Let us bite the bullet - we all want to get more done by doing less. Unfortunately, there lies no magic pill that helps us achieve what we want. We need to go through the usual grind. Can we get better and more efficient while toiling our time out? In this article, we try to answer few of the above concerns, we pick lessons from the 40 best books on productivity and share it with you.
Well, productivity is yet another skill, to get better at it, one must educate self, here is a compilation of 40 of the best books I found on productivity and minor summary of the core idea.
While, it might seem like I am shooting you with titles, before that let me share my idea of what makes a book “great”.
A book that has a higher likelihood of passing on the skill/ knowledge being discussed in the content to the reader and which forces you to take action is a good book. The words should be coming from someone who has lived what he is talking, and makes for pragmatic and objective advice. The material should establish a connection between the reader and the author. The reader should be able to relate, not just at an intellectual level, but through emotions and gut.
A good book is written from the heart, and at least as much focused on sharing experience as with sharing knowledge.
I’m studying productivity, so I can recommend a whole bunch of genuine content, and if you can relate to my situation: lots of unplanned work and a few side hustles aside — here are a few of my recommendations.
Author : Charles Duhigg
It is a compilation of entertaining stories, deliberately paused and resumed throughout the book. Duhigg takes on a case study approach to talk about how old habits can be removed and new ones can be formed.
It explains how our habits work, backed by science, research, and real-life stories. The trajectory of any organisation or individual is a function of habit. All habits comprise a cue-routine-reward loop, and the easiest way to change this is to substitute something else for the routine while keeping the cure and reward the same.
Achieving lasting change in life is difficult, but it can be done by focusing on important keystone habits such as will power. All habits are not equal, some more powerful than the other. One keystone habit recommended to adopt is to make one’s own bed, research has shown that it increases the general well-being and boosts overall productivity.
Author: Danielle LaPorte
In this book, Danielle LaPorte gets to the crux of goal setting – your heart’s desire. Desires fuels our existence, and helps us grow. One must free oneself from goals forced upon them by others and makes peace with one’s own weaknesses.
This book highlights a way to use your core feelings as a guidance system for making choices, to accentuate the positive, this book helps you regard feelings as road signs so that you feel wholesome while being productive. It is a guide to harnessing the positive power of desire.
From fostering creativity to providing motivation for you to chase your goals, desire with a healthy dose of self-awareness can help you on your way to fulfillment.
Author: David Allen
This book is less theory and more actionable insights on getting things done. David tells you to take your to-do-list and convert it into get-it-done list. He takes a structured approach by giving great examples on sorting your work through projects, and follow up actions. The goal is to be able to get your ideas out of your head and get them executed. He introduces his famous system for stress-free productivity. With this system, you can face an overwhelming amount of things to do, and still be productive.
The five crucial steps in GTD are :
Author: Kelly McDonald
Kelly tackles the crucial questions on diversity with sensitivity. In her conversational tone makes it easy to read, and pumped with great actionable advice on how to handle and prevent clashes at workplace, and to be able to bring the teams together.
Author: Andrew Grove
The former chairman and CEO of Intel shares his perspective on how to build and run a company. The essential skills of creating and maintaining new businesses, he says can be summed up to a single word : managing. The book is equally good for sales managers, accountants, consultants, CEOs, and startup founders. Grove talks about creating highly productive teams, demonstrating methods of motivation that lead to peak performance - throughout. It carries manifestos that can help revolutionise the way we work.
The responsibilities of a manager are multi-faceted and the changing nature of work has transformed the role. This means modern managers are responsible for gathering information, making decisions, acting as role models, fostering motivation and flexibly assessing their employees. Imagine, giving a critical feedback to your friend, would you be comfortable doing that, only then forming ties might make sense and could be used to strengthen your professional relationships.
