Anybody make any resolutions for the new year? To lose weight, to quit smoking, to find a new job, to call your mom more often… anything?
How about to be more productive? That’s definitely at the top of my resolution list. I put the “pro” in “procrastinate,” baby, and as a freelance writer and editor, this is not a positive character trait. I need all the help I can get to close my Facebook page and get to work.
The question is, what can I/we do to help motivate us to productivity? Obviously, the answer is books. For me, anyway, that’s the answer to every question. I need to find some books that are guaranteed to help boost my productivity.
So! Here’s a list of the top books I’ve discovered that will help make the reader more productive.
1. Why We Work by Barry Schwartz
In order to be better at work, Schwartz argues that we need to understand why we work in the first place. You’re now thinking “Okay… that’s fair. Go on.” The obvious answer is because we need to make money. We’re motivated by incentives, monetary, material, and others. Right? Professor Schwartz disagrees with the economist Adam Smith’s classic theory that humans are inherently lazy and will only work if incentives are offered. And, as the author says in his Ted Talk, “false ideas can create a circumstance that ends up making them true.” The answer, then, is to get introspective and really study the reasons why you as an individual need and want to work. So, once you can answer this honestly and can pinpoint what motivates you, it will be much easier to enjoy what you do and therefore embrace productivity. Easy peasy.
2. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
How do the people on top make it to the top? What do I have to do to get where he/she is? Instead of paying $250, 000 for one-on-one coaching with the best executive coaches, you can put a few dollars into buying this book and have your questions answered by one of the best in the biz. Marshall Goldsmith lists the top twenty bad habits that will hold you back as you strive to climb the corporate ladder, and you’ll be very surprised at some of them: starting sentences with “No,” “But,” or “However” (I bet you’re as guilty of this as I am!); failing to give proper recognition; making excuses; and passing the buck. Being honest with yourself, admitting which of these habits you practice, and committing to change your behavior and how it affects others… all of these are steps you’ll want to take after reading this book. What’s more motivating than the prospect of success? Nada.
3. Designing Your Life by William Burnett and Dave Evans
The men who wrote this book are former Silicon Valley luminaries, and they claim that you can design the life and career you want, the same way one might design a new building. Readers are encouraged to keep a “flow journal,” a method of recording and building upon your own ideas and actions. Improvisation is encouraged, and readers are urged not to fall prey to the “there’s a right way and wrong way to do life; I’m expected to do these things” belief system. Burnett and Evans teach these concepts to students at Stanford University, but this book presents their ideas in a way that speaks to people of all ages and stages of life, not just those looking to start their post-academic lives. In fact, the authors themselves come from different backgrounds and have worldviews that are noticeably distinct from each other: Burnett is a quiet, caustic atheist while Evans is a bearded, outgoing Christian. The fact that two such diverse backgrounds can collaborate on a concept like this makes me think that anybody can benefit from these ideas. Color me curious.
4. Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg
The bottom line here is that “productivity relies on making certain choices.” It’s the way we make these decisions that distinguish the busy people from the productive ones. Makes sense! The eight chapters in this book, along with the collection of highly entertaining real-life examples, break down Duhigg’s thoughts on how to approach life’s never ending decision-making opportunities into easy-to-follow guidelines: expect the unexpected to disrupt your plans; practice making big decisions by inserting little ones into daily life; see your future self in several different scenarios, then choose the one you like best. These might sound almost too practical and not exactly revolutionary, but when the author uses the cast of Saturday Night Live to illustrate his point, things become much clearer. I don’t know about you, but I want to be cool like the SNL peeps, so I’m gonna check this book out.
5. Pivot by Jenny Blake
Thinking of a career change? (Aren’t we all?) As the tag line on the cover says, “The only move that matters is your next one.” Author Jenny Blake says that in today’s society it is not at all unusual for an individual to have numerous careers in their lifetime. You’re not having a quarter-life crisis, you’re experiencing what most American society feels: an itch for something different. Blake offers a four-step plan for making these life changes: Plant (ground yourself in your strengths), Scan (look for new people, skills, or projects of interest), Pilot (conduct small experiments that involve enjoyment, expertise, and expansion), and Launch (take a chance and move in a new direction). Learning to embrace our insecurities and uncertainty instead of being afraid of them is how we begin to recognize new opportunities. And now that we know this, we can go forth and conquer the world!
6. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Maybe you don’t need to make major life changes to be more productive. Maybe a career change won’t make you happier. Maybe all you need is to change your daily habits and rituals to new, more productive ones. But habits are habits, right? They can’t be changed at this stage and age, right? Wrong! Bestselling author Gretchen Rubin says our habits are “the invisible architecture of our lives. If we change our habits, we change our lives.” And heaven knows that changing habits is not as easy as it may sound. Not according to Rubin. She offers small, easy steps that we can take to help us form new habits. Like “if/then” situations: if I want to watch TV, then I have to do it while I’m on the treadmill. Or recognizing that abstinence is sometimes better than moderation (depending on your personality, it may be easier for you to never eat French fries again, instead of telling yourself you can have them but only in social situations). This book might not be the business executive’s solution to how he can increase the productivity of his employees, but it just might be the kick-in-the-behind that us average joes need to meet those new year’s resolutions.
7. The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
Another book about habits. Hmm, maybe there’s something here. The seven highlighted here include being proactive, putting “first things first,” and seeking first to understand before being understood. One of Covey’s core principles is that you must maintain a balance between production and production capability, emphasizing that we need to be healthy before we can even begin to be productive. This might seem like common sense, but how many of us actually put these ideas into action? Another concept Covey addresses is that of relationships: maintaining and sustaining healthy relationships at home is crucial to a productive lifestyle. How can you expect to get more done at work when you’re worried about why your teenage daughter is suddenly not speaking to you? Don’t let the simplicity of all this fool you because this book is full of golden nuggets of inspiration. “Listen, not to respond, but to comprehend” might sound like something your grandfather told you when you were arguing with your little brother, but wasn’t he 100% on the money? Yep, so is Covey.
If these books don’t help up my productivity levels, I sure as heck don’t know what will.
New year’s resolution? Consider your butt kicked!
YouTube Channel: TEDx Talks
Featured image via WikiHow
h/t Value Walk