So many people struggle with productivity. After all, if you were more productive, then you’d be able to really get things done, right?
Here’s the truth.
The biggest secret to really changing your approach to productivity is to work on your mindset.
You’re not going to find some silver bullet thing that’s going to suddenly make it all better. You have to create systems that allow you to be more productive.
Now, the key is finding the right system that works for you.
8 Productivity Books You MUST Read
That’s where these productivity books come into play. Each one of them has been written around the idea of building a system that can work.
You might find it in just one book, or you might need to read a few and then take bits and pieces from each, making it your own system of success.
Here are the 8 productivity books you must read:
Millions of people consider this book the ‘bible of productivity.’ Allen was one of the first people to take all the conventional methods of being productive and basically throw them out the window.
The book identifies a system of workflow that is broken down into five stages:
● Capture: Collect what has your attention
● Clarify: Process what it means
● Organize: Put it where it belongs
● Reflect: Review frequently
● Engage: Do
When you use this framework to approach your tasks, everything has a place and a time. A lot of his system is about regaining a sense and feeling of control over your life and tasks, and this translates into people feeling less stress, more energy, and generally better about themselves.
Even if you don’t fully put his entire system to use, there are a ton of helpful tips that can get anyone more productive.
“You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done.”
Funny name aside, the main principle of Eat That Frog is that the best thing you can do to massively increase your productivity is to tackle the hardest thing first.
After that, everything seems easy. The good news is no frog eating is required.
Whereas other books might delve into the ‘why’s’ behind why people procrastinate and struggle to get things done, this book is all about taking steps forward right now. Tracy lays out 21 steps that will guide you towards setting up a system that will get you prepped and ready to take real action.
“The hardest part of any important task is getting started on it in the first place. Once you actually begin work on a valuable task, you seem to be naturally motivated to continue.”
Duhigg, who writes for the New York Times, takes a reporter’s approach to this book. In it, he covers a number of studies that specifically look at how habits are developed, why they exist, and if they can be changed.
While many of the books on this list are more things to ‘do,’ this book really wants you to take a deep dive into the psychology of habits. That’s why he really goes in depth on getting you to understand what is behind cutes, triggers, and rewards and how to identify them.
The thought is that if you understand why you’re doing something then you have a better chance of changing it.
“The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”
With this book, the whole concept is pretty much right there in the name. Keller wants you to dig deep and really think about the answer to a seemingly simple question:
“What is the one thing such that by doing it everything would be easier or unnecessary?”
Once you find that ‘one thing’ then everything you do needs to be geared towards that. If something on your to-do list isn’t, well then it shouldn’t be there in the first place.
The idea behind the one thing is that everything builds towards it. When you’re able to develop a system that eliminates distractions, you’re already going to be seeing success.
“Long hours spent checking off a to-do list and ending the day with a full trash can and a clean desk are not virtuous and have nothing to do with success. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list—a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.”
The Power of Full Engagement is all about energy. Too many people are stressed out, emotionally exhausted, and stuck in the cycle over and over again not because of their lack of time, but actually their lack of energy.
The system this book lays out shows people how to stop chasing time and instead, learn how to create rituals that are positive and recharge lost energy. So that anything you approach, you are fully committed to and ‘in the zone.’
“To be fully engaged, we must be physically energized, emotionally connected, mentally focused and spiritually aligned with a purpose beyond our immediate self-interest.”
So many people struggle with productivity and getting things done because they don’t know what they really want to achieve in the first place.
Most people aren’t willing to do the uncomfortable work to dig deep, get self-aware and figure out what they really want.
Danielle LaPorte looks to change that in this book. It’s not just advice and ‘woo woo.’ Instead, it features actual workbooks where you can go through the exercises with her one by one, helping you find clarity and start planning your days (and life) around your core goals.
“Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have.”
In Zen to Done, Leo Babauta basically offers a condensed and hybrid version of the productivity systems that worked for him (like Getting Things Done), but with his own twist.
At less than 100 pages, this is a super quick read that takes away all of the ‘noise’ that you can find in a lot of productivity books and delivers just the basics to help you simplify your life.
If you find some of the other books a bit too complex or you’re struggling with steps, this might just be the perfect place for you to start. Think of it as a quick and dirty primer for the easiest system to get started that is still incredibly effective.
“Focus on those big tasks, that will make a name for you, that will generate long-term income, that will give you lasting satisfaction and happiness. Those are your Big Rocks. Eliminate the rest.”
For a long time, Bregman wrote a popular column for the Harvard Business Review, this book is basically a compilation of his insights from those columns plus some new thoughts and a couple of case studies for good measure.
So the focus here is not just getting things done, but really understanding that it’s all about getting the right things done. It offers tips, tactics and some of Bregman’s own personal solutions to not only figuring out what is most important, but how to remove distraction and master them.
The 18 minutes comes in as the system that can be used to focus and reset. If you devote specific small chunks of time during the day on knowing what your tasks are and then honing in on them, you’ll get more done.
“To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.”
So, there you have it. These are ten of the best productivity books to get your productivity in order.
Remember, not everything is going to work for everyone. It is really important to devise a system that is tweaked to your own preferences and standards. More often than not, a few tweaks are usually needed to get everything really perfect.
Finally, accept that this could take some time. Total productivity doesn’t happen overnight. Work on improving your focus and building habits and discipline, that’s what’s going to help you build a solid foundation for success.
Then, before you know it, you’re going to be the productive person all your friends will be asking for tips.