Author: Jeffrey K. Liker
Toyota creates the highest-quality cars with the fewest defects, using fewer man-hours, and half the floor space of its competitors. The book explains the management principles and business philosophy behind Toyota’s worldwide reputation for quality and reliability. The book is divided into 4 major sections
The culture at Toyota takes inspiration from major Japanese philosophy items majorly
Author: Gary Keller
“It is not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it is that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.”
The book discusses the benefits of prioritizing a single task, and it also provides examples of how to engage in those tasks with a singular focus. “The Lies: They Mislead and Derail Us,” which analyzes the ways in which multitasking has erroneously been praised as a desirable trait. The authors also challenge the concept of “work-life balance”, calling it “idealistic, but not realistic.”
This then leads to the “Focusing Question” which asks “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
According to the book, this means that engaging in the one most important task will be more likely to produce the desired results without any extraneous effort. The book also differentiates between the Big-Picture Question (“What’s my ONE Thing?”) and the Small-Focus Question (“What’s my ONE Thing right now?”). The core idea is that focusing on an excessive amount of tasks will more likely lead to discord and under-performance.
Author: Darren Hardy
Seemingly insignificant small actions taken daily, combined over a period of time will result in massive accumulation of success. The compound effect is the operating system that has been running your life, whether you notice it or not. The Compound Effect is based on the principle that decisions shape your destiny. Little, everyday decisions will either take you to the life you desire or to disaster by default. 3 lessons from the book:
Turn your life goals into daily habits.
Come up with a routine and consistently show up to build momentum.
When you hit a ceiling, use your momentum to push through, even if you have to cheat a little at first.
Let’s build success like investors build their portfolio, by using the compound effect!
Author: Stephen Covey
Instead of giving you another clock to put your race against, Stephen Covey gives you a compass.
“Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going” ~ Stephen Covey
This book works on an entirely eternal perspective and forces you to look beyond the obvious. Consider below statement:
I’m getting more done in less time, but where are the rich relationships, the inner peace, the balance, the confidence that I’m doing what matters most and doing it well?
Does this nagging question haunt you, even when you feel you are being your most efficient?
If so, First Things First can help you understand why so often our first things aren’t first.
Author: Brian Tracy
Brian Tracy has very artistically used the metaphor of Frog to a challenging work activity, but such work has a great positive impact on your life.
There’s an old saying that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re done with the worst thing you’ll have to do all day.
Eat That Frog! explains how you can prioritize tasks, by illustrating the problem with frogs - your most urgent, important, or unpleasant task is the biggest, ugliest frog in your pond. To call your day a success, “eat that frog” first - once you’ve finished with this task, you’ll know that the worst is behind you, so you’ll be able to tackle your remaining tasks with ease.
Author: Cal Newport
“If you don’t produce you won’t thrive - no matter how skilled or talented you are.”
One must focus on work which provides immense value to the world and which ultimately rewards. Human mind’s general tendency is to get distracted, and to top it the intrusion of social media is diminishing the capacity of the mind to focus on deep work.
Shallow work can be performed despite distractions, or as a result of them. It’s easy to replicate, but not truly valuable.
Deep work is more focused work, performed free of distractions. It needs practice and effort but is much more important to achieve.
Developing and cultivating a deep work practice is one of the best decisions we can make in this increasingly distracted world. Through the book he shows how anyone can achieve the elusive state of distraction-free productivity at work. He explains that mastering this shift in work is crucial for anyone who intends to systematically train the mind to focus.
Author: Honoree Corder
Honoree Corder is all about setting big hairy ambitious goals and explaining the strategies to achieve them in the shortest possible time frame.
She has brilliantly come out with the idea of setting 100 Days Goals, instead of one-year goals. The reason behind this is very simple. While one year period is too long to easily get swayed away and not accomplish anything. On the other hand, the weekly or monthly goals are too short a period to achieve anything significant.
So the 100 days goal, a reasonably short, but is not too long period to set and achieve your goals.
