Must-Read Books that Boost Productivity

Aiva Strelca 30.11.2016

The year is coming to a close, the holidays are in full swing, and the New Year will soon be upon us. You may be settling in with a bit more down time to read something new, planning your New Year’s resolution to get more organized, or looking for gift ideas. And we’ve got a list of books for all three scenarios.

This is our ultimate collection of books on productivity. It’s divided into sections so you can skip right on ahead to what interests you most, whether that’s productivity, creativity, leadership, or lifestyle.

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On Working Smarter

1. The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim Feriss

You don’t have to be stuck in a 40-hour workweek if you don’t want to be. And you don’t have to put your dreams on hold until retirement. This book is choc-full of strategies to get out of the 9-5 cycle and live the way you want.

2. Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy

We’ve covered this idea before – the most productive way to start your day is by eating a frog, or starting with your most dreaded task. Tracy expands on this principle and outlines 21 more ways to work more productively and quit procrastinating.


3. Getting Things Done, David Allen

This is one of the most highly recommended productivity books around. In fact, GTD is now a widely used acronym (and lifestyle). Allen’s book is more than a list of tips – it’s an overhaul of your work/life balance and teaches you how to stress less while working more productively.

4. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven R. Covey

How do super successful people manage their time? How do they accomplish everything on their to-do lists? Covey has the answer in this book, which is regarded as a pioneer in the self-help world.

And here’s a SparkNotes tip if you don’t get to reading the full book. Organize your tasks according to the following characteristics: important and urgent, important and not-urgent, not important and urgent, not important and not urgent. That way, every week (or day) you’ll know what you have to do, and what you can leave for later.


5. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

The key to meeting your goals – whether it’s being more productive, exercising more, or eating healthy – might just be making new habits. Duhigg explains the science behind this theory, and covers how to create new habits to make yourself and your life more productive.

6. Manage your Day-to-Day, Jocelyn K. Glei

With this book, you don’t just get one expert opinion – you get 20. It’s a collection of advice from industry leaders on how to manage your time and get things done without feeling overwhelmed.

On Working from Home

7. Remote, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Fried and Hansson, the founders of 37signals, come together to write about working remotely. With modern tech, workers no longer need to be chained to their desks. It’s possible to work from anywhere, and remote work is a growing trend. Fried and Hansson dive in as to why allowing this kind of flexibility is a good idea for businesses.


8. The Year Without Pants, Scott Berkun

Did you know that WordPress, the 15th most trafficked website in the world, runs on a staff that’s 100% remote? That’s right, WordPress employees can work from home, or wherever else they please, and still build this hugely successful platform.

Scott Berkun joins this remote workforce for his book, and writes about his observations, lessons learned, and why this style of management can work.

On a Productive Lifestyle

9. The Sleep Revolution, Arianna Huffington

Since collapsing from exhaustion while running the Huffingon Post, Huffington has become a sleep advocate. Today, it’s commonplace for people to brag about how little sleep we get and how much work we have to do. In her book, Huffington writes about how this attitude is downright unhealthy. So read it and rest easy.

10. Mindfulness: a Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Mark Williams and Danny Penman

Mindfulness has become a buzzword. It’s the practice of focusing on the moment and being aware of what you’re thinking and doing. It’s essentially a therapeutic way to relax in today’s hectic, always-on world. But mindfulness is more difficult to achieve than you might think, so use this book to get started with exercises and strategies.

On Changing Your Mindset

11. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ, Daniel Goleman

Having a high IQ isn’t the only characteristic you need to be successful. Research suggests that what also matters – maybe more so than IQ – is your EQ, or Emotional Intelligence. This is the ability to understand and navigate people’s emotions. Goleman lists five skills of emotional intelligence and how they impact a person’s success.

12. Presence, Amy Cuddy

There’s a reason “fake it ’till you make it” is such a popular saying (hint: because it’s true). Cuddy explains why and how to grow and learn from situations that are stressful or high-pressure. And it’s all about faking it until you develop real confidence.

One piece of advice from the book: start with power poses. Before entering a stressful situation, stand in a pose that makes your body takes up space. This is confident body language, which will impact your mind into being confident as well.


13. The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Anchor

How many times have you thought, “If I could just achieve x, I’ll be happy”? Anchor tears down this notion that happiness depends on the success you achieve. He argues instead that you achieve success because you’re happy. When you’re happy, you’re more likely to achieve success, not the other way around. In this book, he outlines ways to program your brain to be happier, which will then lead to success.

On Achieving Success

14. How to Win Friends & Influence People, Dale Carnegie

This is the classic book on success. First published in 1936, it’s still relevant today. It’s full of psychologically based tactics on how to work with people, be an exceptional leader, and improve your interpersonal relationships.

15. Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck

Whether or not you achieve success depends on a variety of outside factors. But there’s one factor you can control: your mindset.

Throughout her research, Dweck has found two preliminary mindsets, a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset have a more defeatist attitude; they succumb to problems and obstacles. While people with a growth mindset are more adaptive; they believe they can change, and obstacles are a learning opportunity. According to Dweck, the latter is the mindset that will get you success.

On Leadership

16. Tribal Leadership, Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright

People naturally form tribes. This is no different in business, but very few leaders understand how to harness these tribes. In this book, you’ll learn how to improve your company’s culture and shape naturally occurring groups into tribes that thrive.

17. Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek

Sinek is a voice that should be listened to. And in this book he writes about how to become a great leader, inspire your team, and create an environment where they’ll want to do their best work.

The core takeaway: good leaders sacrifice their own comfort for the good of the team.

On Creativity

18. Creative Confidence, Tom Kelley & David Kelley

Anybody can be creative. And this book gives you tools and strategies to unleash your creative potential and become more productive.


19. Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull

Do you ever wish you could be as creative as the Pixar team? Or wonder how they consistently come up with their delightful films? Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation, sheds light on the company’s creative process, and how you can strive for new creative heights.


This list is your place to start for gift ideas or for personal motivation. And with the New Year coming up, why not get a head start on a new resolution? It’s already established that the act of reading boosts productivity, so why not read something that’ll make you more productive, more creative, less stressed, and change your mindset for the better.

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