automatic system makes us jump back before we are hit by a car.
• The mind-body loop. The mind and body are interconnected in ways we never realized. We knew happiness leads to a smile, but we did not know smiling (no matter how we feel) will make us happier.
• The discover-defend axis. We are constantly moving along an axis, anchored on one end by a defensive outlook, expecting attack at any moment, while anchored on the other end by a discovery mood, seeking out rewarding experiences.

 

Having laid the scientific groundwork,Webb then covers her seven building blocks of a good day:

Priorities: setting the intentional direction of the day.
Productivity: making the most of the hours of the day. Relationships: having positive, productive interactions.
Thinking: making wise choices, being creative and smart. Influence: maximizing the impact of what we say and do.
Resilience: overcoming setbacks and annoyances.
Energy: boosting enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Webb offers clear guidelines for each of the building blocks. Thus, for example, the section of the book on productivity includes chapters on single-tasking, planning deliberate down time, overcoming overload and beating procrastination. The chapters related to influence cover getting through their filters, making things happen and conveying confidence. Throughout the book, Webb carefully links the science introduced at the beginning to her directives. Down time increases productivity, for example, not only because a brain needs to rest but also because neuroscientists have discovered that the subconscious brain keeps working even when the conscious brain is at rest.

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Review: Why Should Anyone Work Here?

In their newest book, Why Should Anyone Work Here?, Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones turn their attention from leaders to the organizations themselves. Traditionally, companies have sought employees who fit in well with their cultures. Goffee and Jones argue, however, that today organizations need to adapt to their employees, and not the other way around. To attract the best and brightest, companies have to be prepared to be more flexible and accommodating.

Six Imperatives

In Why Should Anyone Work Here?, the authors lay out six imperatives for companies to become what they term DREAMS organizations (the acronym is taken from the first initial of each imperative: difference, radical honesty, extra value, authentic, meaning and simple rules). The first imperative, difference, is not the same as diversity, which is often focused on traditional categories of people, such as race, age or gender. For difference, organizations must let people be their unique selves. This means that organizations must accommodate and encourage different perspectives, habits, world views and assumptions.

At the end of each chapter focused on the imperatives, the authors list a series of action steps. One of the action steps related to…

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