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In How to Have a Good Day, economist and former McKinsey partner Caroline Webb shows readers how to use recent findings from behavioral economics, psychology, and neuroscience to transform our approach to everyday working life.
 
Advances in behavioral sciences are giving us an ever better understanding of how our brains work, why we make the choices we do, and what it takes for us to be at our best. But it has not always been easy to see how to apply these insights in the real world--until now.
 
In How to Have a Good Day, Webb explains exactly how to apply this science to our daily tasks and routines. She translates three big scientific ideas into step-by-step guidance that shows us how to set better priorities, make our time go further, ace every interaction, be our smartest selves, strengthen our personal impact, be resilient to setbacks, and boost our energy and enjoyment. Through it all, Webb teaches us how to navigate the typical challenges of modern workplaces—from conflict with colleagues to dull meetings and overflowing inboxes—with skill and ease.
 
Filled with stories of people who have used Webb’s insights to boost their job satisfaction and performance at work, How to Have a Good Day is the book so many people wanted when they finished Nudge, Blink and Thinking Fast and Slow and were looking for practical ways to apply this fascinating science to their own lives and careers.
 
A remarkable and much-needed book, How to Have a Good Day gives us the tools we need to have a lifetime of good days.

Review

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 TriggersMOJO 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.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

The Science Essentials

I’ll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be.

—Isaac Asimov



We’re living in a golden age of behavioral science, where every passing week seems to deliver fresh insights into the way we think, feel, and act. Neuroscientists, psychologists, and economists are busy unraveling the important mysteries of our time, questions like: “How can I conquer my inbox?” “Why do perfectly reasonable people get their wires crossed?” “What would it take for me to stop procrastinating right now (or later today, or tomorrow)?” Scientific research has ever more to say in answer to these sorts of pressing questions.

You might reasonably wonder what’s changed. Why are so many media articles suddenly illustrated with pictures of brains? The three disciplines that form the backbone of this book­-psychology, behavioral economics, and neuroscience­-have been around for a century or more, after all. But right now we’re sitting at the intersection of some big trends that are making these three behavioral sciences more applicable to our everyday lives. Let me describe some of that backstory, before I lay out the three big cross­cutting science themes that run through the rest of the book.



Psychology: Greater Focus on Well­Being

For much of its history, psychology was mostly concerned with investigating the causes of negative behavior. Researchers did important work to understand pathologies such as paranoia and depression; they explored the dynamics of fear and aggression. Given this, it’s perhaps no surprise that one of psychology’s most well­known experiments was Stanley Milgram’s controversial exploration of how far people were willing to submit to authority­-the one where he tested whether volunteers would be willing to give potentially fatal electrical shocks to strangers when told to do so by someone in a white coat.1 (A disturbing number of them obeyed.) Obviously, this kind of research did a lot to illuminate the complexities of the human mind, and has laid the foundations of modern behavioral science. But the findings didn’t readily translate into uplifting guidance for living a good life.

In recent years, however, the balance has shifted toward exploring the conditions that invite positive behavior. Perhaps the most visible catalyst for the shift came when Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was elected president of the American Psychological Association in 1998. Seligman’s own research had previously focused on the study of helplessness. But he announced with some fanfare that the theme for his term of office would be “positive psychology,” the serious study of what it takes for us to be the best version of ourselves. And since then, psychologists have directed more energy toward understanding the jollier side of human experience­-what helps us thrive, lifts our spirits, and boosts our productivity. These are exactly the sort of things that most of us are hungry to know more about, especially on those days when our workplaces feel like a Milgram experiment.



