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The Lifehack Productivity Bookshelf

The Lifehack Productivity Bookshelf

Skillings - Escape from Corporate America

    I just received my copy of Lifehack contributor Pamela Skilling’s new book Escape from Corporate America: A Practical Guide to Creating the Career of Your Dreams. Pamela’s book is a guide for people fed up with the corporate lifestyle — the lack of creative expression, the lack of spiritual reward, and ultimately the lack of control over the conditions of your own employment — who are looking to “make a break for it” and follow their dreams. I’ve only managed to read the introduction and a few pages of chapter 1 so far, so I have no real review to offer — I have, however, asked Pamela to come on Lifehack Live next month to talk about the book, so keep your eyes open for that.

    Pamela isn’t the only Lifehack contributor who has published on themes related to personal productivity, organization, creativity, and the other topics Lifehack covers. In fact, you could fill a pretty nice-sized bookshelf with the work our contributors and former contributors have written. Which is just about what you’d expect from a group of such talented writers, all of whom are experts of one kind or another in their fields. 

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    Here, then, is a guide to the work of Lifehack’s contributors. Where an author has written several relevant books, I’ll pick one I think is representative and try to give you links to the rest of their work. With summer upon us, maybe you’ll want to tuck a couple of these into your carry-on bag or into your suitcase as you set out on vacation!

    Aitchison - Making Friends
      Steven Aitchison, Change Your Thoughts Guide to Making Friends

      In this short e-book, Steven discusses the value of true friendship, and how you can attract more true friends to yourself. Also look at the Change Your Thoughts Guide to Lucid Dreaming.

      Babauta - Zen to Done
        Leo Babauta, Zen to Done

        Ex-Lifehack Contributor Leo Babauta offers his take on the popular GTD methodology, combining it with his own take on simplicity to create an easy to adopt and maintain system for anyone.Check out my review of Zen to Done.

        Devalia - Get the Life You Love
          Arvind Devalia, Get the Life You Love and Live It

          Part philosophical guide, part workbook, Arvind walks readers through the process of figuring out their goals and dreams and changing their lives to make those dreams a reality. Check out my interview with Arvind on Lifehack Live.

          Harper - Fattitude
            Craig Harper, Fattitude

            Craig takes on the psychological and emotional blocks to weight loss and healthy living. Check out his other books and DVDs too, including his Little Books for Life such as So you’ve decided to get into shape (again).

            Manahan - Where's My Oasis?
              Rowan Manahan, Where’s My Oasis?

              With wit and humor, Manahan guides job-seekers through the process of “career hunting”, from deciding where to apply though sending resumes, interviewing, and finally negotiating terms. Rowan emphasizes long-term planning throughout, hoping to help you avoid getting yourself stuck on a path that isn’t your own.

              Marrero - 30 Ways to Find Time to Get Organized
                Lorie Marrero, The Clutter Diet

                Not a book per se but an ongoing membership providing regular updates on home organization — with newsletters, tutorials, videos, and all sorts of other content. Download Lorie’s e-book, 20 Ways to Find Time to Get Organized, from her blog. I talked with Lorie about The Clutter Diet on Lifehack Live.

                Roosen and Nakagawa - Overcoming Inventoritis
                  Peter Paul Roosen and Tatsuya Nakagawa, Overcoming Inventoritis: The Silent Killer of Innovation

                  Peter and Tatsuya take on the corporate world’s obsession with it’s own creations, even when there’s no market for their products. Check out my interview with the pair on Lifehack Live.

                  Sabo - Manage Your Email & Paper Mail
                    Susan Sabo, Manage Your Email & Paper Mail

                    In this e-book, Susan tackles the #1 problem for many people: dealing with email overload! I talked with Susan on Lifehack Live about her work.

                    Savage - Slow Leadership
                      Adrian Savage, Slow Leadership: Civilizing The Organization

                      Adrian Savage challenges the macho, take-no-prisoners approach to leadership, what he calls “hamburger management” – all fast food and quick fixes — showing how ineffective it is and ultimately how much it damages companies.

                      Say - Managing with Aloha
                        Rosa Say, Managing with Aloha: Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business

                        Former Lifehack Contributor Rosa Say explores ways to bring the values of traditional Hawaiian culture to the modern workplace.

                        Sloane - The Innovative Leader
                          Paul Sloane, The Innovative Leader: How to Inspire Your Team and Drive Creativity

                          Lateral thinking is a model of creativity and innovation that approaches problems “sideways”. Paul has written a number of books of lateral thinking puzzles to help exercise this skill; here, he applies the lessons of lateral thinking to leadership, advocating vision and innovation over control.Check out the entire body of work at Paul Sloan’s website.

                          Young - Learn More, Study Less
                            Scott Young, Learn More, Study Less

                            Former Lifehack writer Scott Young applies his understanding of how the mind works to the question of lifelong learning in this e-book on studying and learning more efficiently.I interviewed Scott on Lifehack Live back in January.

                            That’s a baker’s dozen of good books and e-books right there, and for some of our authors, there are several more as well. If you’ve read any of our contributors’ books, why don’t you let the rest of the Lifehack community know what you thought in the comments?

                            More by this author

                            How to Learn Something New Every Day and Stay Smart How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively How To Stop Procrastinating and Get Stuff Done Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

                            Trending in Featured

                            1 8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener 2 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 3 How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic 4 The Art of Humble Confidence 5 How to Get Promoted When You Feel Stuck in Your Current Position

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                            Last Updated on October 22, 2020

                            8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                            8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

                            How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

                            Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

                            When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

                            Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

                            What Makes People Poor Listeners?

                            Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

                            1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

                            Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

                            Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

                            It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

                            2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

                            This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

                            Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

                            3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

                            It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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                            I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

                            If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

                            4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

                            While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

                            To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

                            My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

                            Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

                            Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

                            How To Be a Better Listener

                            For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

                            1. Pay Attention

                            A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

                            According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

                            As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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                            I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

                            2. Use Positive Body Language

                            You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

                            A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

                            People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

                            But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

                            According to Alan Gurney,[2]

                            “An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

                            Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

                            3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

                            I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

                            Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

                            Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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                            Be polite and wait your turn!

                            4. Ask Questions

                            Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

                            5. Just Listen

                            This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

                            I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

                            I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

                            6. Remember and Follow Up

                            Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

                            For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

                            According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

                            It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

                            7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

                            If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

                            Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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                            Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

                            Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

                            NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

                            1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
                            2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

                            8. Maintain Eye Contact

                            When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

                            Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

                            By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

                            Final Thoughts

                            Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

                            You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

                            And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

                            More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

                            Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

                            Reference

                            [1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
                            [2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
                            [3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
                            [4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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