I Learned the Secrets of Smart Work From These 5 Books

Why work hard when you can learn to work smart?

I Learned the Secrets of Smart Work From These 5 Books
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Why work hard when you can learn to work smart?

Life as a career woman is full of ups and downs.

There are days when I tick off all the boxes on my to-do list, and still feel as if I accomplished nothing.

And others, when all I do is write a few words, but feel so good about myself, that I get to enjoy the rest of the day in peace without worrying about work.

I thought working hard always was the key. But a few hours of deep intentional work can beat weeks of blindly working hard.

I speak from experience, and I’m sure you’ll be able to relate as well.

If you’re working for hours but not getting anywhere and feeling burnt out, consider this article as a wake-up call. It’s time to reset your schedule and achieve more by doing less.

Smart work lets you maximize output by strategic use of technology, delegating tasks to have creative freedom for yourself, and setting clear goals. You must practice smart work and experiment with different techniques to see what works for you. I’ve shortlisted five books on smart work that can guide you and help you grow, both personally and professionally.

1. Think Like a Freak By Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

Image: Goodreads

People who generally do smart work often have mastered the art of thinking out of the box. If you want to work smarter and take a unique approach to solving problems, Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner should be on your reading list.

This book is a part of the Freakonomics series that always leaves me awestruck through its storytelling and creative thinking. Think Like a Freak demands readers to let go of their traditional thinking, see their problems clearly, and work on ways to solve them. 

Just like children who see the world differently, the book tells us to unlearn what we were taught and think like a child. After reading this, you’ll understand why you should learn to say “I don’t know”. Until you can accept what you don’t know, you’ll not put in the effort to learn what’s necessary. This book talks about why quitting can be helpful sometimes, to start afresh.

I loved that every point in this book was made clear with a memorable story. The most enlightening section of Think Like a Freak for me was the art of persuading people to change their mindsets. The authors successfully proved the point that the best way to change someone’s mind is to tell a compelling story. 

My favorite quotes from Think Like a Freak by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

“Don’t listen to what people say; watch what they do.”
“Solving a problem is hard enough; it gets that much harder if you’ve decided beforehand it can’t be done.”
“The key to learning is feedback. It is nearly impossible to learn anything without it.”
“If it takes a lot of courage to admit you don’t know all the answers, just imagine how hard it is to admit you don’t even know the right question.”

2. Unlimited Memory By Kevin Horsley

Image: Goodreads

Did you know that most people don’t utilize even 10% of their memory? Your brain is much more powerful than supercomputers but still, you convince yourself that you have a weak memory. People these days can hardly concentrate on any task and their attention span has decreased drastically. If you want to tap into the unlimited power of your brain, Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley is a must-read for you. This book has made me believe that memory is a skill that can be developed and improved through the consistent practice of specific techniques.

The book starts with explaining the complex workings of human memory, aka short-term and long-term memory. I learned that focus, association, and imagination play a vital role in memory formation. The effects on my concentration levels were visible as I started practicing the techniques mentioned in the book such as 

  • Memory Palace, 
  • Linking method, 
  • chucking, and 
  • visualization. 

Unlimited Memory suggests practical tips for enhancing concentration, including mindfulness techniques, minimizing distractions, and most importantly, a healthy lifestyle. For a better memory, you’ve to develop learning habits which include setting clear goals, active engagement with the material, and spaced repetition. 

My favorite quotes from Unlimited Memory by Kevin Horsley

“Your mind never wanders away; it only moves towards more interesting things.”
“If you want to cure boredom, be curious. If you’re curious, nothing is a chore; it’s automatic — you want to study. Cultivate curiosity, and life becomes an unending study of joy.”
“The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it — as long as you believe 100 percent.” ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger”

3. Smarter Faster Better By Charles Duhigg

Image: Goodreads

If I had to suggest one book on productivity and smart work that helped me succeed in life, it would be Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. 

I love books where the author suggests a point and adds real-life studies to validate it. This book is all about smart work and how to make the best use of your energy levels and intellect. 

The book starts with an important concept of intrinsic motivation and tells us how to be driven internally. You can’t stay consistent or productive if you’re always waiting for some external motivation. The book demonstrates the dynamics of effective teamwork with the example of Google’s Project Aristotle. Psychological safety and communication within the teams are the most important ingredients for team success.

This book discusses every aspect of smart work such as 

  • focusing, 
  • goal setting, 
  • delegating tasks, 
  • team management, 
  • decision-making, and 
  • staying creative. 

I learned that sometimes embracing uncertainty and considering multiple perspectives can lead to smart decisions. Overall this book is worth reading and a valuable resource to achieve your goals faster.

My favorite quotes from Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

“Every choice we make in life is an experiment.”
“The choices that are most powerful in generating motivation, in other words, are decisions that do two things: They convince us we’re in control and they endow our actions with larger meaning.”
“When people believe they are in control, they tend to work harder and push themselves more. They are, on average, more confident and overcome setbacks faster.”

4. The Joy of Missing Out By Tonya Dalton

Image: Goodreads

I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the plans I made with others. If I have a lot on my plate, 24 hours a day seems insufficient. Even though I’m physically and mentally burnt out, I still sometimes push myself to keep up with my never-ending to-do list. You might be in the same situation where you have big goals to achieve but limited hours in a day. 

If that’s the case, The Joy of Missing Out by Tonya Dalton is the perfect read for you.

The concept of JOMO says that missing out on certain things, events, or distractions can lead to happiness and satisfaction. This book revolves around choosing yourself and prioritizing your time and energy. 

I learned that not every invitation and opportunity needs to be accepted. The book teaches how to live an intentional life, keeping things simple. Always prioritize activities that bring you closer to your goals or make you feel alive. You can avoid non-essential tasks that make you feel drained. 

The Joy of Missing Out is an eye-opener for me with plenty of tips for reducing overwhelm, decluttering my schedule, prioritizing tasks, and avoiding unnecessary distractions. 

My favorite quotes from The Joy of Missing Out by Tonya Dalton

“It’s not reality that makes us feel stuck; it’s the lens we use to view the world.”
“You can choose or let others choose for you. The choice is really yours. Not making a choice is a choice. But so many of us have forgotten that we have a choice — it’s a case of learned helplessness.”
“The difference between successful people13 and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

5. The Productivity Project By Chris Bailey

Image: Goodreads

After reading dozens of self-help books, The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey is one that has impacted my productivity the most. I understood that a single productivity technique won’t work out for everyone. How can you find the best productivity technique for yourself? The answer is, by experimenting. 

In this book, the author experiments with different ways to enhance productivity and shares his personal experience. Starting with the introduction to the science of productivity, The Productivity Project discusses tips for managing time, attention, and energy.

Different time management techniques, including the Pomodoro Technique, time blocking, and task batching can help people accomplish more in less time. The book also discusses the role of sleep, nutrition, and exercise in enhancing productivity. If you think that busyness equals productivity then your perspective will change once you read this book.

My favorite quotes from The Productivity Project By Chris Bailey

“Busyness is no different from laziness when it doesn’t lead you to accomplish anything.”
“When someone says they “don’t have time” for something, what they’re really saying is that a task isn’t as important or attractive as whatever else they have on their plate.”
“An epiphany: every lesson I learned fell into better management of one of three categories: my time, my attention, and my energy.”

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