Charles Duhigg Smarter Faster Better Book Summary

Here is a book summary of Smarter Faster Better written by Charles Duhigg. In this book summary, you will learn the core concepts of each chapter of the book as well as the key lessons that you should learn from them.

A book summary of the book Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
A book summary of the book Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

What is the Smarter Faster Better book all about?

Smarter Faster Better book is written by Charles Duhigg, a name you probably remember as the same author of the popular book, The Power of Habit.

In this book, Duhigg, a New York Times bestselling author, breaks down the secrets to being productive in life and business.

The book discusses eight core concepts on how you can become “smarter, faster, and better.”

Duhigg uses the science of productivity, neuroscience, and experiences of high achievers to explain how to transform your life.

Book Summary of Smarter Faster Better

Chapter 1: Motivation

Motivation is achieved when you have better control of the situation.

If you give yourself the advantage of deciding for yourself on which task to finish first and how you want to complete the task at hand, it gives you more motivation.

Motivation is like a skill that you can learn and hone.

If you want to motivate someone or a group, give them a choice. This allows them to exert control and therefore, obtain motivation.

Related article:
10 Powerful Strategies to Stay Motivated and Achieve Anything.”

Chapter 2: Teams

Teams work better when each member is given a role.

In a meeting, make it a point to let every single one to talk and share their ideas or opinion about the matter.

Teams, even if they don’t have a superstar member, would still thrive as long as they give each other a voice.

In order to make a team work, each one should:

  • Believe that they are doing meaningful work
  • Believe their work is important to them, the team, and the company in general
  • Know their role in the team and the goal they need to achieve
  • Trust each other and can depend on one another
  • Obtain a sense of psychological safety within the team

Related article:
7 Irrefutable Marks of a Highly Successful and Effective Team.”

Chapter 3: Focus

There are two types of focusing that are commonly used by people. These are the following:

  • Cognitive tunneling – this type of focus can cause you to focus on the task that is immediately in front of you.
  • Reactive thinking – this type of focus allows you to use subconscious automatic responses so that you can easily respond to various situations without consuming too much time.

Both cognitive tunneling and reactive thinking offer various advantages, but also disadvantages. For example, while cognitive tunneling helps you finish a task, by default, it forces us to focus on what is easy rather than what is important.

On the other hand, reactive thinking helps you develop habits, but it can suppress sound judgment.

So, what is the best way to stay focused? It is by creating mental models.

Mental models allow us to imagine how things should happen. If the reality deviates from our imagined models, you can easily spot them and prevent a problem from happening.

Related article:
The One Powerful Secret to Staying Extremely Focused.”

Chapter 4: Goal Setting

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. While SMART goals are definitely a great way to set goals, you can actually bring it to another level.

STRETCH goals are SMART goals but this time, you stretch your goal to the point that it challenges you. If you settle with SMART goals alone, they can promote stagnation in your growth and can even become counterproductive.

If you look at high achievers, they don’t simply settle with SMART goals, but rather they have STRETCH goals.

People who set STRETCH goals are the same people who are innovators, trailblazers, and inventors. They have done things no one has ever achieved before.


Simply because they didn’t settle for SMART goals, but also Stretch goals. It helped them to gain better and new thinking and disrupt complacency.

Related article:
Why SMART Goals Are Stupid (And What You Should Do Instead)”

Chapter 5: Managing Others

There have been various studies on how to effective manage others. One study was able to determine that the culture of a team or company plays a vital role in managing people.

There are at least five cultures of a company that follow certain types of models. These are:

  • Star model – the most conventional model. It is a model where there’s a “superstar” coming from high-level elite universities and other successful companies. These superstars would then lead a team.
  • Engineering model – not much of individual superstars, but there are “engineers” who are focused on solving technical problems, which accelerates the growth of a company.
  • Bureaucratic model – there are managers who direct everything to facilitate the flow of work.
  • Autocratic model – this is similar to the bureaucratic model, but there’s one ultimate source of instructions and orders, which is the founder or CEO.
  • Commitment model – a model where people are encouraged to stay with a company for the rest of their life.

According to studies, among these models, it is found out that the Commitment model is the most effective. In this model, each worker is nurtured and trained. The company is committed to improving the lives of their worker, which in turn, promote loyalty, trust, and care for their job.

Chapter 6: Decision Making

To help you make better decisions, you must learn how to effectively predict the future. The trick is for you to think of the future as not what’s going to happen, but rather as a series of possibilities that might occur.

From there, you try to calculate the percentage of how each possibility will most likely occur. It is important to note that the possible outcomes of the future contradict each other until one of them eventually comes true.

To better increase your chance of identifying which possibility will occur, you need to think probabilistically. Learn how to question assumptions and live with uncertainties.

You need to take note of both the positive and negative experiences that you had in the past in order to predict the future.

Chapter 7: Innovation

Innovation requires creativity. If you want to innovate and come up with new ideas, you need to become creative in your approach.

But how do you become creative? It is by revisiting old ideas and turning them into new ones.

The best thing you can do is combine ideas from various fields of thinking, industries, and sciences. When you get one idea from different places, you can start innovating yourself.

You can’t innovate yourself by limiting your search of ideas within your mind. You need to go outside of yourself, your immediate surroundings, and your areas of familiarity in order to spark creativity and therefore, innovation.

Chapter 8: Absorbing Data

To absorb data better, you need to interact with the data. The moment you read and receive data, you must immediately find a way on how to practically use them.

Instead of simply receiving data, transform and manipulate data to your advantage. For example, one study suggests that students who use laptops are less likely to retain what they write compared to those students who use a pen and paper when taking down notes.

Thus, force yourself to do something with the data, whether it is simply writing them down or transforming them into a new set of studies. By doing so, you can absorb them better and immediately use them.

Favorite quotes from the book Smarter Faster Better

Productivity, put simply, is the name we give our attempts to figure out the best uses of our energy, intellect, and time as we try to seize the most meaningful rewards with the least wasted effort.

The paradox of learning how to make better decisions is that it requires developing a comfort with doubt.

Creativity is just problem solving. Once people see it as a problem solving, it stops seeming like magic, because it’s not.

Final words

This is a book summary of Smarter Faster Better. While this distills the important lessons you will learn from the book, you will still benefit much from actually reading the book.

In the book, you will obtain deeper explanations for each core principle. You will love the stories and studies included in the book. Duhigg has a gift of storytelling and you will be amazed at how he wrote the experiences of people in his book to illustrate important points.

Now that you read the book summary of Smarter Faster Better, you might want to read my review of this book here.

With these being said, I hope you learned a lot from my book summary. Let me know your thoughts below the comment section.

P.S. Now that you read the book summary, you might want to read the book review of Smarter Faster Better here.

Ready to read the book Smarter Faster Better? Check it out on Amazon!


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