The Science of Success

Using Science to Create the Perfect Day with Caroline Webb

April 19, 2018
In this episode, we look at how to use insights from behavioral science to improve your life. We look at what it means to have a “good day” and figure out how to reverse engineer more good days, by examining decision making, the power of rest and recovery, intention setting, setting boundaries, and much more with our guest Caroline Webb. 
Caroline Webb is CEO of Sevenshift, a firm that uses insights from behavioral science to improve their client’s working lives. She was previously a partner at McKinsey consulting and is the best selling author of How To Have A Good Day, which has been published in 16 languages in more than 60 countries. Her work has been featured in Inc., Forbes, Fortune, and much more.
  • What does it mean to have a good day? What does that have to do with the science of improving your life?
  • What is a bad day? what is a good day?
  • 3 Core things about having a good day
    • Working on your priorities
    • Feeling that you’re producing great work
    • Can it be repeated?
  • What is the science behind what actually allows people and organizations to change?
  • The two system brain - there are two systems that interact in the brain, as Kahneman called them System 1 and System 2. 
    • “System 2” - the slow system, our conscious experience, deliberate thinking mind, but it moves slowly and can only process information slowly and clunkily 
    • “System 1” - the automatic system - our subconscious mind, immense processing power, but it often takes shortcuts 
  • How do we create the conditions for our deliberate system to be as successful as possible?
  • Breaks are not for wimps, breaks are crucial opportunities to reboot your deliberate system and improve your thinking and decision-making
  • Frequent, short breaks enormously enhance your mental ability 
  • Short cardio activity will boost your focus and mood materially
  • When we are resting, we encode and consolidate information - and often create new insight
  • When you “single task” you work about 30% faster than someone who is multi-tasking - every time your attention switches, there is a cost in time and processing power
  • Why saying "ABCDEFG 1234567” is so much easier than saying "A1, B2, C3, D4, E5, F6, G7”
  • What’s the most important thing you’re doing today and how can you get yourself to single task on that?
  • Willpower is not the way to create big changes in your life, it's about changing your environment
  • Switching your phone to monochrome to help make it less attractive 
  • Nudges vs Sludges - how to shift your environment to create behavioral change
  • The currency of our lives is attention
  • Your brain is constantly filtering out a huge amount of information - and whatever is top of mind for you filter your reality
  • The hard science of setting your intentions - set what attitude you want to have, what your aim is, what your assumptions are, etc - setting intentions can have a material impact on your behavior
  • Defensive mode vs discovery mode - and what happens when we get put into a “fight or flight” response
  • The best strategies for rapidly getting out of the defensive mode.
  • Distancing - put yourself at some distance from the situation. Tells the brain that the threat is further away.
    • “What will I think about this when I look back in a year’s time?”
    • “What would I tell a friend if they were in this situation?”
    • ‘What would my wisest friend/mentor say in this situation?”
  • Labeling - label how you are feeling. By labeling the emotion you are experiencing you tell the brain that “the threat has been acknowledged”
  • Re-appraisal - a powerful technique that has longer lasting effects - trains you to think flexibly about alternative explanations. 
    • What are the facts of what’s happened?
    • What am I assuming?
    • What would be an alternative explanation?
  • This isn’t “The Secret” - there is a lot of science around how you can be more productive and effective
  • The importance of being proactive vs being reactive 
  • How do you set boundaries without ruining your relationships? How do you say no in an elegant and graceful way?
  • “The Positive No” - the scientific way to say no, politely
    • Don’t start with “sorry”
    • Start with something that keeps the other person out of discovery mode - appreciate them in some way “I really appreciate you inviting me”, etc 
    • Then go into what you’re saying YES to “I’ve got an exciting project on my plate that I need to complete by the end of XYZ that will have a huge impact”
    • As a result, I’m having to make some tough choices about how I spend my time, and I can’t come to the meeting, I’m sorry
    • End with warmth and wish them well