Author: Richard Koch
The 80:20 principle or the Pareto principle is much more relevant in today’s age than ever before, with overwhelming pace and information overload.
Richard Koch takes the widely renowned 80⁄20 principle and shows how in today’s cluttered and stressful world, working out the few things that are really important, and the few methods that will give us those things, leads to increased happiness and greater success.
Living the 80⁄20 Way explains why ‘less is more’ isn’t just a saying, but a sure-fire method to achieve your goals and live your best life.
This principle states that the world works around the principle that only 20% of your activities (even lesser) are as important to deliver to you as the 80% results (even more) in your life. It could be substantiated by following facts:
99% of the World’s wealth is accumulated by only 1% of the people.
80% or more of every business’s turnover/profits are contributed by only 20% or less of its customers.
If you satisfy 20% of the people in your life with your work, that will give you an 80% assurance of the perfect working life.
Author: Hal Elrod
The answer to a successful, fulfilling life lies in our morning ritual. Elrod encourages us to use six steps every morning to start living the life or our dreams
Completing these simple activities first thing every morning sets the tone for an effective, successful day ahead and, in turn, has a profoundly positive effect on our life in general.
Author: Chris Bailey
”Business is no different from laziness when it doesn’t lead you to accomplish anything.”
The book is a practical guide to how to live a life that is both productive and meaningful. With easy-to-understand techniques and reliable advice, you will find out how to work smarter and accomplish the work that really matters.
Being productive is not only about getting more things done, it is about working smarter by finding ways to be efficient and make the most of your time. To do that you have to acknowledge what is most important to you and only then take care of business in the most efficient way possible.
The book focuses on three critical factors that derive our productivity – time, attention, and energy. Simply put, Bailey shows how these three elements impact your productivity and how need to manage them in order to obtain maximum output.
Author: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
“When you don’t know what you believe, everything becomes an argument. Everything is debatable. But when you stand for something, decisions are obvious.”
The book throws out the traditional notions of what it takes to run a business and offers a collection of unorthodox advice, ranging from productivity to communication and product development. Starting and running a company is far easier today than ever before. To build a successful business, you must inject your own uniqueness into your product and embrace the benefits of being small. Build a great working environment by emphasizing trust, independence, and focus.
Author: Mason Currey
“It is a danger to wait around for an idea to occur to you. You have to find the idea.”
It is an entertaining and illuminating collection of the daily routines of great minds and artists. Including the work habits of people such as Jane Austen, Ludwig van Beethoven and Pablo Picasso, it offers insights into the best ways to maximize efficiently and prevent writer’s block, as well as tips on how to get by in the creative world.
Author: Timothy Ferriss
“I always advise young people to become good public speakers (top 25%). Anyone can do it with practice. If you add that talent to any other, suddenly you’re the boss of the people who have only one skill.”
There is no single path to success and, while every person’s journey looks different, you can still take inspiration and advice from those who came before you. Their success stories will expand your horizons, teach you how to put yourself on the right track and compel you to keep trying no matter what.
Author: Jocelyn K. Glei
“If you’re not motivated to be nice because of good karma, be nice because ultimately it saves time.”
The book puts our unhealthy relationship with email under the magnifying glass. Our lives are busy enough as it is, so it’s high time to stop wasting precious hours catching up on emails and responding to unimportant messages. With the help of this practical guide, you can organize your inbox and your life.
Author: Greg McKeown
“Remember that if you don’t prioritize your life someone else will.”
One of the quotes from the book says, ‘his stress went up as the quality of his work went down. It was like he was majoring in minor activities.’ In spite of how it might seem, only a few things are actually vital to our goals and well-being, and everything else is unimportant. Throughout the book, McKeown discusses the importance of focusing on only the absolutely essential things.
The book teaches you how to do better by doing less. It offers practical solutions on getting your priorities straight, it helps you eliminate all of the junk in your routine that is keeping you from being truly productive and fulfilled. By focussing on these few essential things and learning to do better by doing less, we can craft a life that is far more productive and fulfilling.
