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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 March 21, 2019

                        11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                        11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

                        Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

                        You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

                        But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

                        To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

                        It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

                        “What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

                        The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

                        In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

                        Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

                        1. Start Small

                        The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

                        Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

                        Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

                        Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

                        Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

                        Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

                        It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

                        Do less today to do more in a year.

                        2. Stay Small

                        There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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                        But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

                        If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

                        When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

                        I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

                        Why?

                        Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

                        The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

                        Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

                        3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

                        No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

                        There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

                        What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

                        Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

                        This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

                        This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

                        4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

                        When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

                        There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

                        Peter Drucker said,

                        “What you track is what you do.”

                        So track it to do it — it really helps.

                        But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

                        5. Measure Once, Do Twice

                        Peter Drucker also said,

                        “What you measure is what you improve.”

                        So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

                        For reading, it’s 20 pages.
                        For writing, it’s 500 words.
                        For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
                        For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

                        Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

                        6. All Days Make a Difference

                        Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

                        Will two? They won’t.

                        Will three? They won’t.

                        Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

                        What happened? Which one made you fit?

                        The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

                        No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

                        7. They Are Never Fully Automated

                        Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

                        But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

                        What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

                        It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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                        The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

                        It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

                        It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

                        8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

                        Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

                        Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

                        When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

                        The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

                        Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

                        9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

                        The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

                        Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

                        You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

                        But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

                        So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

                        If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

                        This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

                        The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

                        Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

                        10. Punish Yourself

                        Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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                        I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

                        It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

                        You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

                        No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

                        The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

                        But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

                        11. Reward Yourself

                        When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

                        Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

                        The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

                        After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

                        If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

                        Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

                        If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

                        In the End, It Matters

                        What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

                        When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

                        And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

                        “Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

                        Keep going.

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                        More Resources to Help You Build Habits

                        Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

                        Reference

                        [1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
                        [2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
                        [3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
                        [4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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