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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!

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                                                                        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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                                                                        Last Updated on July 21, 2021

                                                                        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                                                                        The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

                                                                        No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

                                                                        Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

                                                                        Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

                                                                        A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

                                                                        Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

                                                                        In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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                                                                        From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

                                                                        A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

                                                                        For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

                                                                        This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

                                                                        The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

                                                                        That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

                                                                        Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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                                                                        The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

                                                                        Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

                                                                        But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

                                                                        The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

                                                                        The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

                                                                        A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

                                                                        For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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                                                                        But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

                                                                        If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

                                                                        For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

                                                                        These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

                                                                        For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

                                                                        How to Make a Reminder Works for You

                                                                        Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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                                                                        Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

                                                                        Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

                                                                        My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

                                                                        Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

                                                                        I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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                                                                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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                                                                        Reference

                                                                        [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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