Author: Steven Pressfield
“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”
This book will also show you how and why focusing your full attention to one particular field of creative work will bring you the most benefits. Whether your creative goal is artistic, like writing a novel, or business-oriented, like managing a startup, you will have to face negative forces that oppose your creativity. Defeating these forces is necessary to achieving your highest goals. You can do this by learning to identify these forces and then overcoming them through hard work and persistence.
Author: Chris Bailey
“Hyperfocus explores the fascinating research behind how you focus but also bridges those insights with your daily life to explore ways you can manage your attention better to become more productive and creative.”
It is a practical guide for managing your attention—the most powerful resource you have to become more creative, get stuff done, and live a meaningful life. Chris Bailey reveals how the brain switches between two mental modes – hyperfocus, our deep concentration mode, and scatterfocus, our creative, reflective mode – and how the surest path to being our most creative and efficient selves at work is to combine them both.
Author: John Medina
Brain Rules shares how the brain sciences can influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, the author describes a Brain Rule — what scientists know for sure about how our brains work — and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.
The human brain is a sophisticated information-transfer system. Optimize your mid by understanding better how it works. Exercise, get enough sleep and avoid chronic stress. Take advantage of multisensory learning and the pictorial superiority effect. In doing so, you will maximize your intellectual potential.
Author: Stephen Covey
This book published in 1989 is the enormously influential self-help phenomenon that can teach you the principles of effectiveness. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is an interesting take on an individual’s personal and professional habits that help him achieve more. The central focus of the book is not to eliminate bad habits, but develop new ones to stay on track. Changing habits is the key to changing life.
The seven habits are not just small daily routines; they are the core principles that everyone can implement in their life to achieve greatness. Three of them are about developing yourself and three of them is about improving your relationships with others. And the last habit is about opting for never-ending improvement in all areas of life.
The book doesn’t put a barrier on the preferred target audience. Anyone, from top-tiered executive position to a college student, can choose it for personal development. If you’re keen on becoming more productive, this is what you should look forward to as your next read. The 4.5 rating of the book says it all.
For lasting effectiveness, adopt these seven habits :
Be proactive - take charge and assume responsibility for your life.
Begin with an end in mind - have a vision for the future and align your actions accordingly to make it a reality.
Put first things first - prioritize your work, don’t get distracted by urgent but ultimately unimportant tasks.
Think win-win : don’t negotiate for the biggest slice of pie, rather find a division that is beneficial and acceptable to all parties. It will grant your fair share, and strong positive relationship.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood : listen to the problem, then suggest solutions.
Synergize : Contributions of many will far exceed the sum total of individual contributions.
Sharpen the saw : Don’t work to death. Strive for a sustainable lifestyle that affords you time to recuperate and recharge, so that you can stay effective in the long-term.
Author: Graham Allcott
How to be a productivity ninja addresses all your time management concerns and compels you to focus your attention only on the right things. According to Graham, there are certain attributes of ninjas which, when applied to humans, can directly impact our productivity. Some of these include ruthlessness, mindfulness, Zen-like calm, agility, and stealth & camouflage.
This is a book packed with a good combination of high-level concepts, psychological mental frameworks, and street-level strategies and tactics. The author argues that instead of managing your time, manage your attention. And then he moves on to lay out the entire process to achieve that from processing your inbox to developing your second brain to hosting effective meetings.
Author: Timothy Ferriss
The book describes the life of of the New Rich, people who have emancipated themselves from the slavery of office work and built a life centered around happiness in the here and now. It states you to define bold goals for yourself and then focus your efforts on the 20 percent of tasks that are most impactful. Stop going to pointless meetings and quit the habit of constantly checking your inbox.
The book essentially embodies the implementation of 80⁄20 principle in your professional life.
This productivity book is a real treat for readers because Tim uses his own life experiences to guide people about working more efficiently. You can find some solid tips to shape your professional life in a more productive way and that too without draining yourself of all of your energies.
