Today Was a Good Day: a book review

We all want to have a good day, but we also have our share of bad ones. Those days where we don’t get done what we set out to do, we feel like we are spinning our wheels. when we feel anxious and stressed out and don’t navigate our relationships well. We feel low energy and give up when we see no path forward. But what if there was a way to have a good day or at least make the most of the ones we have? in How to Have a Good Day, executive coach and management consultant Caroline Webb draws on the insights of behavioral science to give us seven-building blocks for a good day. These include priorities, productivity, relationships, thinking, influence, resilience, energy. These building blocks are the components of what people describe as a good day.

HaveaGoodDayIn her introduction, Webb probes the components that make up ‘a good day.’ This gives shape to the rest of her book (the seven building blocks described above). Webb draws on “rigorous scientific evidence from psychology, behavioral economics and neuroscience.” Her purpose is to “translate all that science into step-by-step techniques for imporving your day-to-day life (5). She does this by presenting research, giving practical advice and sharing stories. Her focus throughout the book is on the business world. So are her examples. However a broad application of these principles can be made to other aspects of life.

Each section of this book is one of the building blocks of a good day. Part one is about setting priorities and being intentional in work and life. Part two discusses productivity. This is the longest section of the book and Webb covers the importance of ‘single tasking,’ planning deliberate down time, overcoming overload and beating procrastination. Part three discusses how to manage relationships well. Part four probes how to be more creative, wise and intelligent at work. Part five explores how to influence and maximize impact on others. Part six describes what resilience looks like in the face of setbacks, hard times and annoyances. Part seven puts the pieces together, and describes how to approach live with energy and enthusiasm. A postscript includes three appendixes with suggestions for how to have a good meeting, how to be good at email and how to reinvigorate your routine.

The whole book is helpful. I especially liked the productivity section and the relationships  and influence sections. Chapter four, on single tasking explodes the myth of multi-tasking. Webb argues convincingly that though multi-tasking makes your day more interesting, actually reduces productivity (72). While some people (a tiny single digit percentage of people) are ‘supertaskers’ able to process multiple tasks at the same time, the vast majority of us work slower when our attention is divided among too many things. Webb points out the irony that “the people who are most confident of their ablity to multitask, are in fact the worst at it” (73).  So Webb offers practical suggestions for ‘batching tasks and zoning your days. In the relationship and influence sections, Webb offers a number of practical suggestions for handling difficult people and motivating others through positive communication.

This is one of those business self-help books. But don’t let that turn you off. Because Webb roots her practical suggestions in research, there is substance to her message. This isn’t fluffy. It also isn’t super technical (she explains her terms and a glossary also gives working definitions of psychological terms. Her seven domains are more comprehensive and inclusive than your ‘seven habits’type books. The twenty one chapters each offer several suggestions for habits, though some of these stack on top of each other (i.e. chapter five’s discussion of deliberate downtime and mindful practices is reinforced in the section on resilience).

I give this book four stars and think that this is a helpful for leader, managers, executives, or really anyone that wants more good days. Of course each section of the book can delve deeper than Webb in fact does (she includes suggestions for further reading). but I have no real complaints. This is a great book. Having finished it, my day is already better and there is a lot worth practicing here.

Note: I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review

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