10 Great Productivity Reads
Friday, May 26, 2023

10 Great Productivity Reads

Take a page from the playbooks of the experts on our list to accomplish more and bring your goals home.

Productivity is the ultimate goal for most of us. It forms the basis of work practices as we frantically try to organize our time and efforts to complete tasks and achieve our goals. But, sometimes we all need a helping hand. That’s when it makes sense to schedule some time into your day to get someone else’s take on the subject.

Reading a book on productivity allows you to evaluate what you’re doing and pick up tips, tricks, techniques, and tools that you can put into practice to up your own productivity game. However, it can be extremely time-consuming sifting through the hundreds of available books on the subject to find the one that best suits your needs.

Luckily, we’re here to help. We’ve whittled down the list and come up with our top 10 great productivity reads to help you on your way to achieving more.

1. Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy

Productivity Project book cover

“The dread of doing a task uses up more time and energy than doing the task itself.”

Instead of wasting time trying every productivity tactic you’ve ever heard of, pick up a copy of Chris Bailey’s Productivity Project. Bailey spent a year experimenting with hundreds of productivity techniques — the good, the bad, and the weird — so you don’t have to. The book tells of his experiences, the lessons he learned, and the knowledge he gained on how to manage his time, attention, and energy effectively.

Some of the techniques Bailey tried included cutting out caffeine and sugar, living in total isolation for 10 days, restricting smartphone usage to an hour a day, increasing his working week to 90 hours, and getting up at 5:30 a.m. every day.

Bailey shares his top 25 most powerful productivity tactics, giving great advice on how to implement methods such as the Rule of 3 and the 20-second rule.

Summary: A fascinating and engaging read. An eye-opening look at the lengths some people will go to trying to accomplish more, and a great insight into the best (and worst!) productivity practices.

2. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones

Atomic Habits book cover

"With the same habits, you’ll end up with the same results. But with better habits, anything is possible."

Many of us struggle to make new habits and kick bad ones. James Clear tries to make it easier to achieve in Atomic Habits. This definitive guide to creating — and sticking to — good habits demonstrates how small, incremental changes and repetitive behaviors in your everyday routine can result in huge positive changes over time.

Clear lays out four steps to forming new good habits and breaking bad ones. Whether you’re looking to exercise more, build relationships, or change your working practices to become more productive, you’ll find strategies and tips for making habits easier to achieve.

Summary: If you want to make lasting changes to your daily life, Atomic Habits will help. An engaging read that’ll leave you feeling empowered and ready to take action.

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

Getting Things Done book cover

“My mission is to create a world where there are no problems, only projects.”

For tips on improving time management, look no further than Getting Things Done by the New York Times best-selling author David Allen. It’s become something of a Bible for the business world and has formed the basis of workbooks, courses, and seminars that people follow and attend around the world.

Allen presents his GTD system to help us accomplish more while worrying less. As the human brain can only store and process limited amounts of data at any one time, we need to handle one task at a time. The GTD system helps set clear goals, organize workflow, and prioritize effectively to achieve stress-free productivity. Allen also stresses the importance of including relaxation in your schedule to make the whole process work.

Summary: If you’re prone to anxiety and become overwhelmed by large projects, Getting Things Done could help. It’s a complex read, but will ultimately arm you with the tools you need to manage your workload effectively.

4. The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win

Motivation Myth book cover

“Remember, the main purpose of a goal is to establish the right process and routine to achieve that goal.”

Instead of waiting for motivation to propel you into action, read Jeff Haden’s The Motivation Myth. Haden forces us to face the fact that motivation, as we know it, is actually a myth, and we need to change the way we approach obstacles and goals to achieve our aims.

Haden draws on his own experiences and those of life’s big achievers to debunk the motivation myth and prove that success is possible for everyone, not just the gifted few. Instead of focusing on the final goal, Haden suggests we focus on the process necessary to achieve it. By taking small steps and completing small parts of the larger picture, you generate your own motivation to progress.