Author: Leo Babauta
The Power of Less introduces Leo Babauta’s ideal of productive minimalism. His approach focuses mainly on the development of good habits as the key to long-term changes.
Demonstrating the similar principle of Essentialism, this book also focuses on eliminating the distractions from your life and identifying the essential goals. The central idea of the book revolves around freeing yourself from the overwhelming clutter of unnecessary tasks and how to do less to achieve more.
How can setting limits lead to working more effectively?
If you want to work effectively, limit yourself to the essential.
If you want to concentrate on what’s necessary, get your priorities straight.
Live your priorities: make and be clear about decisions.
How can creating habits change behavior?
If you want to change your life, change your habits. Develop your habits slowly but surely.
How can planning and focus lead to higher productivity levels?
Focus on one success at a time: thing in goals, sub-goals, projects and tasks.
Stay focussed - live in the now and fully concentrate on every task.
Start every day with your most important tasks.
Boost your efficiency by minimizing the time you spend on emails.
Author: Steve Chandler
Time Warrior: How to defeat procrastination, people-pleasing, self-doubt, over-commitment, broken promises and chaos by Steve Chandler highlights common mistakes we tend to make in life causing us frequent setbacks. Chandler especially highlights the human factor of people pleasing and self-doubt that result in loss of focus of the bigger picture.
Through a 101-chapter journey, this book helps you create your own, powerful cognitive style by structuring time tracking, multi-tasking, and other behaviors.
Author: Seth Godin
Today, if your job involves just following instructions, you are replaceable. The book explains why you should stop being a mindless drone at work and instead become a linchpin - someone who pours their energy into work and is indispensable to the company. It is not only better for your career but it also makes work far more enjoyable and rewarding. Linchpins are mentally resilient people that can get things done through intelligent risks.
Instead of following a certain path, Linchpins create their own, thus, becoming indispensable to their environments. Instead of learning to fit in, this book teaches you to think different.
Linchpins are like artists; they see their work as a platform for their art and pour emotional labor into it every day. Their art is a unique, immeasurably valuable fight that they give to others.
Author: Laura Vanderkam
If you’re someone living in a constant fear of time running out, Laura is here with some good news for you. We all have the same amount of hours during the day, but some people get more done than you. Why? Because they’re managing time effectively. That explains the title. Don’t worry, this is not just another time management book with some fancy tips.
This productivity book comes with a notion that there are a total of 168 hours in a week. You can get the most out of them by keeping your focus on your core competencies. Find ways to maximize your productivity through these competencies and offload all other tasks to other people. The key lies with prioritizing tasks, and tracking where your hours are going, and you’re good to go.
Author: Tony Schwartz, James E. Loehr
New York Times best seller, the power of full engagement comes with the idea that you need to manage your energies rather than your time. The book essentially focuses on the idea of self-management. That is, it’s not about how you many tasks you can fit in your day, but how you manage your own energy in a positive way.
According to authors, there is an energy pyramid that determines the different levels of energy we use to fuel ourselves. These levels are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. In order to reach the highest levels of energy, you need to fully engage all these 4 types. The capacity to recover energy is also crucial when it comes to meeting your personal goals.
Author: Charles Duhigg
You can tell by the name that this productivity book is aimed towards making you a smarter individual. Throughout the book, Charles Duhigg presents 8 ideas which are targeted towards helping you maximize your productivity. It’s a self-help book which allows you to change the way you think, not what you think, and reveals the secrets of being productive.
Duhigg urges readers to get in the habit of telling yourself stories and add more options or opportunities for making informed decisions in your personal life and business. With a 4.3 rating, dig into the contents of the book and see how it changes your life.
Author: Robert Pozen
If you’re constantly battling with your time management skills and how you always think 24 hours of the day are too less, Extreme Productivity is for you. It’s just like a crash course to help you manage your time in the best way possible. The book is divided into sections to help you handle different aspects of your personal and professional life.
