Get It Done Book Summary - Get It Done Book explained in key points
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Get It Done summary

Ayelet Fishbach

Surprising Lessons from the Science of Motivation

4.3 (746 ratings)
28 mins

Brief summary

Get It Done by Ayelet Fishbach is a self-help book that provides practical tips for overcoming procrastination and achieving your goals. It explores the roots of procrastination and offers actionable advice for staying motivated and productive.

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    Get It Done
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    To reach the finish line, set compelling, specific goals – and have fun!

    Maybe you’ve also pulled yourself through a major life change before, like ending an unhealthy relationship or switching careers. All of these are things that need to get done, even when motivating yourself to do them can be tough.

    Demands, distractions, worries – they’re all part of life. And when they kick in, your motivation (and goals) often get kicked to the curb.

    So how do you motivate yourself to pursue your dreams and desires when life is in full swing? It all starts with choosing the right goal.

    When framed correctly, goals can be powerful motivational tools. To set a goal that’ll pull you to the finish line, keep these three things in mind.

    First, frame it as the end in itself rather than a means to another goal. For example, say your goal is “finding a job” rather than “applying for a job.” You want your goals to be exciting – not a chore.

    Second, keep your goals abstract. Be careful not to be too vague, though. For example, “Improve my mental health” is better than “be happy” because it points you toward your next step: in this case, perhaps, starting therapy.

    Third, focus on “do” versus “don’t” goals. That is, set goals in terms of something you wish to approach – like good health or success – rather than avoid, like sickness or failure.

    Goals, like recipes, tend to work best when they’re quantified. Setting a target that’s challenging, measurable, and actionable will pull you toward your goal and enable you to monitor your progress. Just make sure, you’re the one to set the target rather than someone else. Because that’s going to help you be more committed. 

    And try not to pick targets that are overly optimistic. We all love an optimist like Ted Lasso, but when you’re too optimistic, that can lead to a bunch of fantasizing, rather than you putting in the actual work.

    There are two types of numerical targets you need to take into account: how much (so, for example, you want to save $10,000) and how soon (within one year? six months? two years?). 

    So if you had vaguely thought of something like “excelling at your new job” or “getting more sleep” as your goal, try swapping that out for: “complete a work project by the end of the week” and “get eight hours of sleep every night.” If you want to start running, set a target like “run the next Chicago Marathon in under five hours."

    Another item you should have in your self-motivation arsenal? Incentives. A foundational element of behavioral science dating back all the way to Pavlov’s salivating dogs. Incentives are basically forms of rewards and punishments.

    Rewards and punishments motivate action by creating immediate mini-goals to your main goal. Let’s go and grab a coffee at your favorite coffee spot for this little example. How much is your latte these days, or your flat white or whatever else you like? Does your inside voice tell you: this is too much?

    Expensive coffees have been demonized as the reason people aren’t saving enough money. Some joke that lattes and avocado toast are the reasons millennials can’t buy houses, and yet: here we are buying our flat whites and lattes. You know why? Because they feel like a reward, whether it’s for the sometimes arduous task of getting out of bed or for having a productive morning of work. I’m sure we can always find a good reason.

    To get the most out of your incentives, make sure that you end up rewarding the right action. Otherwise you might risk “the cobra effect.” It’s a wild story. Look it up. It involves people in India breeding cobra snakes only to then collect rewards for catching them.

    Clearly, that’s easier said than done. To stay on track, you need to be clear on an important distinction: Does your incentive actually lead to progress toward your goal, or is it just a useless target that’s easy to measure?

    Let’s say,you’re trying to get promoted, for example. Then rewarding yourself for the amount of time spent at your computer is not going to help you much – but if you incentivize the quantity or quality of your work, it will. That means, you could set yourself the goal of creating one unprompted report for something that’s really going to help your team in the next 3 months. Or work on pitching one good product idea every month in written form, so you can keep track.

    But we want to keep things exciting. And to do that, try to embrace uncertainty and hit pause on your incentives now and then. I’m just saying: take a break. Breathe. It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Hitting pause will also help confirm that you’re pursuing your goal for your goal’s sake – and that you’re not doing it for the incentive alone.

    The final, crucial ingredient to goal-setting is fun. I know. I just basically talked you through a bunch of homework you should do to get stuff done. And now I’m telling you to have fun, too?Bear with me. In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain’s titular character notes that “work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” That is basically another way of defining intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is when you do something just because. Because you want to. Because you have fun doing it. Because it’s your dream. Because. Maybe there isn't even a proper reason. It just feels good.

    And so, intrinsic motivation is the best predictor of engagement in any activity. Let me unpack this real quick. What I’m saying is:

    When you set a goal for yourself – especially if it’s one you don’t necessarily think is super fun to begin with, like work or exercise or vacuuming – you need to make sure you can find some fun aspect in it. Because if you’re having fun, then you’re intrinsically motivated, which in turn leads to success. There are, of course, exceptions. Like, what if you’ve been procrastinating on breaking up your relationship? It’s hard to find the fun in that. But keep in mind how it may make you feel in the long run. Maybe you’ll feel freer, maybe you’ll stop hurting yourself or your partner. So, in situations where it’s hard to find joy in a task, just remember why you want to do something and associate the positive outcomes with it in your mind.

    But generally, the strategy here is simple: make your goals fun! One way to do this is through temptation bundling. That means, you could put on your favorite show while you work out. This is most effective if you only allow yourself that little temptation while you’re pursuing your goal.Another thing you can do is to try and notice any feelings of fun and joy that you already have. If you’re trying to get into running in the mornings, for example, you could try and notice that short feeling of euphoria right after your run. Or that feeling of your heart and skin warming up when you’ve got the sun shining and the wind blowing through your hair. When your breath starts getting into a rhythm. When the world in the morning is calm and still. Breathe that in. Focus on that.

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    What is Get It Done about?

    Get It Done (2022) turns the spotlight on the person that’s often hardest to influence: you. Drawing on anecdotes and research from motivation science, it shows how modifying your circumstances can propel you forward both personally and professionally – even when you feel lost at sea.

    Get It Done Review

    Get It Done (2021) by Ayelet Fishbach is a helpful book on achieving our goals and getting things done efficiently. Here's why you should consider reading it:

    • With its practical strategies and techniques, the book empowers readers to overcome procrastination and increase productivity in their daily lives.
    • Through real-life examples and case studies, the book offers valuable insights into the psychology behind motivation and goal-setting, making it relatable and applicable.
    • The author's engaging storytelling keeps the content interesting and ensures that readers stay engaged throughout the book, making it a captivating read.

    Who should read Get It Done?

    • People who want to be more productive at work or home
    • Those wondering how to persevere in the face of adversity
    • Anyone seeking clearheadedness in a chaotic world

    About the Author

    Ayelet Fishbach, PhD, is a psychologist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The former president of the Society for the Study of Motivation, she’s published over a hundred scientific articles, given talks around the world, and been featured in media outlets like the New York Times and NPR. Her research on human motivation won the Fulbright Educational Foundation Award.

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    Get It Done FAQs 

    What is the main message of Get It Done?

    The main message of Get It Done is how to overcome procrastination and increase productivity.

    How long does it take to read Get It Done?

    The reading time for Get It Done varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Get It Done a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Get It Done is a practical guide for anyone looking to boost their productivity. Highly recommended.

    Who is the author of Get It Done?

    The author of Get It Done is Ayelet Fishbach.

    What to read after Get It Done?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Get It Done, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • High Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
    • The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard
    • Extreme Productivity by Robert C. Pozen
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy
    • Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
    • Mindset by Carol Dweck