Podcasts We Love: Freakonomics Radio

By Veselin Ganev Monday, June 13, 2016

freakonomics podcast

Welcome to “Podcasts We Love,” a blog series about the most interesting, helpful, educational and entertaining business-related podcasts we enjoy. We’ll highlight either a podcast series or an individual podcast episode we believe offers sound advice to entrepreneurs and business owners. Feel free to agree, disagree or share your own favorite podcasts in the Comments section.  

I believe podcasts are the easiest way we can improve upon ourselves. “Freakonomics Radio” is one of my favorite podcasts, and given the fact that it is often the number one podcast downloaded on iTunes, I am apparently not alone.

Recently, the “Freakonomics Radio” hosts, Stephen J. Dubner and Steve Levitt, posted a new episode called “How to Be More Productive” as part of the show’s Self-Improvement Month.

Productivity is the key to everything. The faster you can complete a task, the more time you can reserve for another activity, one you would actually prefer doing. The podcast explains, however, that there is a significant difference between simply being busy and actually being productive.

The reason for this, according to guest speaker and New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg, is that productivity means different things in different settings, and its fluid semantics can be summed up by “helping people figure out how to achieve their goals with less waste and less anxiety and less stress and more opportunity to actually enjoy what they want to enjoy.”

Yes, this is a very broad definition, but that is because different individuals not only have different goals but also enjoy different things. As Duhigg points out, productivity for one person may mean replying to every email while for another it is an early morning workout.

Mr. Duhigg, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his New York Times series on Apple called “The iEconomy,” is also the author of Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. The book explores the science of productivity, and Duhigg shares that while writing the book, he interviewed several hundred subjects and asked them what productivity means to them. Although they each possessed their own perspective, these seven concepts were repeatedly mentioned:

  • Motivation
  • Focus  
  • Goal-setting  
  • Decision making  
  • Innovation
  • Absorbing data
  • Managing others and teams


All of these notions are inherently linked to how people feel about productivity. Mr. Duhigg and the podcast’s hosts delve into each of these skills in more detail, as well as what makes a good team leader, so I recommend you listen to the podcast if you’d like to dive deeper.

Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of People Operations at Google (known as Human Resources to the rest of the working world) also joins the podcast for a bit. As Bock explains it, he is the person in charge of assuring Google employees are happy, productive and satisfied, and stay with the company.

He discusses two productivity studies his department recently ran at Google; the first, Project Oxygen, was tasked with discovering whether or not middle managers actually matter—they do, it turns out. They then used the data and feedback they’d collected to help the lowest-performing and least successful managers improve (the advice they offered has led to progressively improved feedback on Google managers each year).

In the “How to Be More Productive” podcast on “Freakonomics Radio”, Bock and Duhigg share extensive knowledge about productivity, team work and the psychology behind both, and Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt facilitate this engaging conversation about maximizing productivity in both your professional and personal life.  

To listen to the entire podcast, head over to the Freakonomics website or just hit Play below to listen.

*Disclaimer*: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is neither a law firm nor an accounting firm and, even in cases where the author is an attorney, or a tax professional, nothing in this article constitutes legal or tax advice. This article provides general commentary on, and analysis of, the subject addressed. We strongly advise that you consult an attorney or tax professional to receive legal or tax guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. Any action taken or not taken based on this article is at your own risk. If an article cites or provides a link to third-party sources or websites, Harvard Business Services, Inc. is not responsible for and makes no representations regarding such source’s content or accuracy. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard Business Services, Inc.

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