I confess: I’m a sucker for life hacks.

Who doesn’t fantasize about getting work done faster and getting more out of life, especially when, after rushing around all day, you’ve barely made a dent in your to-do list, emails keep pouring in, and that one big project you’ve been meaning to work on gets kicked to the following week?

Some of the advice for working smarter is excellent, and developing the right productivity skills is critical. But both have their limits. In truth, all the life hacks in the world can only get you so far. Because both the problem and the solution to doing better work so you have more time for life are bigger than just you—possibly a lot bigger.

According to a new report by the behavioral-science research group ideas42 and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a resource book I contributed to, it all comes down to systems change: What if instead of expecting workers to “fix” themselves on their own, we designed work environments that led everyone to make better choices?

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