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Simplify Productivity: Charles Duhigg Says Thinking is the Killer App

In the first episode of Season 3, Caitlin talks to Pulitzer-winning columnist and bestselling author, Charles Duhigg.
by Natallia Darozhkina | Apr 5 2018

We’re stoked to kick off season 3 of Simplify with Pulitzer-winning productivity and habit-formation expert, Charles Duhigg.

Through painstaking research, Duhigg has cracked the code to what makes the world’s most productive people so effective—and how you can be, too. Listen in to hear why self-belief is the key to real, lasting change and find out which productivity tips Duhigg’s teaching his kids.

If you want to break an old habit, or be your most innovative, creative self, then this episode is for you.

“Productivity comes from understanding how to take control of our own life.”
Charles Duhigg

We often measure productivity by how fast we tackle our to-do lists. Using life hacks and productivity techniques, we hope to stop procrastinating and finally feel on top of things. And while these strategies can help you organize your thoughts or give you that extra push, they’re unlikely to make you truly productive.

Charles Duhigg believes that real productivity comes from thinking differently. It springs from deep understanding of the questions in front of you, and how you can prioritize and work on the most meaningful, impactful tasks.

Your to-do list should be a prioritization device, not a memory aid. By forcing yourself to identify your priorities, you come closer to achieving crucial goals. And that, friends, is productivity.

So, what should really be on your to-do list? Find out in this episode of Simplify!

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Who’s Charles Duhigg?

Charles Duhigg

Charles Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize winning columnist and senior editor. He is also the author of two New York Times bestsellers: Smarter Faster Better, and The Power of Habit. Duhigg is a graduate of Yale University and the Harvard Business School. He currently resides in Brooklyn, NYC, with his wife and two kids.

Charles Duhigg’s recommended reads

1. Covering The Cops by Calvin Trillin

Covering The Cops is an article from The New Yorker dated February 17, 1986. It describes the world of Miami’s top crime reporter, Edna Buchanan, who moved to Miami in the 1960s and became one of the first crime reporters for the Miami Herald. She covered the police beat for several years, and won a Pulitzer Prize for general reporting.

Comment from Charles: “Anything by Calvin Trillin is great, but this piece, in particular: Covering The Cops. It’s about Miami’s top crime reporter. It’s a wonderful, wonderful magazine piece. I would absolutely recommend that to anyone.”

2. Void Star by Zachary Mason

The science fiction novel, Void Star, is set in a near-future San Francisco where drones are guarding the skies and the world is inhabited by AIs. The main character, Irina, possesses an artificial memory that lets her act as a medium between her various employers and their AIs. She is pushed together with Kern, a thief and self-taught martial artist, and Thales, the son of a Brazilian politician, who just like Irina has cranial implants that enable perfect memory recall. The three individuals are brought together, trying to stay safe while being pursued by a mysterious AI, a 150-year-old billionaire, and memory-ghosts.

Comment from Charles: “There is a book I read recently that I kind of loved. It’s a weird book, and it’s this person who writes really beautiful literature, trying to come to grips with and understand what it would be like to be AI. Which I think will become more an issue within the next couple of decades: how does AI think.”

Extra credit reading

If you would like to dig deeper into productivity, innovation and learn how to finally break that habit, check out this book list created by Ben and Caitlin!

You can read (or listen to!) the key insights from each of these titles on Blinkist in 15 minutes or even fewer:

Deep Work is all about how the rise of technology has wrecked our ability to concentrate deeply on tasks – and how to overcome this. These blinks illustrate different strategies that can help you improve your professional output and get the most out of your free time.

Creativity, Inc. explores the peaks and troughs in the history of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios along with Ed Catmull’s personal journey towards becoming the successful manager he is today. In doing so, he explains the management beliefs he has acquired along the way, and offers actionable advice on how to turn your team members into creative superstars.

In Getting Things Done, David Allen introduces his famous system for stress-free productivity. By working it into your day-to-day, you can face an overwhelming amount of things to do, but still be productive, creative, and relaxed as you tackle them.

What’s Simplify?

Simplify is a podcast for anybody who’s taken a close look at their habits, their happiness, their relationships, or their health and thought “There’s got to be a better way to do this.” We talk to bestselling writers, productivity wizards, sex geniuses, and happiness experts to find it for you.

Simplify is made with love by Blinkist. Click here to try Blinkist free for 14 days with the voucher code: cue

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Talk to us!

We want to hear from you!

Specifically, we’d love to hear how you would answer one of the questions we always ask our guests: “What have you discovered was much easier than you initially thought it was?”

You can just record your answer with a voice memo app of your choice and then email it to us at [email protected]. We are looking forward to listening to your responses, and stay tuned—you just might hear yourself on a future episode of Simplify!

If you want to say hi to Ben and Caitlin in the meantime, you can find them on Twitter: @bsto and @CaitlinSchiller.

Who made this?

Your hosts are Caitlin Schiller and Ben Schuman-Stoler.

Stellar research and production assistance by the outstanding Natallia Darozhkina.

Thanks to Nico Guiang for our awesome intro and outro music. Listen more on Soundcloud or check him out on Facebook.

Sound and editing by Ody Constantinou, who was an early investor in vertical farms.

Got links?

Charles Duhigg’s website:

Read the transcript here!

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