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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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                        The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                        The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

                        It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

                        Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

                        “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

                        In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

                        New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

                        There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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                        So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

                        What is the productivity paradox?

                        There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

                        In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

                        He wrote in his conclusion:

                        “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

                        Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

                        How do we measure productivity anyway?

                        And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

                        In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

                        But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

                        In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

                        But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

                        Possible causes of the productivity paradox

                        Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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                        • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
                        • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
                        • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
                        • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

                        There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

                        According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

                        Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

                        The paradox and the recession

                        The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

                        “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

                        This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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                        According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

                        Looking forward

                        A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

                        “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

                        Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

                        “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

                        On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

                        Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

                        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                        Reference

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