5 Books That Will Actually Make You Productive
For freelancers, CEOs, side hustlers, people who would never say “side hustler,” and more.
Over the last decade, I’ve read my way through the entire Barnes & Noble productivity section. Has it made me the most productive person in the world? Debatable. The Rock, or, perhaps, Elon Musk might lay claim to that title, but this little word binge did make me remarkably more focused. Whether you want to get more work done, stop procrastinating, pick up a new skill, or need a swift kick in your Aeron chair, there’s a book out there for you.
If You’re a Productivity Newbie
Great news, friends! You don’t have to master complicated filing systems, or download habit-tracking apps, or start going to bed at 8 p.m. every night to get more meaningful work done. Nope. What you have to do is focus on one thing at a time. Go small, says Gary Keller, author of The One Thing, by ignoring all the things you could do, and focus on what you should do. Pick a task, complete it, move on to the next. It’s shockingly counterintuitive, practically transgressive. He’s definitely not advocating multitasking, and getting this mantra drilled into your head for a couple hundred pages actually makes it stick. This book is so simple—and effective—it actually makes me angry I hadn’t thought of it first.
If You Don’t Roll Your Eyes at the Idea of “Source Energy”
Once upon a time, I rolled my eyes, too. But then I read You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero and those doubtful eyes rolled right back around and wouldn’t stop reading. Driven by her personality and personal stories, this book is a delight to read—the audiobook is even better—and feels a world away from classic self-help books from Dale Carnegie and the like. (Confession: I like those, too.) Embrace chapters like “Your Brain Is Your Bitch” and soon you’ll be repeating phrases like “your thoughts create your reality”—and believing them.
If You Don’t Have Two Minutes to Learn a New Skill
David Allen is an OG productivity guru. This guy published Getting Things Done in 2002, back before self-help podcasts were even a gleam in any baby entrepreneur’s eye. But GTD is called the lifehacker’s Bible for a reason. He gets deep into nitty-gritty organizational tactics, but it’s his two-minute rule that has rolled around my brain forever: “If an action will take less than two minutes, it should be done at the moment it’s defined.” You’ll be shocked by how many emails you optimistically *starred* for later can actually be answered in two minutes. Absorb his practical, pragmatic advice and I promise you’ll get more done.
If You’re Obsessed With Personality Quizzes
I’m an INFJ. What are you? If you know your Myers-Briggs personality type, or even if you read (and believe) your horoscope every once in awhile, you’ll be intrigued by Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. At the crux of her book—which is masterful at helping you understand all the weird habits you have at work and at home—is her Four Tendencies quiz, which classifies you as a Questioner, Rebel, Upholder, or Obliger, based on how you respond to inner or outer expectations. Just…trust me on this one. I’ve given this book to seven friends and their lives have all measurably improved (in my eyes, anyway).
If You Waste Too Much Time on Social Media
Are you not getting anything done because of the siren song of Instagram? Instead of going on a social media sabbatical, Gary Vaynerchuk, the entrepreneur and author of Crushing It!, argues you should make social media work for you. While most of his advice caters towards budding entrepreneurs and revolves around building up pillars of content on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, one major throughline is the importance of speed. Vaynerchuk writes that he will always gravitate toward the thing that allows him to live his life more efficiently and do his work faster—and isn’t that idea something most of us can get behind? Stop overthinking, he says. Stop agonizing your decisions and taking forever to make up your mind. He’s a one-man wrecking ball of positive energy. Turns out being positive actually makes you productive, too.
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