Summary: The Motivation Myth makes you rethink how you approach things and outlines the practical steps needed to find the “motivation” to achieve your goals.

5. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Deep Work book cover

“Three to four hours a day, five days a week, of uninterrupted and carefully directed concentration, it turns out, can produce a lot of valuable output.”

We all know the benefits of deep work, those times when you’re supposed to focus on difficult and complex tasks. However, putting it into practice is never easy. In Deep Work, Cal Newport teaches us the value of focus and concentration, especially in this world of constant interruptions from emails, notifications, and social media.

To eliminate the noise, clutter, and distractions of modern life, Newport outlines his guidelines for working more efficiently by limiting interruptions, cutting out social media, and dealing with boredom. Basically, providing the work ethic you need to concentrate when the world around you is vying for your attention.

Summary: Deep Work is a great read, especially if you struggle to remain focused. You’ll find tips and guidelines to simplify things and rid yourself of distractions and regain concentration.

6. Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Eat That Frog book cover

“The first rule of frog eating is this: If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

There are plenty of self-help books trying to stop us from procrastinating, but Eat That Frog is one of the best.

Mark Twain wrote, “If your job is to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.” He was saying that if the frog represents the most difficult task on your to-do list, you should get it done first so everything else you face during the day will seem easier.

Brian Tracy builds on the frog metaphor, advising that the best way to overcome procrastination is by doing your most demanding tasks first. Drawing on the practices that helped him succeed, Tracy provides 21 tips for managing time and increasing productivity, such as breaking down tasks, forward planning, utilizing technology, and being more aware of consequences.

Summary: Eat That Frog! is for anyone guilty of procrastination. Although Tracy doesn’t reveal anything new, he manages to convince and motivate readers to stop procrastinating and get things done!

7. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play

The Now Habit cover book

“The Now Habit perspective does not accept that laziness, disorganization, or any other character defect is the reason you procrastinate.”

First published in 1988, The Now Habit by Neil Fiore has been around for a while, but its message is still as relevant today as it was back then. Fiore aims to solve the procrastination problem, helping eliminate it from your life through a variety of tried-and-tested tools and techniques.

The book outlines the way to diagnose procrastination, so you can understand your issues, letting you start getting things done and find more enjoyment in your work. Fiore also focuses on the ability to make the most of your well-earned spare time free from guilty feelings.

Summary: Fiore writes with a positive attitude and an upbeat tone to set out a plan to help us all overcome procrastination while still enjoying guilt-free downtime.

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

Time Warrior book cover

“The best futures get created in the present moment.”

As the title suggests, Steve Chandler’s Time Warrior is a manual for dealing with anything you face in life! Chandler gives a different perspective on time management, looking instead at non-linear time management.

What does that mean? It’s the way of working in the present rather than following the brain’s habit of looking to the future at what still needs to be done.

The book is full of motivational quotes from the good and the great and aims to change the mindset of readers, urging them to find and focus on the small things that lead up to the larger goals. Ultimately, Chander gives us simple techniques to improve how we approach time, integrity, and productivity.

Summary: Time Warrior is a “read-it-in-a-day” kind of book. It’s highly recommended for anyone struggling with time management, keeping promises, or making progress in life.

9. Zen to Done: The Ultimate Simple Productivity System, by Leo Babuata

Zen to Done book cover

“Take as much stuff off your plate as possible, so you can focus on doing what’s important, and doing it well.”

With so many productivity tips and systems out there, it’s difficult to know which one will work for you. Leo Babuata’s Zen to Done takes the best of other productivity tools and combines them into one system — an ultra-simple one at that.

Babuata takes a minimalist approach, putting forward a 10-step process to help organize projects, simplify the structure of your workday, keep your desk clean, and keep your inbox clear, so you can get on with your to-do list without distractions. Babuata teaches us to implement and stick to the habits needed to work efficiently and productively.

