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35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

35 Books on Productivity and Organizational Skills for an Effective Life

Possessing productivity and organizational skills will give you an advantage in living a life of fulfillment and extraordinary achievements.

These skills can also help reduce stress and overwhelm by arming you with the knowledge to choose the most effective thoughts and actions to get the results you want, instead of just doing things that keep you busy without actually accomplishing anything worthwhile.

How do you begin acquiring these skills? Read, of course! But with the massive selections of books on these topics available today, choosing the right guide for you may seem overwhelming.

Don’t fret! Books have always played an important role in my family’s life and as such, I simply went through my insane collection of books (hardcover, digital, and audio) and compiled for you a list of the top 35 books to learn the most useful productivity tips and organizational skills:

1. Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

    Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford, explains that all of us possess one of two mindsets: fixed vs. growth.

    In the world of fixed traits, success is about validating yourself by proving you’re smart or talented. On the other hand, the world of growth and changing qualities is about continuously stretching yourself to learn something new. The latter empowers you to break through your self imposed limits, thrive and succeed.

    Get the book here.

    2. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy

      This is a quick read. Brian Tracy gets right into the action and covers such things as determining priorities, delegating and eliminating tasks, knowing what’s okay to hold off for later and whether to tackle your “frog” (big task that will deliver the greatest results) first or a lower priority task.

      By regularly eating your frogs first, you develop a habit that makes it easier to accomplish more – with much less effort!

      Get the book here.

      3. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

        You’ll not only learn how to declutter material excess but how to clear out your personal space so you have room to surround yourself with more of what makes you happy.

        If you are like me and have the tendency to feel guilty over letting objects go, Marie Kondo will show you how to free yourself from that. After all, an organized environment breeds a calmer mind; leaving you with the freedom and energy to be more effective.

        Get the book here.

        4. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield

          This book shows you how to overcome obstacles of ambition and how to discipline yourself.

          Bestselling novelist Steven Pressfield identifies the resistances that every one of us face, outlines a plan to blast away the excuses we make for ourselves for not taking action, and then effectively shows how to reach the highest level of creative discipline.

          Get the book here.

          5. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

            Brains Rules gives you 12 “rules” for optimal mental performance. The book includes a brief history of the brain and how it came to operate as it does. The author then explains why his principles help your brain perform better as well as provide practical ways to implement his strategies into your everyday life.

            Get the book here.

            6. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

              This book introduces you to a simple but powerful concept where you focus your energy on just one thing at a time, achieving extraordinary results. You will learn how to cut through clutter, reduce stress and distractions, increase your energy and achieve more in less time.

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              The author of this book, Gary Keller, is the founder of one of the nation’s great realtors, Keller-Williams.

              Get the book here.

              7. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph by Ryan Holiday

                Ryan Holiday teaches a simple method for understanding and acting upon the challenges and setbacks life throws at us. The method centers on tactics from stoicism where no matter how unjust or tragic the situation may be, remaining calm, avoiding the victim mentality and pushing your way through is the most effective path to success.

                Get the book here.

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

                  Stephen Covey teaches you how to be more effective in the areas of relationships, awareness, spirituality and business issues; and provides you with simple to understand strategies for achievable and lasting results.

                  The 7 Habits continues to be a key resource in helping me improve my effectiveness in all areas of my life, that I picked up a copy of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens” (written by Covey’s son, Sean) for my own teenage son.

                  Get the book here.

                  9. 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management by Hyrum W. Smith

                    Hyrum W. Smith (creator of the “Franklin Day Planner”) teaches his time and life management system based on your values as well as what is most important in your life, making implementation of his strategies that much easier.

                    Get the book here.

                    10. The Power of Focus: What the World’s Greatest Achievers Know about The Secret to Financial Freedom & Success by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Les Hewitt

                      Excellent book that clearly shows you how to set your priorities in order. The content is rock solid with each chapter containing clear action steps to carry out.

                      Get the book here.

