How To Have A Good Day: Harness The Power Of Behavioral Science To Transform Your Working Life, by Caroline Webb
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Crown Business in exchange for an honest review.]
I wished to read this book to figure out some useful behavioral hacks to help improve life, and was satisfied to see that some of the tricks were ones I was already familiar with, like seeing to play to strengths  and seeking meaning in life  and also visualizing and reappraising past events. Even so, this book offers a great deal of insight and wisdom, from a neurological and behavioral science approach, with frequent mentions of topics related to gorillas, which come up at least a handful of times throughout the course of the book and help provide a running gag to keep the approach lighthearted and humorous. To be sure, this is self-help material for the busy manager or executive looking to increase the effectiveness of one’s time, with witty quotations, case studies from such people as entrepreneurs, political advisers, and consultants, suggestions for further reading for those who are interested in a more in-depth look at the subjects the author discusses, and a variety of useful techniques to help improve productivity and mood. Coming in at slightly more than 300 pages, this is a book that serves more as a reference material for ongoing conscious mood management than as a book to be read once and then put on the shelf.
In terms of its structure and contents, this book is exceptionally well-organized, even clinical in its approach. It is well-equipped to deliver the largest amount of encouragement and suggestion in a fashion that is easy to read quickly for comprehension. The author divides her work into seven parts and twenty-one chapters, followed by three appendices, after spending the first 30 pages or so of the book examining the science essentials to how to re-wire the brain in the two-system brain (fast and slow thinking), the discover-defend axis, and the mind-body loop, areas the author returns to over and over again. The first part of the book looks at priorities, setting intentional direction for one’s day through choosing filters, setting great goals, and reinforcing one’s intentions. The second part of the book looks at productivity, by encouraging singletasking, planning deliberate downtime, overcoming overload, and beating procrastination by seeking to increase the felt rewards of important but uninspiring tasks. The third part of the book examines relationships by encouraging people to seek real rapport with others, resolve tensions, and bring the best out of others. The fourth part of the book, on thinking, examines how people can find insight through deliberately shifting tasks, make wise decisions, and boost brainpower. The fifth part of the book, on influence, provides some useful tips on how people can get through others’ mental filters, make things happen, and convey confidence, in part through spreading one’s space like a gorilla. The sixth part of the book looks at how people can show resilience in difficult situations by keeping a cool head, moving on if necessary, and staying strong. The seventh and final part of the book examines how people can top up their tank of energy and play to one’s strengths. After this the author discusses how to be good at meetings and e-mails and how to reinvigorate one’s routine.
There is a lot that is praiseworthy about this book–its charts and graphs are well-organized, the use of humor and case stories is refreshing, and the book manages to combine up-to-date scientific research along with a smooth prose style that goes down easy and plenty of suggestions to help people and encourage those who are trying some of them already. In talking about setting one’s intentions for the day, for example, the author discusses the three A’s of aim, attitude, and attention. The author encourages people in difficulties and tense situations with others to remember that others are simply being human, often in bad circumstances, as a way of encouraging more collaborative behaviors with those who should be allies and partners. Some of the book’s quotes are extremely poignant, such as: “Most of the great triumphs and tragedies of history are caused not by people being fundamentally good or fundamentally evil, but by people being fundamentally people (113).” Other quote are particularly ironic, such as this choice remark from deeply mistaken economist John Maynard Keynes: “The difficulty lies not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones (165).” The biggest flaw that can be said about this book is that its focus on novelty and seeking to narrow its appeal to scientific research means that the book neglects aspects of the spirit and also makes this book somewhat guaranteed to be obsolete when there is new research that suggests different approaches. Nevertheless, this is the sort of book that ought to appeal to an audience of people looking to justify changes to their lives based on contemporary science.
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