Economics: More Realism in Theories of Behavior

At the same time, economics has also moved toward a more rounded view of the human condition. At its heart, economics is the study of the way people make choices: how we weigh the costs and benefits of different options, and what we decide to do as a result. The choices might be mundane, like deciding which snack to buy, or they might be consequential, like deciding which multimillion­dollar project goes forward. Either way, to predict people’s choices, economists used to build theoretical models that assumed humans always accurately and independently assessed the benefits of each option open to them. But those models weren’t able to explain a lot of real­life behavior: for example, the way we often make snap decisions based on little information; the fact that we sometimes change our minds, based on what others think; the way we occasionally do nice things for other people without any expectation of payback.

This spurred two psychologists­-Daniel Kahneman of Princeton and Amos Tversky of Stanford­-to cross enemy lines in 1979 and publish an article in Econometrica, an influential economics journal. In the article, they highlighted that people don’t behave like machines when it comes to the choices they make.2 Emotional and social considerations drive many of our choices, often for good reason and in quite predictable ways. And with that, they sparked a revolution. Soon there was a new movement called “behavioral economics” that was devoted to apply­ing the powerful analytical tools of economics to the way that real people make decisions in the real world. The result? Well, Kahneman went on to win the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002. But more important for us is that economists now have a much more nuanced and accurate understanding of the choices we make from day to day, and what it takes for us to nudge our behavior one way or another.



Neuroscience: More Sophisticated Measurement of Brain Activity

Finally, neuroscience has benefitted from dramatic advances in techniques for observing ordinary brains in action. Neuroscientists have long had access to a range of scanning techniques that helped reveal the structures and activities of the brain. Those scanning technologies often came at a cost of exposing the brain’s owner to a good deal of radiation­-so they weren’t ideal for non­medical research. Since the 1990s, though, steady improvements in less risky imaging technologies (including the discovery of functional MRI scanning) have made it easier for neuroscientists to watch what happens to healthy people’s brains while normal things are happening to them. That means researchers can see which areas of the brain become active when a person is tickled by kindness or energized by accomplishment. They can observe the neural activity associated with someone feeling unhappy or stressed (for reasons beyond the fact that they’re lying in a noisy metal tube or have electrodes strapped to their heads).

As a result, neuroscientists are gaining an increasingly refined understanding of the biological mechanisms behind our everyday thoughts, feelings, and actions. And that means they’re exploring the kind of behavioral topics that also fascinate psychologists and economists­-for example, questions about the way we solve challenging problems and handle complex social interactions. In fact, many of the studies I cite in this book result from collaborations across the three behavioral science disciplines; it feels as if we’re living in an era of “neuro­psycho­economics.” (Or something like that.) And this multi­disciplinary mash‑up is great news for us. It means we get to benefit from complementary perspectives (biological, observational, and analytical) on topics that matter to us in the workplace­-which in turn results in richer guidance on ways for us to stay in top form.

So all in all, it’s an excellent time to be thinking about the way that science can help us flourish.



Three Big Themes

Now, how do we apply all this evolving, exciting science to the everyday details of our working lives? That’s where How to Have a Good Day comes in. This book is dedicated to translating the most valuable research into the context of today’s working world­-the tough assignments, the packed schedules, the complex relationships­-to show you how to make every day reliably more enjoyable and productive.

Before we dive into the advice on creating the seven building blocks of a good day, I’m going to highlight three important scientific themes that cut across the boundaries of the disciplines and recur throughout the book, to give you a foundation for the evidence and advice you’ll find in each chapter. (If you’d prefer to skip ahead to Part I of the book and get started on the practical applications, that’s fine­-there’s a glossary at the end of the book and you can always come back to this section later.) The three themes, in brief, are:

1. The two­system brain: The brain’s activity is split across two complementary systems­-one deliberate and controlled, the other automatic and instinctive. The combination of the two makes us smart and productive. But we can make our cognitive resources go even further if we adjust the way we work to reflect each system’s strengths and weaknesses.

2. The discover­defend axis: Subconsciously, we’re constantly on the lookout for threats to defend against and rewards to discover. It takes very little to put our brains into defensive mode, and we’re not at our smartest in that mode. However, a dose of self­awareness and the pursuit of certain types of rewards can help us move back into clearer­thinking discovery mode.