                      11. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

                        The idea is to transfer all the “to dos” floating around inside your head as well as those you’ve jotted down on sticky notes and scrap paper into an “in-box” so you can organize everything using Allen’s rules of “do it, delegate it, defer it or trash it” to get your in-box to empty.

                        This enables you to free your mind, arm you with an organized plan of action and focus on what you’re working on while reducing stress.

                        Get the book here.

                        12. Zen To Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System by Leo Babauta

                          “Zen To Done” offers a simplification of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (see #11). It’s a set of 10 habits to help you get organized, simplify your life, get things under control and actually get things done. It’s about organization and productivity through simplicity.

                          Get the book here.

                          13. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

                            An insightful book explaining the various ways people experience states of flow (or being in the zone), how we create meaning for our experiences and what makes human day-to-day experiences enjoyable.

                            The author provides insights on how one can apply the ideas presented in the book to your own life.

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                            Get the book here.

                            14. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge

                              Peter Senge describes the five disciplines necessary for proper organization within a company including personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning and system thinking.

                              The book goes into depth about the fifth discipline in particular – system thinking. The system must be looked at as a whole and the team must work towards a common goal or vision with an understanding on how to complement each other’s abilities. The concept will stimulate ideas for communicating with colleagues as well as your own family.

                              Note: This was required reading for a leadership class I was taking. While the book contains plenty of valuable material, it is long-winded and repetitive.

                              If you are prone to boredom like I am, I recommend “The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook” instead, which includes several helpful exercises to implement the key ideas in The Fifth Discipline.

                              Get the book here.

                              15. Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals by Heidi Grant Halvorson Ph.D

                                Dr. Halvorson applies science to the goals and struggles we all face. This engaging and often humorous book explains the best ways to frame our goals, plan for success, build willpower and take actions to reach our goals – even in the face of adversity.

                                Get the book here.

                                16. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

                                  Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times, explains the power of habits and what we can do to correct the habits that need changing; in our personal life, business and society.

                                  Get the book here.

                                  17. Getting Results the Agile Way: A Personal Results System for Work and Life by J.D. Meier

                                    This is a simple system for achieving both short and long term results in all aspects of your life. Meier’s methods are so simple that anyone can start using them immediately!

                                    Get the book here.

                                    18. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr, Tony Schwartz

                                      Learn how to increase your energy levels through the four primary sources of energy: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The training system encourages the reader to define their purpose, face the truth about their energy management and to take action through positive rituals.

                                      Get the book here.

                                      19. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal

                                        McGonigal effectively explains habits and procrastination and includes real world examples and exercises to put the methods into practice. The author also reveals how we make internal, illogical bargains and shows how to identify when and where this behavior is likely to take place.

                                        Get the book here.

                                        20. Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Getting Things Done by David Allen

                                          This book contains 52 short chapters of essays on productivity, delivered in 2-5 page bite sized pieces. It helps you to understand the values behind Allen’s GTD system (see #11) and serves as inspiration to use the GTD process with more discipline.

                                          Get the book here.

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                                          21. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore

                                            Author Neil Fiore explains that procrastination is a strategy to obtain temporary relief from the stress of starting or completing any task or decision and not a character defect or personal/moral failure. The book addresses key issues underlying procrastination to help you work on your thoughts and prepare you to overcome procrastination in your life.

                                            Get the book here.

                                            22. One Year to an Organized Life: From Your Closets to Your Finances, the Week-by-Week Guide to Getting Completely Organized for Good by Regina Leeds

                                              This book takes the guess work out of organizing. Tasks are broken down into categories (kitchen, bedroom, etc.) and assigned to do during a specific month. Each month is broken down into weeks and each week includes small assignments to be completed to avoid being overwhelmed.

                                              Not only does this system help in organizing your home, it encourages you to organize yourself mentally, emotionally and physically as well!

                                              Get the book here.

                                              23. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

                                                Dr. Gawande explains that checklists are not just for simple, straightforward tasks. They help people communicate and work together more effectively.

