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11 Books To Make You Lead A Much More Productive Life

11 Books To Make You Lead A Much More Productive Life

In learning to become more productive, it pays to consider a variety of resources and approaches. Some people benefit the most from hiring a coach. For other people, it makes sense to learn by reading books. This article provides an introduction to some of the classic books int he productivity and personal effectiveness genre. Reading a practical book is one of the strategies I recommend to renew your leadership. Pretend you are mining for gold when reading books to improve your productivity – it is best to find and apply a few insights rather than having a shallow knowledge of many concepts.

1. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Getting Things Done by David Allen

    Far and away, this is one of the best and most popular books I have ever read about personal productivity. The book lays out an entire framework for managing the information and possibilities that come at you every day. Even better, David Allen has published a brand new edition of the book in 2015. I’m looking forward to reading the book and refreshing my understanding. In particular, I recommend the “Two Minute Rule” and the Weekly Review from this book as productivity techniques.

    Buy Getting Things Done on Amazon

    2. Mindset by Carol Dweck

    Mindset by Carol Dweck

      Mindset is a book that explains how our thinking shapes our results. For example, people that regard their abilities – to do work, to learn etc – as fixed often struggle. In contrast, Dweck discusses how “the growth mindset” help us look at challenges in a new way. In terms of productivity, this book makes the strongest case for how to become more productive in education and learning. The book’s ideas can also be applied to the workplace and other environments as well.

      Buy Mindset on Amazon

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      3. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

      Essentialism by Greg McKeown

        What comes to mind when you think about productivity? For many of us, it is about completing one more task and packing even more work into the day. Greg McKeown makes the compelling point that we can become more successful by focusing on the essential only. One of my favorite sections of Essential was his description of how to politely and firmly say “No.” If you don’t learn to say no, your productivity will suffer.

        Buy Essentialism on Amazon

        4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

        The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

          By any measure, Covey’s book is one of the most important contributions to the personal effectiveness category. The first habit – Be Proactive – can be truly life changing as a way to improve your productivity. Covey also does well in pointing out the social context of our work. For example, the book covers how to maintain and sustain relationships at work and at home. Without good relationships, it is difficult to be productive.

          Buy The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People on Amazon

          5. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter Drucker

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          The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker

            Drucker is widely known as one of the most influential business thinkers and consultants of all time. Don’t let the title of this book fool you – the book is not limited to CEOs, Vice-Presidents and other people with executive job titles. Instead, the book applies to most professionals and knowledge workers. Early in the book, Drucker explains a great technique to measure how you spend your time. Building on that foundation, you will also learn Drucker’s excellent framework for making decisions. After all, making effective decisions is a vital productivity skill for everyone to master.

            Buy The Effective Executive on Amazon

            6. No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan S. Kennedy

            No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan S. Kennedy

              Dan Kennedy made his reputation as a highly effective copywriter and direct marketer. In this book, he shares lessons and observations on time management for entrepreneurs. Unlike office workers who are subject to supervision, entrepreneurs have the freedom to work their own schedule. Unless you have a system to stay productive, it is easy to lose focus. That’s where Dan Kennedy’s guidance comes to play.

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              Buy B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs on Amazon

              7. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod

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              The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

                In this book, Hal Elrod makes the compelling case for the importance of the morning in daily productivity. In this short book, Elrod lays out a multi-step self-improvement program readers can use each morning. Specifically, Elrod discusses the importance of fitness, quiet time and reading each morning. It is a great way to start the day on your own terms.

                Buy The Miracle Morning on Amazon

                8. Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow’s Success by John C. Maxwell

                Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Guarantee Tomorrow's Success by John C Maxwell

                  John C Maxwell is best known as an expert on leadership and personal growth. In this book, Maxwell covers the key activities that keep your day under control. For example, Maxwell points out the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. After all, if you head to work feeling angry and discouraged, your productivity will suffer.

                  Buy Today Matters on Amazon

                  9. The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and Janet Switzer

                  The Success Principles Book Cover

                    I first discovered “The Success Principles”by listening to the audio book  in 2014. I liked it so much that I bought the new edition that came out in 2015. The book is informed by Canfield’s long success in publishing, public speaking and other fields. While time management per se is not the focus of the book, it covers many other principles that help us to achieve greater results in our life. For example, there are great suggestions regarding how to set goals, overcome disappointments and manage goals. This is a large book that is well worth the time to read and study.

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                    Buy The Success Principles on Amazon

                    10. The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

                    The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

                      One of the most popular productivity books of the 2000s, “The 4-Hour Work Week” made a great impact on the world. Ferriss reminds readers that elimination – i.e. stop doing low value tasks – is one of the most important ways to improve productivity. For some people, hiring a virtual assistant is another great method to consider. If you’re only heard the buzz around the book, take the time to read it.

                      Buy The 4-Hour Work Week on Amazon

                      11. Churchill: A Life by Sir Martin Gilbert

                      Churchill A Life by Sir Martin Gilbert

                        By any measure, Winston Churchill was one of the most productive people who has ever lived. His outstanding achievements recently inspired a series of outstanding essays on The Art of Manliness website (e.g. Work Like a Slave; Command Like a King; Create Like a God). In his early career, Churchill was full of activity – serving in the military, writing articles and writing books. In political office, Churchill was highly productive and took on demanding projects.

                        Why am I including Churchill in a list of productivity books? I include him because he meets the biography test –  he is an example that we can learn from. While it is great to learn from books that discuss principles and ideas, there is something special about biographies that are worth considering. By studying the giants of history, you will learn how real men and women have become productive despite the many challenges of life.

                        Buy Churchill: A Life on Amazon

                        Featured photo credit: Time/ThePixelman via pixabay.com

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                        Bruce Harpham

                        Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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                        Last Updated on September 20, 2018

                        8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

                        8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

                        You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

                        Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

                        When you train your brain, you will:

                        • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
                        • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
                        • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

                        So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

                        1. Work your memory

                        Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

                        When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

                        If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

                        The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

                        Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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                        Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

                        What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

                        For example, say you just met someone new:

                        “Hi, my name is George”

                        Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

                        Got it? Good.

                        2. Do something different repeatedly

                        By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

                        Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

                        It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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                        And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

                        But how does this apply to your life right now?

                        Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

                        Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

                        Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

                        So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

                        You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

                        That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

                        3. Learn something new

                        It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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                        For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

                        Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

                        You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

                        4. Follow a brain training program

                        The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

                        5. Work your body

                        You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

                        Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

                        Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

                        Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

                        6. Spend time with your loved ones

                        If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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                        If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

                        I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

                        7. Avoid crossword puzzles

                        Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

                        Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

                        Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

                        8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

                        Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

                        When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

                        So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

                        The bottom line

                        Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

                        Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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