*None of these links or recommendations are sponsored or paid. I recommended every one of these books because they had a strong influence on me
If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll know that I love productivity and being able to carve out more time in the day to do the things I love. So today, I think it’s a good time to share with you some of the best books on productivity that I’ve read in the past few years and the reasons why I loved them.
Here’s a list of the books if you want to skip to a particular section:
Deep Work by Cal Newport
Deep work singlehandedly changed my conceptions about the value of work and where you should put your efforts. Sure, it’s pretty biased, and a lot of the tips might not work for everyone (I’m looking at you salespeople), but his rules for approaching your time are next to none.
Newport’s approach follows the idea that our world is filled with all sorts of shallow work: emailing, instant messaging, redundant meetings, social media. This work may give us the appearance of being busy and “productive”, but it doesn’t produce anything of value either for you or the world. And that’s why at the end of the day, so many of us often feel like we didn’t know where our day’s time went.
Don’t fall into this trap. Instead, go for deep work, “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” Sure, it’s harder. It will be draining at times. But it’s also a lot more rewarding, and when you laser all that extra focus into one area for a period of time, you will achieve more.
The best way to visualize this is the formula that Newport puts out:
Work Accomplished = Time Spent x Intensity
Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
The premise of this book is similar to Deep Work in that it focuses on removing distractions and putting a portion of your days’ time aside for something that matters to you, but it’s less dogmatic, more humorous, and also acts as a manual with 87 tactics to mix and match in your day.
The Make Time framework is based off of 4 steps: 1. Highlight 2. Laser 3. Energize 4. Reflect
Highlight means finding something that truly matters to you. It can be an urgent task. Or something you love. Or even something that you’ve been wanting to get to but haven’t had the time to do yet.
Laser means removing distractions, setting aside a portion of your time to work on that highlight and removing distractions. Some of the tactics laid out here include adding friction to your time-draining activities and carrying a “distraction-free” phone.
Energize means finding ways to stay, well… energized. It’s all about making sure that you don’t burnout or feel drained during your highlight. It’s also about knowing your limits. When we work, we don’t want to push ourselves to complete exhaustion in each session. Instead, we should take lots of breaks, caffeinate (smartly), and do short bouts of exercises.
Finally, Reflect tells us to apply the scientific method in our lives to identify what worked and what didn’t. It’s a way to make sure that we’re constantly improving and using the techniques that work for us.
Knowing all the powerful tips this book has given me, I could not recommend this book enough.
The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
Everyone’s definitely heard of this book, but you gotta read it to believe it. Tim Ferriss is on another level, but in this book, he gives us a set of tools that can help anybody, regardless of their background, become part of the NR (New Rich), a population that throws away the “work hard, have fun when you retire” mentality for the “make money and have fun now” mindset.
He lays out the steps in an acronym called DEAL: Definition, Elimination, Automation, Liberation. It’s too difficult to summarize the entire book in a small blurb, but if you want to know what it took for Tim Ferriss to run a successful nutrition company, be a guiness world record holder in tango, and win a Chinese national kickboxing champion, you’re going to be in for a treat.
Ferriss’s approach is no frills, with one section detailing ways to batch emails and create an autoresponder so that you’ll have more time to do the things you love and avoid being shackled to the duties of instant communication (hey… this sounds familiar). If you want more, you’ll also be pleasantly surprised when you hear that he has books like “The 4-hour Body” and “The 4-hour Chef” as well as a podcast where he speaks to people who are at the top of their fields so that we can learn about their habits.
Trust me. You’ll love this book.
Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki
This will be a controversial pick. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this book, and the prevailing opinion is either that Kiyosaki’s completely right or that he couldn’t have been more wrong. You can have your own opinion about a man who filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and supposedly doesn’t follow his own rules.
However, if you’ve been taught from a young age the typical ideas of keep your head down, work hard, and save for retirement, you’ll be in for a rude awakening. I think the best way to position the book is not as a financial manual, but rather a way to break the mold on your ideas about what it means to be rich and how to get there.
Ultimately, I think productivity/self help books should not be seen as instruction manuals for life, but ways to see other people’s perspectives on success and how they got there. Whether you read just one or all of them, you can’t go wrong.