The 7 Best Books on Productivity You Need to Read

Aug 10, 2021

The 7 Best Books on Productivity You Need to Read

Aug 10, 2021

I'm a total productivity, personal development, and habit-building book enthusiast. If it promises to help me be more efficient, prioritize my day, find the path of least resistance or get the right things done… it's probably on my shelf.

I especially like books that help me live by my mantra, ‘Do less, better.” I don’t believe that productivity is about doing ALL the things, I think productivity is when we are doing the right things, for the right reasons, within the right time frame.

It’s important to continue to develop skills around this topic all the time, and many of the authors on this list reference each other in their books, so we are all still students of each other's best practices.

Sometimes (often), I still over fill my to-do list, I wake up at 3 in the morning and worry about that one thing, and I over commit or push my own boundaries all in the name of getting more done. But whenever I am feeling overwhelmed or out of whack, I flip to a dog-eared page or remember a key point of one of these books, and I’m back on track.


Here are a few of my favorite books and my biggest takeaway from each.

The Sweet Spot: How to Accomplish More By Doing Less by Christine Carter

This book has a sweet spot (pun intended) in my heart, because it was one I read early on in my business. I also love that Christine Carter wrote this book after a minor illness sent her to the hospital, but her extreme burnout caused her to hope they would keep her overnight, so she could rest. Ironically, the reason Dr. Carter felt burned out was from the breakneck pace of promoting her book–Raising Happiness.

She set out to find her own Sweet Spot, where she could achieve success, while doing less on a daily basis. As a happiness expert at UC Berkeley, she uses her personal experience and her expertise to show us how to create a less stressful and more efficient life, while increasing our success and productivity in a sustainable way.

There are so many points from this book that I resonated with, but the main takeaway is that when you find the ‘sweet spot’, you make maximum impact without maximum effort. It reminds me when things feel like I'm pushing too hard, to step back and find that sweet spot.


Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

This book sold over 2 million copies worldwide, which is no surprise because this book teaches you how to form unbreakable habits that will lead to incredible results and sustained productivity in your business and your life. James Clear is a world-renowned expert on habit formation, so it’s safe to say we can all learn a thing or two by reading this book. In fact, Christine Carter mentions Clear’s work in her book. So when I read Atomic Habits, I was already a convert.

The fundamental idea behind Atomic Habits is that an atom is small, the building block of bigger systems, and has the potential to generate massive impact… just like a habit. My favorite quote from the book is, “We don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our system.” I LOVE goal setting, but this book reminds us if you don’t have a system to get there, it will be hard to reach that goal. Want a taste of Atomic Habits? This is my favorite interview with James Clear.


Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

Cal Newport coined the term Deep Work in a blog post in 2012, and he is often cited as changing people’s life with this concept. Deep work is the ability to focus without distraction on an important task. Deep Work is one of our four buckets in Focus Sessions, and it is the focus work needed to move your business or project forward. Maintaining deep work requires practice, and this book provides an analysis on why doing deep work can be so challenging, and action steps to be able to do it yourself.


Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Like I mentioned, I’m not about doing all the things or getting the most things done. I want to get the important things done. And that concept is illustrated perfectly in Essentialism. In this New York Times Bestseller, Greg McKeown shows us how to make the best use of our time and move our business forward sustainably. Essentialism is the method of getting rid of everything that is not absolutely essential, so that we make room for the things that truly matter. I don’t remember when I started using the term “do less, better” but it might have been after this book. Essentialism is about trading a lot of good things, for a few really great things.


The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan

A similar concept to Essentialism (it seems all the pros know that focusing on the most important thing is the way to move your life forward in a meaningful way) is The ONE Thing. This book has been #1 on multiple bestseller lists, has been voted Top 100 Business Book of All Time, and has been translated into 40 different languages. We can see why! Keller and Papasan teach the readers how to limit distractions, take things off their plate, and build more productivity in their business and personal life. This book will teach you how to cut through the clutter and build momentum toward your goals. When I start to spin with all the ideas or too many options, I just think, “What is the one thing that is going to move me where I want to go?”


Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life by Nir Eyal

This is my most recent read on this list. Nir Eyal builds on Cal Newport's research to help people beat the distractions that get in the way of doing “deep work”. This book will show you how to focus and get the results you need in your business. At Focus Sessions, we’ve talked about how distractions are one of the biggest downfalls in losing focus, and this book shows you how to tune out those distractions and increase productivity. Eyal breaks down the psychology behind our distractions, and provides the readers with a four-step method to become indistractable.

My personal favorite takeaway in the book is about email. Eyal says if you want to receive fewer emails, you have to send fewer emails. I have implemented this in my own business, looking for ways I can include more pertinent information in my emails to avoid the back and forth.


Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself by Mike Michalowicz

I’ve been a big fan of Mike Michalowicz ever since I read Profit First, so when he promised to show me how I could take 4 consecutive weeks off from my business without worrying it will collapse, I was in. In full disclosure, I’ve never taken 4 consecutive weeks off in my business (at least not yet!) But in Clockwork, Michalowicz shows us how to create systems in our business that will allow it to run completely without us! This book helped me switch from overworked solo business owner to the CEO of my company.


Bonus Book!

The Pomodoro Technique: The Acclaimed Time-Management System That Has Transformed How We Work by Francesco Cirillo

We’ve talked about the Pomodoro Technique before, and this book is written by none other than the creator of the technique: Francesco Cirillo. Cirillo first developed this system for improving productivity while he was in school in the early 90s. Since then, it has been adapted and used across the world. It is the method of breaking projects into 25-minute intervals, with a short 5-minute break in between. While I haven’t personally read this book, I'm a huge fan of the technique!


These are my favorite business books that have made a huge impact on the way I run my business and my life. My biggest personal mantras and best practices have come from the pages of these books. They also help remind me that I’m not alone in my quest for a fulfilling life and business. What is your favorite productivity book?


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