4 Books That *Actually* Improved My Productivity

They taught me to get all my tasks done and achieve more without feeling overwhelmed.

4 Books That *Actually* Improved My Productivity
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They taught me to get all my tasks done and achieve more without feeling overwhelmed.

If you’ve been following my articles for a while, you’d know that I’m not really a fan of self-help books. Fiction gives me sustenance and I love reading books that help me think out of the box.

But every once in a while, even the most hard-core fiction lovers come across some self-help books that totally changed their lives. This post lists four books that did the same for me.

I’ve always been obsessed with productivity. Even when I was in school, I remember my friends were surprised at how I managed to cram in fifteen minutes of study time in between two table tennis matches.

As I grew older and life got more complicated than just homework and exams, I started stumbling. These four books helped me get back on track and boosted my productivity.

If you’ve ever felt like there is way too much work and the twenty-four hours in a day are not enough, read on. These books will definitely help you manage your time better and become more productive.

(Note: The links mentioned in this article are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these books through these links, it will help me earn a small amount — at no extra cost to you. Thanks!)

1. Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg

This book is about how taking small steps can massively improve your life in the long run. In Tiny Habits, author BJ Fogg, explains that building any new habit is a combination of the three:

  • Motivation, or your desire to execute the behavior.
  • Ability, i.e. your capacity to execute the behavior.
  • Prompt, or your cue to execute the behavior.

According to the author (who is also the founder of the Behavior Design Lab at Stanford University), you can incorporate new behaviors into your life when motivation, ability, and a prompt converge simultaneously.

Reading this book made me realize that the key to making lasting change in life is to start small. Pick a habit that

  • you do at least once a day,
  • takes you less than 30 seconds to complete, and
  • requires little effort.

Keep repeating this while slowly increasing the dosage, and you’re all set to successfully building a brand new habit.

What to expect from this book

If you’re trying to build a new habit, I’d strongly suggest you read Tiny Habits. It’s an incredible book with actionable takeaways that can change your life and introduce productive habits in your daily routine.

Purchase the book here.

2. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Image: Goodreads

I only picked this book because the tagline said The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I wanted to know what was it, and even though I didn’t have too many hopes, the book literally changed my life.

David Allen is a coach and management consultant who proposes a simple premise: our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.

This book lays out the super-effective GTD (Getting things done) system and how to apply it to your life. The author takes a no-bullshit approach and doesn’t waste time in trying to inspire. The process discussed here is straightforward and focused on implementation, which is what helped me immensely.

What to expect from this book

If you feel overwhelmed by having too many things on your to-do list, and often get confused by which task to tackle first, this book will help you a lot. It will teach you to design a very practical approach to digging yourself out of your seemingly endless list of commitments and help you stay on top of your productivity game.

The book is a life-changer for people who aren’t super organized. Even if you are relatively organized, you’ll still learn a lot from the process laid out here.

Purchase the book here.

3. Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey

Image: Goodreads

Most books on productivity simplify things too much — as if focus is a switch you can turn on any moment you wish. In reality, your focus is the first step to getting things done. When you can truly focus on a task, all your energy flows into it, and success starts showing up.

This book introduces two very interesting concepts: Hyperfocus or focusing on one thing with no distractions, and Scatterfocus, or deliberately letting your mind roam free. Some tactics that the author discusses on how to enter the Hyperfocus state of mind are (they might sound simplistic, but the book lays out detailed steps on how you can do it):

  1. Set your intention and choose a meaningful object of attention.
  2. Define a reasonable time period for focusing so you have a clear start and endpoint.
  3. Eliminate all the external and internal distractions that are in your control.
  4. Focus on your chosen object of attention.
  5. When your mind wanders, draw your attention back to your object of attention.

What to expect from this book

Expect some easy-to-implement strategies for successfully getting things done. After you’re done reading, you’ll be inspired to start scheduling hyperfocus sessions into your week. These will help you complete the prioritized items on your to-do list and feel much better when you’re on top of your workload.

The author has also put together a GTD Workbook where you can mark the things on your priority list. The workbook makes the process much easier than starting on your own blank journal.

Purchase the book here.

4. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

If you aren’t yet familiar with the author’s work yet, Jordan Peterson has some amazing lectures on YouTube. You should definitely check them out.

Coming from a clinical psychologist and a professor, this is an amazingly put-together book listing some core ideas every person should live their life by. The rules cover various fields like discipline, freedom, adventure, and responsibility.

It isn’t a book on productivity per se, but reading this will definitely help you get your priorities in life clear. Once that’s done, focusing on getting work done becomes so much easier.

All the tips discussed here are incredibly helpful, but my favorite is the twelfth one: always pet a cat when you come across it. Simple, but never fails to bring a smile to your face.

What to expect from this book

Like a typical Jordan Peterson lecture, this book is filled with generous doses of insightful information and wit. There are bits you’d know from before, stuff you didn’t, things you wish you knew you’d known before, and stories you already knew but didn’t know you knew.

Sounds confusing, I know, but read the book for one hell of an entertaining and informative ride.

Purchase the book here.

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