From an economic perspective, productivity is defined by output per unit of input. How much labor, resources, etc. are required to produce output, and over what period? In a similar vein, work-life productivity is about how much time, energy, and resources are required for you to meet your objectives or accomplish a task.
There are plenty of roadblocks preventing us from maximizing our productive potential. Infinite distractions, incorrect or lacking skills, burnout, and an inefficient working environment all drag down your productivity.
Becoming more productive is a science.
It requires time, commitment, and developing a personalized approach. Honing productivity is a skill in itself and can take years to develop and a lifetime to master.
We’ve put together a list of 10 of the best books on productivity to help you get closer to your goals. These productivity books should help you grow and develop your productivity with practical tips, strategies, and roadmaps.
1. The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
What’s holding you back at work? Many people struggle with procrastination and a lack of focus. This can slow down your process and stop you from being your best productive self.
The Power of Focus is a read that everyone should go through at least once. This book allows readers to overcome the things holding them back by focusing on their strengths and eliminating the bad habits eating into their productivity.
The strategies here will help you find a proper balance between work and home life. A couple of great ideas are building your fortress (think of it as your “life team”) and setting your ten-year plan along the key buckets or areas in your life (such as social, health, charity, professional, and family).
The goal is to be thinking of your productivity holistically and making success inevitable.
2. Choose Your Perspective: 7 Tips for High Performance Through Intentional Thinking by John Martin
Your personal perspective on your past, present, and future impact your flow and success. Being able to freely create and produce great work sometimes requires a change of perspective.
It’s important to be intentional about your thoughts, methods, and work process in order to achieve your highest level of productivity. Martin’s book helps readers overcome negative thinking and unhealthy habits inhibiting productivity by changing the way they look at these challenges.
To level up your focus, be intentional about mental habits, potential distractions, and task organization. It’s possible to let go of the distractions caused by negative thoughts and push yourself outside your comfort zone.
Perspective, as they say, is everything.
3. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin
We are constantly inundated with tasks, distractions, and expectations. It’s a reality of our fast-paced, always-connected lives.
Levitin’s book looks at how we can productively manage thoughts and schedules with the overflow of data thrown our way. The neuroscientist-turned-author has invaluable ideas on how our brains function in the sea of information we’re faced with today.
How can you navigate the “flood of information” while remaining productive? The Organized Mind gives you examples and ideas on how to organize the everyday situations that are causing you to feel overwhelmed. Some practical tips include externalizing and categorizing thoughts or tasks and limiting your email answering to three (scheduled) times each day.
4. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
Though David Allen’s book was published in 2001, it’s a classic in the productivity book world. Getting Things Done looks at the best methods for clearing away stress and overwhelming thoughts to produce better results.
Central to his ideas are clearing mental clutter and pushing to an “external brain”. When you’ve recorded and categorized the information or task into a well-documented and structured space, you don’t need to think about it. It’s out of mind – but not necessarily out of sight. At the same time, you have the plan to get it done.
All of this requires planning, but in the process, you free up your time, reduce stress, and boost your productivity.
5. Do It For Yourself (Guided Journal): A Motivational Journal by Kara Cutruzzula
We all need a little motivation sometimes. This guided journal can help you organize your ideas, tasks, and goals to be more productive in every facet of your life. With useful probes and prompts, this journal gives you the opportunity to self-manage your motivations.
Depending on your goals, it breaks down productivity into 5 stages: getting going, building momentum, overcoming setbacks, following through, and seeking closure. These stages are meant to harness your existing motivation and guide you to the next phase in your goals. The journal also contains clarifying illustrations to keep you inspired as you work through your steps.
Of course, what you get out of a self-help-style book or journal such as this depends on how receptive you are to the idea of improvement. And you don’t need to take it all in, even tiny improvements add up over time.
