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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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                        Published on January 16, 2019

                        How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                        How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

                        We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

                        You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

                        You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

                        That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

                        Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

                        1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

                        Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

                        We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

                        To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

                        At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

                        The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

                        2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

                        Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

                        The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

                        In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

                        It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

                        It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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                        So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

                        • Are you a great strategist?
                        • Are you an effective planner?
                        • Is Project Management your strength?
                        • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
                        • Are you the ideas person?
                        • Is Implementation your strength?

                        Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

                        3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

                        One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

                        Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

                        Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

                        Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

                        4. Take Time for Planning

                        “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

                        One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

                        You can take the time to think about:

                        • What’s the purpose of the project?
                        • How Important is it?
                        • When does it need to be delivered by?
                        • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
                        • What are the KPIs?
                        • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
                        • Who is working on this project?
                        • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
                        • What tolerances can I add in?
                        • What are the review stages?
                        • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

                        Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

                        5. Focus on Priorities

                        Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

                        Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

                        One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

                        1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
                        2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
                        3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
                        4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

                        James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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                          The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

                          If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

                          If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

                          6. Take Time Out

                          To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

                          If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

                          Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

                          In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

                          Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

                          7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

                          Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

                          I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

                          Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

                          If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

                          8. Stop Multitasking

                          Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

                          So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

                          When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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                          If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

                          9. Work in Blocks of Time

                          To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

                          I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

                          Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

                          Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

                          Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

                          Then take another 10-minute break.

                          Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

                          By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

                          10. Get Rid of Distractions

                          Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

                          “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

                          Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

                          If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

                          11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

                          You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

                          Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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                          Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

                          12. Take a Time Audit

                          Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

                          Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

                          You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

                          Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

                          Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

                          At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

                          If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

                          13. Protect Your Confidence

                          It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

                          When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

                          Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

                          When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

                          Final Words

                          A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

                          The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

                          If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

                          Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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