Did you make some ambitious New Year’s resolutions, but aren’t sure how to make them happen? Never fear – help is on the way. Here are five books that will show you how to remove distractions, find motivation and skyrocket your productivity.
You did it again. You made all those ambitious New Year’s resolutions, enthusiastically proclaiming to yourself that unlike all those resolutions of New Years’ past, this year was going to be the year.
But that was back in December. Now that January 1 is rapidly fading from view, you’re wavering. Of course, you’d like to do all those things you promised to yourself. You want it to be different this year. But you’re not sure how.
A few weeks ago, I offered three powerful strategies to change your focus and fulfill all those New Year’s promises you made to yourself back in December. You can read about those strategies here, and they’ll give you plenty of ammunition to turn your New Year’s resolutions into reality.
You can also seek guidance from those who have already unlocked the secrets of extreme productivity. Here are five of my “go-to” books, written by leaders in the field who have life-changing strategies to overcome your obstacles and attain your goals.
Follow the advice of any one of them and it would be hard for you not to be in a very different place by the end of this year. If you implement the teachings of several or all of them, you may well become unstoppable.
My Top 5 Go-To Books for Optimizing Your Productivity and Achieving Your Goals
1. Essentialism by Greg McKeown
This is a – dare I say it – essential book for learning how to get done what you set out to do. McKeown gives you a simple, no-nonsense formula, based on tried and true principles, to identify your true priority, remove what is getting in the way internally and externally, and create the time you need to make it happen. If you stick to his advice, it’s almost impossible not to be productive and accomplish your goals.
Note that I said priority, not priorities. McKeown describes how the word “priority” was used only in the singular until relatively recently. By definition, if you have many priorities, nothing is truly a priority. Yet that’s what most of us do. This New York Times bestseller helps you take an honest look at all that busyness that fills up your life and then quickly get to the heart of what will actually move you forward.
2. Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport
Digital Minimalism is an excellent primer for managing the technology in your life, and using it to your advantage rather than as an ongoing distraction from your work. Newport, a Georgetown University computer science professor who has written extensively on focus and productivity, explains the underlying reasons for our addiction to our phones and social media.
Newport then gives you practical ways to turn that addiction on its head. If you look back on your day and find that the items on your to do list haven’t budged, but you can boast of many hours on Facebook, email or your app of choice, then this book is for you.
3. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson
Ericsson is the guy who came up with the 10,000 hour rule – the idea that you need 10,000 hours of practice to master a complex skill or become an expert. But as he will tell you, there is no 10,000 hour rule. What came to be known as the 10,000 hour rule was a misunderstanding of Ericsson’s research that was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell, and has been repeated ever since as if it’s some established law of the universe.
What Ericsson will tell you, and what his research amply shows, is that although you do need to spend some critical mass of time to become expert at what you do, the real determining factor is the quality of your mental focus.
Ericsson guides you through what he calls “deliberate practice,” a way of efficiently and very specifically focusing on exactly those areas you need to improve and that will move you forward most quickly. It turns out that deliberate practice is a far better predictor of success than simply logging lots of hours or even possessing lots of innate talent.
4. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
Scott Adams – yes, I’m talking about the cartoonist who created Dilbert. So what does someone who spends his time writing a comic strip about the drudgery of office work have to teach you about productivity and achieving goals? Surprisingly, quite a lot.
Adams describes not only how he turned Dilbert into one of America’s most popular comic strips, but how he’s also become a successful entrepreneur and succeeded in several fields, despite being (according to him) rather average. Under Adams' guidance, you will learn how to become the opposite of the characters portrayed in Dilbert.
Adams offers you a nuts-and-bolts guide to putting systems in place that will carry you to your goals without needing to rely on whether you happen to be motivated in the moment. He also has some great tips for managing your energy as well as your attention, and for finding solutions even to those problems that seem intractable.
5. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
Ray Dalio is the Warren Buffet of hedge funds, and overcame several early investing failures to grow his Bridgewater Associates from nothing to the world’s largest hedge fund, currently managing over $138 billion.
Dalio shares the principles on which he based his life and business that led him to such outsized success. Like Scott Adams, Dalio claims he’s just an average guy, and that if he can do it, anyone can.
Dalio has based his life around what he calls “radical transparency,” a willingness to look squarely and honestly at yourself and whatever isn’t working, and get to the heart of what is needed to right the ship. Over the course of several hundred pages, Dalio shows you specifically how he put the principles in place, and how by sticking to them unwaveringly, it became far easier for him to handle challenges and achieve rapid success.