Summary: Zen to Done takes the complexity out of other productivity tools. If you’re looking for a simple and effective way to be productive, this book is for you.

10. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload, by Daniel Levitin

The Organized Mind book cover

“Getting organized can bring us all to the next level in our lives.”

Daniel Levitin takes his experience and knowledge as a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist and applies it to productivity in The Organized Mind. Levitin tells us that evolution has left the human brain unable to deal with the information overload and complexities of modern society.

To work more efficiently, without becoming overwhelmed by distractions, expectations, and to-do lists, Levitin suggests we adapt our minds. He looks at ways to give up some of the information your memory holds and allow yourself to focus on one thing at a time.

The book contains practical tips for working in this chaotic world, such as keeping your working environment clean, categorizing and externalizing thoughts and tasks, and scheduling three specific times in your day to respond to emails.

Summary: The Organized Mind is an entertaining read, drawing on scientific research and practical experiences to provide a framework to help readers manage their lives more effectively.

Improve Your Mind and Your Productivity

We all have a few minutes to spare every day. Whether you read for 15 minutes before bed, get through a couple of chapters during your lunch break, or listen to an audiobook on your commute, make it your goal to read one (or all) of these books in your free time.

Investing a few minutes into reading each day will teach you the tactics and techniques needed to change how you work. It’s just possible that these 10 great productivity reads could be the key to helping you on your way to greater success, more efficient working practices, and improved productivity.

Jackie Smart
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10 Great Productivity Reads FAQs

What are the criteria for selecting books for the "10 Great Productivity Reads" list?

The books selected for this list offer practical advice, original insights, and effective strategies for improving productivity. They are also well-regarded by readers and experts in the field, and are authored by individuals with a proven track record of success in productivity coaching or related disciplines.

Are these books suitable for productivity beginners or are they targeted more at people with advanced knowledge?

These books cater to a wide range of readers. Some are ideal for beginners looking to understand basic productivity principles, while others offer more advanced techniques. Regardless of your current productivity level, you'll likely find valuable insights in each book.

Are these books just for business productivity or can they help improve personal productivity as well?

While some of these books do focus on business productivity, many of the principles they discuss can also be applied to personal productivity. Concepts such as time management, goal setting, and prioritization are relevant in both professional and personal contexts.

Are these books available in digital formats like eBooks or audiobooks?

Most of the books listed are available in various formats such as hardcover, paperback, eBook, and audiobook. Availability may vary, so it's recommended to check your preferred online book retailer or local bookstore for specific formats.

Can I find these books at my local library?

Many of these books should be available at your local library. However, availability can vary based on location and demand. It's best to check with your local library directly.

Which of these books would you recommend starting with?

All the books listed offer valuable insights, but if you're a beginner, you might want to start with something like "Getting Things Done" by David Allen or "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" by Stephen Covey. These provide foundational productivity principles that other books build upon.

Are these productivity books suitable for team managers?

Absolutely. Many of these books offer insights into how to improve team productivity and manage time and resources more effectively. They can provide managers with useful tools and strategies for promoting productivity within their teams.

Are there any books on this list that focus on specific productivity methods, like the Pomodoro Technique?

Yes, some of the books on the list discuss specific productivity methods. For example, "The Pomodoro Technique" by Francesco Cirillo is entirely about this famous time management method.

Is there an overall theme or common thread among the books in the list?

The common thread among these books is their focus on productivity. However, each approaches the topic from a unique perspective, whether it's psychological, organizational, or tactical. This variety allows readers to explore different aspects of productivity and choose the methods that resonate most with them.

How can I apply the lessons from these books to my daily life?

Each book offers practical advice that readers can apply in their own lives. The key is to start small, implement one or two ideas at a time, and then gradually incorporate more strategies as you become comfortable. Remember, the goal is consistent improvement, not instant perfection.

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