                                                Another benefit of the checklist is that the act of creating a checklist focuses the mind on the most important areas of our tasks. The book encourages the reader to reflect on how a checklist can be used to improve their life in both personal and business environments.

                                                Get the book here.

                                                24. Ready Aim Fire!: A Practical Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals by Jim M Woods

                                                  This book takes you through a 32 day journey with practical steps to set and accomplish goals that are important to you. It includes plenty of bonus links and free resources too!

                                                  Get the book here.

                                                  25. Time Warrior: How to Defeat Procrastination, People-Pleasing, Self-Doubt, Over-Commitment, Broken Promises and Chaos by Steve Chandler

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                                                    This is a series of short, easy to digest chapters that instill Steve Chandler’s point about how much more important “priority management” is over “time management.” I highly recommend this book if you are having difficulty managing your time, keeping promises and making the progress in life that you believe you can.

                                                    Get the book here.

                                                    26. The Productive Person: A How-To Guide Book Filled with Productivity Hacks & Daily Schedules for Entrepreneurs, Students or Anyone Struggling with Work-Life Balance by James Roper, Chandler Bolt

                                                      This book is geared toward people who make their own schedules every day (stay at home parents, self-employed, students, etc.) and feel like there isn’t enough hours in the day for all the things they want and need to do. The authors offers actionable plans for how to be more productive, including example schedules.

                                                      Get the book here.

                                                      27. 23 Anti-Procrastination Habits: How to Stop Being Lazy and Overcome Your Procrastination by S.J. Scott

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                                                        This book will show you how to create an action plan and actually get things done on time, every time! You will learn how to prioritize which tasks are worth your time and effort and which can be shelved for later. It is a highly recommended anti-procrastination and anti-laziness guidebook.

                                                        Get the book here.

                                                        28. The Desire Map: A Guide to Creating Goals with Soul by Danielle LaPorte

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                                                          Learn to clarify what is truly important to you and what you want in life. This clarity enables you to shape your life in a way that brings you genuine joy and fulfillment.

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                                                          Decision making becomes much easier because you will know if something aligns with the life you want to live and with this confidence, you will find that you no longer regret the choices you make.

                                                          Get the book here.

                                                          29. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath

                                                          Switch

                                                            This is an entertaining book packed with useful principles for successfully making changes no matter what. The concept is easy to remember and the book includes great examples and practical solutions.

                                                            Get the book here.

                                                            30. Awaken the Giant Within : How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny! by Tony Robbins

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                                                              In his book, Tony Robbins gives you effective strategies and techniques for mastering your emotions, your body, relationships, finances and your life. The book is a step-by-step self mastery program with plenty of actionable advice to help you discover your true purpose, take control of your life and shape your destiny. One of my favorites!

                                                              Get the book here.

                                                              31. The One Minute To-Do List: Quickly Get Your Chaos Completely Under Control by Michael Linenberger

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                                                                A to-do list strategy that is simple to learn and easy to apply! Linenberger’s approach is a simple progression: start on paper then seamlessly move to your computer or smart-phone. If you want a quick and easy organization solution, this system is it.

                                                                Get the book here.

                                                                32. To-Do List Makeover: A Simple Guide to Getting the Important Things Done by S.J. Scott

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                                                                  Do you find yourself creating to-do lists that never gets completed? The key is to create lists that are actionable and fits into your busy life. This guide will show you how to rethink the way you manage your daily life, get clear and identify where you’ve been leaking time.

                                                                  Get the book here.

                                                                  33. 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman

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                                                                    The idea is to combat distracting interruptions by creating “productive distractions” of your own. This includes simple reminders to pause, reflect, recharge, re-calibrate and refocus – for just 18 minutes a day (5 minutes at the beginning; eight 1-minute check-ins during the day; and 5 minutes at the end).

                                                                    The book provides a variety of tools, tips and techniques intended to enhance productivity and maximize your potential.