Extreme Productivity provides solid, tactical advice on how you can prioritize and organize your tasks in a way that they bring out the maximum productivity.
Author: Rory Vaden
In Procrastinate on Purpose, Vaden gives smart insights on how you can multiply your time. That is, how to squeeze in maximum work in your schedule without actually doing all the work yourself. You can do this by following the principles of Eliminating, Automating, Delegating, Consolidating, and Procrastinating.
The procrastination bit of the book essentially explains the principle of waiting till the last moment to get things done, because requirements can change at any time. This simple, yet effective funnel of managing your work can work wonders for you.
Author: James Clear
“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it—but all that had gone before.”
It focuses on building good habits and letting go of the not so good ones. It talks about system being the driving factor in building or shedding habits. The book advises one to make time for new habits, to overcome a lack of motivation and willpower, and design an environment to make success easier and get back on track post failure.
Author: Chip and Dan Health
“Success emerges from the quality of the decisions we make and the quantity of luck we receive. We can’t control luck. But we can control the way we make choices”
The book guides you through a large number of scientific studies, insightful stories, and extensive research while highlighting functional tools that can be helpful in considering your options and choices with more thought. The book offers a 4-step process to help us overcome our biases, irrationalities, and the general overconfidence that pushes us to make decisions based on information that supports our beliefs while ignoring the information that does not.
Author: Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
Fun Fact : One of the authors left his job at Google to become a writer and the other left YouTube to pursue sailing.
“Every time you check your email or another messaging service, you’re basically saying, ”Does any random person need my time right now?”
You’ll learn how to stop going with the flow and playing by the rules of the modern world, and how to make time for your own priorities. The main reasons we feel like we never have enough time are the Busy Bandwagons and Infinity Pools: the ethos that encourages busyness for its own sake and the apps that keep us distracted with endless communications and entertainment.
Productivity and willpower alone are not enough to overcome these two forces of time wastage. Instead, they advocate four categories : exercise, diet, social connection and sleep and we need a mindful, proactive strategy to deal with them.
Author: Daniel Goleman
“Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership”
It is a guidebook for nurturing today’s scarcest resource: attention. Using cutting-edge research, the book reveals that sharpening our focus in a world of endless distractions is the key to professional success and personal fulfillment. What makes Goleman’s contribution special is that the book expands the definition of “focus” beyond mere concentration and calls for a mindful life in which attention is paid to the self, to others and to the planet.
Like a muscle, focused attention, requires rest.
While it is true that we have to exercise our focus to keep it “healthy”, tightly focused attention inevitably becomes fatigued after a while. It is easy to notice when this happens, and when it happens you need to take a break - allow your mind to wander and to make whatever associations it makes. After a while, it will become clear that you are ready to return to top-down mode, feeling refreshed and clear-headed.
Author: Catherine Price
The book examines the increasingly visible and often addictive relationship we have with our phones. This addiction can be detrimental to the attention span, memory and quality of sleep. With increased awareness, we can stop using our devices to provide endless distractions, and instead use them as tools to enhance our lives.
Buying an old fashioned alarm clock is definitely an actionable advice which could be followed.
Author: Jon Acuff
This guidebook is for anyone who loves starting new projects but always struggles to complete them. You will discover how the real enemy to getting this done is not laziness, but rather the voice of the disgruntled perfectionist we all have inside us.
Perfectionism convinces us that anything less than perfect is a failure, and the only worthwhile goals are one that are grand and difficult - and make you miserable. If we accept that nothing will ever be perfect, we can start to enjoy the rewards of small accomplishment.
One can start celebrating imperfect progress by using data. This valuable advice can help one reduce needless, self-imposed pressure, finding the opportunity to finish what has been started and be more productive.
This marks the end to our list of best productivity books. What are your favorite lists? We would love to hear!