3. The mind­body loop: The state of our bodies and that of our minds are far more deeply entwined than we generally realize. As a result, certain simple physical interventions can immediately boost our intellectual performance, emotional resilience, and personal confidence.



Theme 1: The Two­System Brain

Our brains are impressive, by any measure. They keep our bodily functions humming while offering us immense storage capacity for complex memories and ideas. They’re also capable of remarkable processing and calculating feats, giving us the ability to do things as diverse as mental arithmetic, guessing other people’s motivations, keeping our cool in the face of provocation, and telling corny jokes. If brains were smartphones, they’d be flying off the shelves.

To make all of this possible, our brains run two very different systems in parallel. Each has its own strengths, and it’s the combination of the two that gives us so much intellectual horsepower. Psychologists had observed for many years that our minds seemed to have two quite different modes­-one more analytical, the other more instinctive.3 But it was Daniel Kahneman who brought the concept into the public spotlight when he accepted his Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002. He centered his acceptance speech on describing the distinction between “effortless intuition” and “deliberate reasoning,” concepts central to his bestselling book, Thinking Fast and Slow.4 Let’s examine what he meant, and what that means for us in the workplace.



The Deliberate System

First, let’s talk about the system we’re more aware of, the one that controls the things we do consciously and carefully. Most of it sits in the part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, and it goes by a lot of different names. In scientific circles, it’s sometimes known as the “controlled,” “explicit,” or “reflective” system. Daniel Kahneman calls it the “slow” system, because it’s indeed the slower of the two systems.5 I’m going to refer to it as the deliberate system.

This deliberate system is broadly responsible for the sort of grown‑up behavior that would surprise us in a toddler (or even a teenager): reasoning, self­control, and forward thinking.

By reasoning, I don’t just mean logical thinking; I mean any effort to work out the best response to a situation that isn’t routine. Whether we’re fixing an error­laden document or figuring out how to help a stressed­out colleague, we’re leaning on our deliberate system and asking it to do the following: review some information, connect that information to our past experience, make sense of it all, generate options, and evaluate those options wisely. Logic might be involved in that process, but so might empathy and creativity.

Self­control is also a broader concept than you might think. Most obviously, it’s involved whenever we resist temptation­-for example, when we manage to bite our tongue rather than blurt out the foolish thing that we desperately want to say to our co­worker with the new haircut. But our deliberate system’s self­control function is also central to something scientists call “emotional regulation”­-that is, not losing our cool when we’re upset­-and to our ability to concentrate in the face of distractions.

Finally, our hardworking deliberate system is responsible for planning­-that is, setting goals and working out how to get there. That requires us to think abstractly: to imagine what the future looks like, to consider the various paths to get there, and to assess the eventual benefits of setting off on any of those paths. We run this sort of complex calculation every day, even when our goal is just to organize ourselves to get to a meeting on time.

In short, the deliberate system is responsible for putting us on our best behavior. When it’s in full control, it makes us wise, self­possessed, and reliable. But let’s be honest: we’re not always like that. That’s because our deliberate system has several limitations.



Smart­-but Small, Sequential, and Slow

First, it has limited capacity, because it relies heavily on something called working memory. Part notepad for incoming new data, part librarian for accessing stored experience, our working memory is the space where we hold information in our conscious mind as we figure out what to do with it. And our notepad only has so much space on it. For years it was thought we could hold about seven pieces of information in our minds at once, but more recent research suggests it’s three or four at most.6

Those three or four chunks of information can be big or small. For example, suppose you have an elaborate new idea for a project. Your working memory is full of your thoughts on this new idea. But then the name of a colleague comes to mind­-someone you’re supposed to call. Then, a message pops up on the screen in front of you. Maybe there’s a blinking light on your phone. And all these things demand space in your working memory. Suddenly your deliberate system can’t think as clearly about your new project idea, because some of your ideas have been moved off the notepad to make space for the name, the message, and the light. (What was that idea again?) So the size of our working memory places a limit on the deliberate system’s ability to excel at all the reasoning, self­control, and planning activities I described above.



1. Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.

2. Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47(2), 263-291.

3. Keith Stanovich and Richard West, in particular, wrote an influential paper defining the two systems as System 1 and System 2, terminology that Daniel Kahneman also uses. Stanovich, K.E., & West, R.F. (2000). Individual difference in reasoning: Implications for the rationality debate? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 645-726.

4. A version of Daniel Kahneman’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech on December 8, 2002, was published as: Kahneman, D. (2003). A perspective on judgment and choice: Mapping bounded rationality. American Psychologist, 58(9), 697–720.

5. Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

6. When a string of data--for example, a group of digits--is sufficiently closely connected in our memories that recalling one part of it draws forth the rest, it can count as one “chunk.” So the reason that we might remember a seven-digit phone number is because we’ve turned it into two chunks of three and four digits, respectively—or even, with repetition, one single chunk. See: Cowan, N. (2008). What are the differences between long-term, short-term, and working memory? Progress in Brain Research 169, 323–338. See also: Cowan, N. (2001). The magical number 4 in short-term memory: A reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 24, 87–185.

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John G. McDaid
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Want to know "How to Have a Good Day?" Read this book.
Reviewed in the United States on February 10, 2016
This book should suck. Really. The title clearly over-promises (“How To Have a Good Day,” indeed) and the text attempts three of the most difficult non-fiction high-wire acts: popularizing science without making stupid errors, presenting business advice that doesn’t trigger... See more
This book should suck. Really. The title clearly over-promises (“How To Have a Good Day,” indeed) and the text attempts three of the most difficult non-fiction high-wire acts: popularizing science without making stupid errors, presenting business advice that doesn’t trigger your bulls*** detector, and giving self-help tips that don’t fall off into either banality or featherbrained woo.

Nearly impossible. And yet, somehow, Caroline Webb has pulled it off.

“How to Have a Good Day” is a meticulously documented, step-by-step approach to leveraging contemporary research in cognitive science and behavioral economics to solve the real problems that keep us from being effective — and happy — in our day-to-day jobs and lives. And it’s not aimed at helping you “feel” better, but, rather, outlines a rigorously pragmatic approach to actually *doing* better: analyzing situations more effectively, making better decisions, and communicating with others with empathy and impact.

Every piece of advice comes with a footnoted scientific study — often more than one — buttressing its claims. And Webb, a former partner at a management consulting firm, peppers the text with mini-case studies, anecdotes from business leaders across a wide spectrum of industries that reinforce each of the learnings. Taken together, these present a compelling argument that the advice doesn’t just work in the lab, but in the rubber-meets-the-road environments of the shop floor and the conference room.

Webb opens the book with a section on the science. There are some familiar big ideas (the brain’s two-systems of deliberate thought and automatic or pre-conscious process; the fight-flight-freeze response which can keep us open to discovery or shut us down in defensive threat reaction; and the mind-body loop in which influence can go both ways) which Webb will weave throughout the book. If there is a core theme, it would be that by better understanding how our brain processes the world, we can become aware of and avoid the shortcuts and pitfalls of our unconscious biases and blind spots — and in so doing, increase the odds of our having successful interactions. (And that, often, it can be as simple an act as setting intentions that alerts the brain to the salient features it should be picking out.)

If you’re familiar with cognitive science (or phenomenology) some of this may be sound obvious, but Webb’s skill is in taking these insights and showing how they lead to dysfunction in our everyday lives. We do not directly experience the world, but rather offload much of our administrative processing to sub-conscious systems — and therein lies the problem: we make snap judgements, improperly weight data, and can miss things that are literally right in front of our eyes.