                                                                    Get the book here.

                                                                    34. How to Be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do by Graham Allcott

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                                                                      Techniques to stay calm, get through your tasks, make the most of your time and overcome procrastination. You will also discover new methods on how to increase your personal time and declutter from an overload of information. You also get weekly and daily checklists that are very useful!

                                                                      Get the book here.

                                                                      35. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz

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                                                                        Although not exactly a book on productivity or organization, it teaches simple, practical and powerful lessons to empower you to live with emotional and mental freedom. This gives you the energy and confidence to make more effective decisions and show up into your life at your best!

                                                                        Get the book here.

                                                                        So here you go, 35 powerful books on productivity and organizational skills for a more effective, fulfilling and less stressful life. Pick one, start to read it and finish it. Don’t just read through the book either. Apply the tips you’ve learned from the book in your everyday life and that’s how you really will pick up the skills!

                                                                        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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                                                                        Carmen Sakurai

                                                                        Mental Declutter, Stress Management & Burnout Prevention Coach. Feeling Stuck? Overwhelmed & No Energy? Let's Talk!

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                                                                        1 The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Critical (And How to Strike a Balance) 2 How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day 3 How to Start Delegating Tasks Effectively (Step-by-Step Guide) 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

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                                                                        Last Updated on October 22, 2020

                                                                        How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

                                                                        How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

                                                                        Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and exhausted. Therefore, if you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, it’s time to do something about it.

                                                                        Here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm, leaving you calmer, in control, and a lot less stressed at work.

                                                                        1. Write Everything Down to Offload Your Mind

                                                                        The first thing you can do when work feels overwhelming is to write everything down that is on your mind.

                                                                        Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s occupying your thoughts[1].

                                                                        For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind, write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind.”

                                                                        The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will help you stop feeling overwhelmed at work. Writing things down can really change your life.

                                                                        2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

                                                                        Once you have emptied your head, go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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                                                                        As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

                                                                        Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. You can learn how to create a more meaningful to-do list here.

                                                                        3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

                                                                        Here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago to help when work feels overwhelming. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and we humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take[2]:

                                                                        When feeling overwhelmed at work, use Parkinson's Law.

                                                                          This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad. It’s more wishful thinking than bad judgment.

                                                                          We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage when we’re feeling overwhelmed at work. If you have estimated that to write five important emails will take ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

                                                                          Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is that you put yourself under a little time pressure, and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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                                                                          When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time, so it plays tricks on us, and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our team members to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

                                                                          Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening, and we get more focused and more work done. This will help when work feels overwhelming.

                                                                          4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

                                                                          Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos to avoid getting overwhelmed at work. Schedule time for each task, especially high priority tasks, while also grouping together similar tasks. This will help relieve stress and anxiety in your daily work life.

                                                                          For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

                                                                          Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done, and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer, and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

                                                                          5. Make Decisions

                                                                          For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one[3]. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

                                                                          If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend, or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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                                                                          If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss or a colleague and get advice.

                                                                          Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away and will only make you feel more overwhelmed at work. You need to make a decision to deal with it, and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved.

                                                                          I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed, and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend about the problem.

                                                                          He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem, and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I pay a smaller amount for a couple of months.

                                                                          This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

                                                                          The first was: don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second: there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

                                                                          6. Take Some Form of Action

                                                                          Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we are feeling overwhelmed at work (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

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                                                                          The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

                                                                          It also means that, rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible, and you can make decisions about what to do about them.

                                                                          Often, it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be that you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

                                                                          When work feels overwhelming, it’s not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work. It can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

                                                                          The Bottom Line

                                                                          It’s easy to feel like you have too much on your plate, but there are things you do to make it more manageable. 

                                                                          Make a decision, even if it’s just talking to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution.

                                                                          When you follow these strategies, you can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

                                                                          More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

                                                                          Featured photo credit: Josefa nDiaz via unsplash.com

                                                                          Reference

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