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The Lifehack Productivity Bookshelf

The Lifehack Productivity Bookshelf

Skillings - Escape from Corporate America

    I just received my copy of Lifehack contributor Pamela Skilling’s new book Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. Pamela’s book is a guide for people fed up with the corporate lifestyle — the lack of creative expression, the lack of spiritual reward, and ultimately the lack of control over the conditions of your own employment — who are looking to “make a break for it” and follow their dreams. I’ve only managed to read the introduction and a few pages of chapter 1 so far, so I have no real review to offer — I have, however, asked Pamela to come on Lifehack Live next month to talk about the book, so keep your eyes open for that.

    Pamela isn’t the only Lifehack contributor who has published on themes related to personal productivity, organization, creativity, and the other topics Lifehack covers. In fact, you could fill a pretty nice-sized bookshelf with the work our contributors and former contributors have written. Which is just about what you’d expect from a group of such talented writers, all of whom are experts of one kind or another in their fields. 

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    Here, then, is a guide to the work of Lifehack’s contributors. Where an author has written several relevant books, I’ll pick one I think is representative and try to give you links to the rest of their work. With summer upon us, maybe you’ll want to tuck a couple of these into your carry-on bag or into your suitcase as you set out on vacation!

    Aitchison - Making Friends
      Steven Aitchison, Change Your Thoughts Guide to Making Friends

      In this short e-book, Steven discusses the value of true friendship, and how you can attract more true friends to yourself. Also look at the Change Your Thoughts Guide to Lucid Dreaming.

      Babauta - Zen to Done
        Leo Babauta, Zen to Done

        Ex-Lifehack Contributor Leo Babauta offers his take on the popular GTD methodology, combining it with his own take on simplicity to create an easy to adopt and maintain system for anyone.Check out my review of Zen to Done.

        Devalia - Get the Life You Love
          Arvind Devalia, Get the Life You Love and Live It

          Part philosophical guide, part workbook, Arvind walks readers through the process of figuring out their goals and dreams and changing their lives to make those dreams a reality. Check out my interview with Arvind on Lifehack Live.

          Harper - Fattitude
            Craig Harper, Fattitude

            Craig takes on the psychological and emotional blocks to weight loss and healthy living. Check out his other books and DVDs too, including his Little Books for Life such as So you’ve decided to get into shape (again).

            Manahan - Where's My Oasis?
              Rowan Manahan, Where’s My Oasis?

              With wit and humor, Manahan guides job-seekers through the process of “career hunting”, from deciding where to apply though sending resumes, interviewing, and finally negotiating terms. Rowan emphasizes long-term planning throughout, hoping to help you avoid getting yourself stuck on a path that isn’t your own.

              Marrero - 30 Ways to Find Time to Get Organized
                Lorie Marrero, The Clutter Diet

                Not a book per se but an ongoing membership providing regular updates on home organization — with newsletters, tutorials, videos, and all sorts of other content. Download Lorie’s e-book, 20 Ways to Find Time to Get Organized, from her blog. I talked with Lorie about The Clutter Diet on Lifehack Live.

                Roosen and Nakagawa - Overcoming Inventoritis
                  Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa, Overcoming Inventoritis: The Silent Killer of Innovation

                  Peter and Tatsuya take on the corporate world’s obsession with it’s own creations, even when there’s no market for their products. Check out my interview with the pair on Lifehack Live.

                  Sabo - Manage Your Email & Paper Mail
                    Susan Sabo, Manage Your Email & Paper Mail

                    In this e-book, Susan tackles the #1 problem for many people: dealing with email overload! I talked with Susan on Lifehack Live about her work.

                    Savage - Slow Leadership
                      Adrian Savage, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

                      Adrian Savage challenges the macho, take-no-prisoners approach to leadership, what he calls “hamburger management” – all fast food and quick fixes — showing how ineffective it is and ultimately how much it damages companies.

                      Say - Managing with Aloha
                        Rosa Say, Managing with Aloha: Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business

                        Former Lifehack Contributor Rosa Say explores ways to bring the values of traditional Hawaiian culture to the modern workplace.

                        Sloane - The Innovative Leader
                          Paul Sloane, The Innovative Leader: How to Inspire Your Team and Drive Creativity

                          Lateral thinking is a model of creativity and innovation that approaches problems “sideways”. Paul has written a number of books of lateral thinking puzzles to help exercise this skill; here, he applies the lessons of lateral thinking to leadership, advocating vision and innovation over control.Check out the entire body of work at Paul Sloan’s website.

                          Young - Learn More, Study Less
                            Scott Young, Learn More, Study Less

                            Former Lifehack writer Scott Young applies his understanding of how the mind works to the question of lifelong learning in this e-book on studying and learning more efficiently.I interviewed Scott on Lifehack Live back in January.

                            That’s a baker’s dozen of good books and e-books right there, and for some of our authors, there are several more as well. If you’ve read any of our contributors’ books, why don’t you let the rest of the Lifehack community know what you thought in the comments?

                            More by this author

                            Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) How to Admit Your Mistakes How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart

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                            1 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 2 5 Steps To Move Out Of Stagnancy In Life 3 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work) 4 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 5 40 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

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                            Last Updated on January 21, 2020

                            Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                            Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                            Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

                            This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

                            The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

                            The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

                            Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

                            Curiosity

                            Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

                            People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

                            Patience

                            Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

                            When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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                            Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

                            A Feeling for Connectedness

                            This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

                            A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

                            The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

                            How to Self-Taught Effectively

                            With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

                            1. Research

                            Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

                            Learning the Basics

                            Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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                            Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

                            What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

                            Hitting the Books

                            Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

                            Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

                            Long-Term Reference

                            While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

                            My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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                            2. Practice

                            Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

                            A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

                            Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

                            Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

                            3. Network

                            One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

                            These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

                            Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

                            Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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                            4. Schedule

                            For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

                            Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

                            Final Thoughts

                            In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

                            If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

                            At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

                            More About Self-Learning

                            Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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