One example Webb uses to demonstrate this kind of inattentional blindness is the famous “gorilla in the basketball game” video (if you’re not familiar, here’s a helpful NPR backgrounder: [...] ). Webb offers a variety of tested methods for re-focusing our brain’s attention, keeping us in a creative, open state, and engaging the teams around us in ways that help keep them working at their full potential. Hint: It can be as simple as using the “yes…and” familiar to anyone who’s done improv comedy to keep other team members from going into the “amygdala hijack” of defensive mode.

One weird trick I found particularly compelling was harnessing our social brain to solve abstract logic puzzles. Webb uses the example of the Wason selection task (see Wikipedia: [...]), in which you have four cards, showing D, F, 3, and 7, and are asked which cards you would need to turn over to test the truth of the assertion that any card with a “D” on one side must have a “3” on the other. A majority of people get this wrong. But then Webb suggests reframing it in social terms:

“You’re a bartender. You have to make sure that anyone drinking beer in your bar is over twenty-one, or you could lose your license. Each of the cards below represents information about four of your patrons. One side of the card shows what they’re drinking, and the other side of the card shows their (real) age. Which card or cards to you need to turn over to see if the twenty-one-and-over rule is being violated?” The cards are: Beer, Coke, 25, and 16.

Three times as many people get this right, because they’re leveraging their social knowledge. And as Webb points out, we can easily apply this framing to everyday conceptual challenges to provide extra processing power. And that’s just one cherry-picked example. The 300 pages of this book are packed with equally powerful bits of advice.

Webb conveys this all with style and wit, in prose that is at once warm and unpretentious and yet totally at home with the complexities of the evidence she marshals to support her arguments. It is well-written down to the footnotes, and contains two helpful appendices on applying the book’s insights to the two main productivity killers of the business world, meetings and e-mail. I came away with half-a-dozen ideas for things to do differently (some as simple as single-tasking and batching the times I respond to e-mails) and I can virtually guarantee that you’ll find things that will make your days more productive and, yes, happier.

Full disclosure: I used to work at the same company as Ms. Webb’s husband, but I have never met her.
38 people found this helpful
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timothy d fisher
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The everyday epiphany.
Reviewed in the United States on February 5, 2016
For those of us without the time, means, or gumption to hire a career/life coach, there is help. Profound, tangible, and accessible help from this book. And blessedly, it requires little heavy lifting on our part. It turns out, the ways we get in our own way, the... See more
For those of us without the time, means, or gumption to hire a career/life coach, there is help. Profound, tangible, and accessible help from this book. And blessedly, it requires little heavy lifting on our part. It turns out, the ways we get in our own way, the procrastinating, time-wasting, goal-sabotaging, can be squelched. While we’ve been suffering, a small army of academics has been figuring stuff out. It might in how our brains function, our evolutionary tendencies, or the habits (good or bad) we pick up.

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.
68 people found this helpful
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Dr Ali Binazir
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An indispensable reference for adulting in the modern world
Reviewed in the United States on March 26, 2018
This book should be called “how to be an effective adult.” Although nominally it’s about how to have a good day at work, it covers a whole lot more. The book revolves around three themes: 1. The brain’s activity is split across System 1 (deliberate and controlled) and... See more
This book should be called “how to be an effective adult.” Although nominally it’s about how to have a good day at work, it covers a whole lot more. The book revolves around three themes:
1. The brain’s activity is split across System 1 (deliberate and controlled) and System 2 (automatic and instinctive).
2. The discover-defend axis: Our brains function best when it’s in discovery mode instead of defending against perceived threats.
3. Mind and body are deeply entwined. Simple physical interventions can immediately boost our intellectual performance, emotional resilience, and personal confidence.

