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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 November 5, 2020

                        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

                        How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

                        Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

                        You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. A rut can manifest as a productivity vacuum and be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. Is it possible to learn how to get out of a rut?

                        Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, or a student, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

                        1. Work on Small Tasks

                        When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks that have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

                        Whenever I finish doing that, I generate positive momentum, which I bring forward to my work.

                        If you have a large long-term goal you can’t wait to get started on, break it down into smaller objectives first. This will help each piece feel manageable and help you feel like you’re moving closer to your goal.

                        You can learn more about goals vs objectives here.

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                        2. Take a Break From Your Work Desk

                        When you want to learn how to get out of a rut, get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the bathroom, walk around the office, or go out and get a snack. According to research, your productivity is best when you work for 50 minutes to an hour and then take a 15-20 minute break[1].

                        Your mind may be too bogged down and will need some airing. By walking away from your computer, you may create extra space for new ideas that were hiding behind high stress levels.

                        3. Upgrade Yourself

                        Take the down time to upgrade your knowledge and skills. Go to a seminar, read up on a subject of interest, or start learning a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

                        The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college[2]. How’s that for inspiration?

                        4. Talk to a Friend

                        Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while. Relying on a support system is a great way to work on self-care when you’re learning how to get out of a rut.

                        Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

                        5. Forget About Trying to Be Perfect

                        If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies. Perfectionism can lead you to fear failure, which can ultimate hinder you even more if you’re trying to find motivation to work on something new.

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                        If you allow your perfectionism to fade, soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come, and then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

                        Learn more about How Not to Let Perfectionism Secretly Screw You Up.

                        6. Paint a Vision to Work Towards

                        If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

                        Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the ultimate goal or vision you have for your life?

                        Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action. You can use the power of visualization or even create a vision board if you like to have something to physically remind you of your goals.

                        7. Read a Book (or Blog)

                        The things we read are like food for our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great material.

                        Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. You can also stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs and follow writers who inspire and motivate you. Find something that interests you and start reading.

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                        8. Have a Quick Nap

                        If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep[3].

                        Try a nap if you want to get out of a rut

                          One Harvard study found that “whether they took long naps or short naps, participants showed significant improvement on three of the four tests in the study’s cognitive-assessment battery”[4].

                          9. Remember Why You Are Doing This

                          Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

                          What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall your inspiration, and perhaps even journal about it to make it feel more tangible.

                          10. Find Some Competition

                          When we are learning how to get out of a rut, there’s nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

                          Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, and networking conventions can all inspire you to get a move on. However, don’t let this throw you back into your perfectionist tendencies or low self-esteem.

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                          11. Go Exercise

                          Since you are not making headway at work, you might as well spend the time getting into shape and increasing dopamine levels. Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, or whatever type of exercise helps you start to feel better.

                          As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

                          If you need ideas for a quick workout, check out the video below:

                          12. Take a Few Vacation Days

                          If you are stuck in a rut, it’s usually a sign that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

                          Beyond the quick tips above, arrange one or two days to take off from work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax, do your favorite activities, and spend time with family members. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

                          Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest.

                          More Tips to Help You Get out of a Rut

                          Featured photo credit: Ashkan Forouzani via unsplash.com

                          Reference

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