6. Dopamine Detox: A Short Guide to Remove Distractions and Get Your Brain to Do Hard Things by Thibaut Meurisse
Chasing “the dopamine” is something we’ve been programmed to do through millennia of evolution. However, we’ve (perhaps) gotten too good at it. It’s become too easy to do what feels good, chasing instant gratification. This inevitably affects our productivity.
In Dopamine Detox, Meurisse shares ideas for reclaiming your focus by eliminating distractions and overcoming the roadblocks in your creative process. The book is a guide for lowering your levels of overwhelming stimuli for better focus and productivity.
Meurisse explains how dopamine affects your productivity and the simple steps and practical exercises for avoiding overstimulation so you can stay focused. Some (seemingly obvious yet often neglected) tips for reducing digital distractions include moving your phone charger away from your bedroom, reducing unnecessary apps on your phone, and deleting social media accounts that are causing more harm than good.
7. The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
Have you ever wondered if you could condense your process and be more productive in less time? With rapidly evolving work environments, it’s a popular idea that we can actually get more done in less time, resulting in a better work-life balance.
The 12 Week Year explains how to deliver improved results in your project while spending fewer in-office hours. The idea, while simple, is effective. Treat each 12-week period as a new start with new goals. Devote time each week to high-value activities that focus on those goals.
While cutting a full year of work down to 12 weeks might be a long shot, the book contains some insightful ideas on bettering your efficiency and productivity.
8. Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less by Michael Hyatt
We all get the same number of hours in a day, a week, and a year. So, why does it seem like some people have it all together and are achieving non-stop? Free to Focus looks at the idea of, rather than making more time, using the time we have more wisely. With strategies for efficiency and helpful worksheets for building your own plan, Hyatt offers a blueprint for succeeding at work and in life.
Free to Focus has 9 main tips for helping you redefine your goals and figure out what is working best for you. Some key concepts include creating a clear project vision, carving out distinct morning and evening rituals, and discovering your “freedom compass” by placing tasks and responsibilities into a range of zones: desire, distraction, disinterest, drudgery, and development.
Chances are, you’re already on track to higher productivity, it’s just about being intentional and finding your path to better time management and greater focus.
9. Super Learning: Advanced Strategies for Quicker Comprehension, Greater Retention, and Systematic Expertise by Peter Hollins
Psychologist Peter Hollins believes that we can train our brains to work faster and more efficiently. This highly-rated book looks at how we can optimize our intake of information to improve our skills and performance.
With strategies like “teaching to learn” and “making learning secondary”, there is a range of innovative methods for improving their learning and absorbing knowledge. The more you know and the bigger your well of information to draw from, the more efficient you can be in projects and creative endeavors.
10. Mastery by Robert Greene
By analyzing the habits and methods of brilliant masters such as Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Leonard da Vinci, Robert Greene delves into the idea of becoming a “master” in your chosen craft or field.
Does greatness require you to be a born genius? Or is there something that anyone can tap into when given the right tools, opportunities, and strategies? Understanding the three phases of mastering a skill – apprenticeship, active creative and experimentation, and mastery – can help you achieve your ultimate career goals. If you want to look at what it takes to become a master, this is a great easy book to read.
BONUS: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
The 4-Hour Workweek might not be for everyone, but it has its moments. It explores how we can work less, earn more, and grow faster.
Ferriss’s strategies for increasing productivity by taking advantage of the tools and opportunities at our disposal are what will help you get more done in less time and find greater balance in work and life.
Ultimately, maybe ironically, Tim is probably working 60 hours a week.
Books on Productivity
Finding your flow, focus, or optimal process doesn’t always lead to a straight shot to success. We hope, though, this list is helpful on your journey toward better productivity.
Better productivity can require a lot of trial and error, such as finding the right tools and methods that work for you. It’s incremental, with small 1% changes eventually adding up for major benefits.
The ideas shared by these authors aren’t one-size-fits-all, but even if you only take one small idea from each, you will be on your path to achieving greater productivity.
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