Webb then applies these themes to seven main areas: Priorities, Productivity, Relationships, Thinking, Influence, Resilience, and Energy. For each of these, she gives practical, scientifically-sound principles that I’m sure have been tested up and down the halls of her famously meticulous consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

For example, to boost your energy, do these six things: think about three good things; engage in random kindness; find something interesting; give yourself a quick win; make time for human connection; find the personal purpose; and smile. To beat back procrastination, use implementation intentions, e.g. “When I first sit at my desk, I will write for 15min.” Intrinsic motivation works better than extrinsic motivation, so find your inner why. Boost your brainpower by scheduling blocks of deep thinking time, engineering your environment, prioritizing your sleep (HUGE!) and doing a short burst of aerobic exercise.

This one book is more like a summary of 12 books on productivity and self-management, boiled down to their most useful essence and presented in a highly structured, user-friendly package. Each chapter has a one-page summary, and there are three appendices at the end for mastering meetings, email, and reinvigorating your routine.
This is a superb guide and reference for getting life right. Give it to your favorite high-schooler or college student to give them a huge jump on life, or just get it to be an even more effective version of you. 10/10
-- Ali Binazir, M.D., M.Phil., Happiness Engineer and author of The Tao of Dating: The Smart Woman''s Guide to Being Absolutely Irresistible , the highest-rated dating book on Amazon for 4 years, and Should I Go to Medical School?: An Irreverent Guide to the Pros and Cons of a Career in Medicine
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A. H. Wagner
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
How to put the carpe in your diem!
Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2016
So, what is this book about? 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... See more
So, what is this book about?
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.

Any caveats?
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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Stella CarrierTop Contributor: Writing
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
multiple area benefits
Reviewed in the United States on May 23, 2019
This kindlebook that is How To Have A Good Day: Harness The Power of Behavioral Science To Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb appealed to me even with my intuitive awareness that I am blessed/lucky in both my personal and working life. This is because I’m... See more
This kindlebook that is How To Have A Good Day: Harness The Power of Behavioral Science To Transform Your Working Life by Caroline Webb appealed to me even with my intuitive awareness that I am blessed/lucky in both my personal and working life. This is because I’m logically aware that there is always abundant/plenty of room for me to learn more information/grow my knowledge when it comes to continue to make the best andor boost my knowledge of professionally evolving in my work/career/professional/employment life. On an additional beneficial note I also spotted some ideas that I can utilize in other areas of my life. Some of the ideas that are shared in this uplifting kindlebook: why it is at times important to take in that certain situations are more about the other person and/or other people even when it seems otherwise, I’m definitely going to need to give myself more time to process the devil’s advocate section in this kindlebook even though I’m intuitively aware that I’m far from an angel that I wish that I was, positive framing, imagining the ideal outcome of the task andor project, draw a subject tree, and more. I’m also in the process of learning that it is important for me to speak andor write what I am thinking with courageous/braver intent provided that my communications of this fashion are done with civil intent even if some people I admire in my personal andor professional life far from agree on some of my viewpoints. Coming across this kindlebook is timely for me because it gives me ideas on ways to reframe my communications/writings regardless if my views are popular in a wiser and/or more thoughtful manner.
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PMRisher
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Have a Good Day and a Better Work-life --- Really!
Reviewed in the United States on February 3, 2017
This is the best written and most useful book I have found in years. I have listened to the audio version twice, have it in Kindle, and have bought two copies of the hardback. I read widely and deeply in the personal development literature - both popular and academic, and... See more
This is the best written and most useful book I have found in years. I have listened to the audio version twice, have it in Kindle, and have bought two copies of the hardback. I read widely and deeply in the personal development literature - both popular and academic, and I have not found another author who has taken the complex findings in the areas of neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral economics and made them practically useful for the person who aspires to live life well. I have read many of the source books/studies which Caroline writes about and find that she has a gift for making an exciting, but complex subject, human intelligible. The Audible version of the book is very well done and for me as an American, I particularly enjoy hearing Caroline''s British accent and superb delivery. It is really quite good.. Not only am I using the insights in this book personally, I am using using them as the basis for workshops and seminars (with attribution of course!). If you want to have a better day and a better work-life, I recommend you invest in and do a "deep dive" into this book.
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William E. Franklin
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Exceptional Insights
Reviewed in the United States on February 2, 2016
W Edwards Deming, father of the quality evolution, wrote "without data you''re just another person with an opinion". Ms Webb''s compelling book would be a very useful, interesting read, even without data. But the way everything she tells us is authenticated with... See more
W Edwards Deming, father of the quality evolution, wrote "without data you''re just another person with an opinion". Ms Webb''s compelling book would be a very useful, interesting read, even without data. But the way everything she tells us is authenticated with cited research sources makes it much more than just a very valuable collection of life learnings. I find myself highlighting several times every few pages for future reference. Then she summarizes the key points at the end of each chapter to make it so easy for us to go back and review. Succinct, words have an easy flow, enjoyable to read. Mr Deming also wrote "If you can''t describe what you are doing as a process, you don''t know what you''re doing". He would really like how Ms Webb does that so well.
One more Deming quote "Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival". Whether it be for business or personal life, I think we can all learn from her exceptional insights
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ARgal
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I know it''s not the Bible, but . . . . I''m evangelizing for it as though it were!
Reviewed in the United States on June 5, 2016
This book was referred by a friend, and it was exactly what I needed. (I''ve now recommended or purchased it for numerous people.) The book distills brain science into terms and English major could understand, translates a few key concepts into concrete and VERY usable... See more
This book was referred by a friend, and it was exactly what I needed. (I''ve now recommended or purchased it for numerous people.) The book distills brain science into terms and English major could understand, translates a few key concepts into concrete and VERY usable strategies for a more intentional way of being in the world. While the book is ostensibly aimed at workplace productivity, the tools described here are so portable for everything from dinner with your (politically-different-than-you) in-laws to marriage dynamics to parenting to group dynamics in your friend groups. Webb''s writing is no-nonsense; she offers practical tips that I''ve actually used -- I have read sections of the book multiple times, just to absorb a new tidbit I may have missed before. This book has not only made me more "productive" at work - it''s given me an intentional frame in which to discern what''s worth being considered "productive." I agree 100% with reviews that say Webb''s book is "the book you wanted" when you read all those other productivity books.
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Top reviews from other countries

Susannah Cowland
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
An excellent, scientifically informed book to help us understand ourselves better
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 4, 2017
An excellent insight into ourselves and the science that supports the theories. Written in a very readable way which would appeal to those who want to understand more about the psychology of how we function in our day to day lives with others. Mainly focussing on work life,...See more
An excellent insight into ourselves and the science that supports the theories. Written in a very readable way which would appeal to those who want to understand more about the psychology of how we function in our day to day lives with others. Mainly focussing on work life, but so many of the chapters can be applied to personal relationships with family and friends. Excellent structure of each chapter with a summary so you understand the context, explanation of the topic using real people''s experiences to illustrate the points, ideas of what you can do and exercises to help you put these excellent ideas into practice.
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MS A KONARIKOVA
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Five Stars
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 25, 2017
Item arrived on time and as described. Thank you.
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Nathan Lozeron
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
De facto guide to a great workday
Reviewed in Canada on February 17, 2016
This book is the bible of how to have a good day. Caroline takes the latest behavioral science and distils it into actionable takeaways. The book was so informative that I made a video to animate the core message: [...] Highly recommended. I will be referring to it often as...See more
This book is the bible of how to have a good day. Caroline takes the latest behavioral science and distils it into actionable takeaways. The book was so informative that I made a video to animate the core message: [...] Highly recommended. I will be referring to it often as I try to optimize my day.
3 people found this helpful
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Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Light read on productivity
Reviewed in Brazil on May 17, 2019
Every chapter has a one decent insight. This is both the advantage and the problem the book.
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Amanda Robbins
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Enjoyed this
Reviewed in Canada on December 7, 2018
Great book
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