Work smarter not harder. With these books on productivity, you’ll find yourself getting more done in less time and with less stress.
Work smarter, not harder.
We’ve all heard that refrain before. But how do we do it? How do we go about getting things done efficiently without adding more stress?
With four young kids, an active lifestyle, books to read, and a blog to run, I have lots to do every day. Recently, I’ve been researching the best books about productivity, hoping to glean some insights that will help me keep my sanity.
I’ve scoured through all the time management books to show me to use my time wisely. I’ve perused books on habits so I don’t have to use so much willpower. Of course, I’ve dived into books on productivity that promise I’ll get more done.
And it seems to be working. I am starting to work more efficiently. Blog posts that used to take days to finish, I can now do in a single morning. I’m wasting less time on distraction and making noticeable steps toward my bigger goals.
If you are eager to test it out for yourself, here is my list of the best productivity books. I’m far from perfect, but each time I read a productivity book, my life gets a little easier. Hopefully, yours will, too.
Best Productivity Books
The One Thing
Gary Keller gives your to-do list the minimalist treatment with his complete overhaul on how you evaluate your time. For the biggest results, Keller wants you to embrace the concept of The One Thing – stacking your day (and life) around doing what’s most important first, not what’s easiest. By challenging yourself to always focus on your number one priority, you’ll find you can make giant leaps forward, making this my top choice in my list of the best books for productivity.
Smarter Faster Better
After writing one of the best books on habits, journalist Charles Duhigg turned his attention to writing one of the best books on productivity. Duhigg focuses on eight key productivity concepts and illustrates them with fascinating anecdotes and interesting statistics. You’ll learn how to find motivation, set goals, make decisions, and manage others in his bestselling book.
If you want to find success in your career or your life, you need to establish solid habits. In Atomic Habits, Clear outlines in detail the steps you can take to build good habits and break bad ones. With excellent insights and workable tips, Clear’s methodology will allow you to design your habits to improve your life. Instead of looking for books about self-discipline, learn how to build correct habits in this must-read book.
When it comes to developing habits, BJ Fogg urges you to go small. Think flossing one tooth or doing two pushups. While these don’t seem like much, Fogg explains how motivation and ability are key to successful habits and teaches tried and true methods to form desirable habits and break undesirable books.
Best Time Management Books
Can you have it all? Laura Vanderkam thinks you can, as long as you plan for it. Vanderkam has written multiple time management books, and in 168 Hours she teaches you how to make the most of every single hour. With plenty of statistics to test your assumptions about how we actually spend our time, Vanderkam will convince you that you have more time than you realize. A great read for all, but especially helpful for women trying to balance career and family.
In our ultra-connected society, distractions are everything. In all this connectedness, we are losing the ability to work deeply, instead of getting sucked into the busyness of shallow tasks. Yet it’s this increasingly rare deep work that has the biggest impact on your success. Cal Newport outlines the importance of working deeply and suggests strategies to eliminate and balance distractions in your work life. Although heavily biased toward men, Newport’s idea of deep work has strong practical applications.
Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
When I was researching a few last books on productivity for my list, I stumbled upon Make Time at my local library. Former Silicon Valley nerds Knapp and Zeratksy have established a simple 4-step system to help you make more time in your life for what’s most important. The authors give plenty of relatable tips on how to avoid distractions and build energy so you can focus on one important goal each day.
Manage Your Day-To-Day
Jocelyn K. Glei
Adobe’s 99u project has a time management book to help you pragmatically design your day to achieve your best work. A collection of short articles from leading figures in time management and productivity fields, Manage Your Day-to-Day is a primer on how to sharpen your creative mind. Although full of advice, the book does come off like a sales pitch at times.
Productivity Books to Help You Do Less
Greg McKeown encourages you to bring the pursuit of less into all aspects of your life. Described as essentialism, McKeown urges you to learn how to decide what is most essential and then cut out anything else. All about reclaiming your life through powerful choices, McKeown will make you realize it’s not about having more time, it’s about doing the right things with the time you have. Similar to Gary Keller’s The One Thing, Essentialism is one of the best books for being more productive.
The Joy of Missing Out
It’s not a secret that most modern moms feel overwhelmed. Tonya Dalton explains that this feeling of overwhelm comes more from not having your priorities in order than from having too much to do. Dalton focuses on finding your motivations and be more productive by doing less. With a down-to-earth style writing style and relatable examples, The Joy of Missing Out is one of the best books for productivity focusing on working moms.
The 4-Hour Workweek
When it comes to time management books, best sellers aren’t common. So to spend four years on the New York Times Bestseller List is extremely uncommon. You can guess why. Who wouldn’t want to work only 4 hours a week? I swore I’d never mention this book again after deriding it on my original Read This Not That list. Timothy Ferriss is an arrogant, narcissistic jerk. You really really don’t want to be like him. However, he does have a few pieces of great advice to help you be more productive. Just please don’t lie, make excuses, and sell your soul as Ferris suggests. You can be productive and have ethics, too.
Simplify with the Best Minimalism Books!
Best Books on Organization and Productivity
Joy at Work
Marie Kondo and Scott Sonenshein
Decluttering queen Marie Kondo is here to help you spark joy in your job. With organizational psychologist Scott Sonenshein, she tackles the decluttering process as it pertains to the workplace. Helping inspire you to tidy up your office, Kondo uses her KonMari method to show you that minimalism is just important at work as at home. Combined with organizing advice from Sonenshein to help you get to get your inbox in order and rework your schedule, Joy at Work is a winning collaboration that will inspire you to streamline your work life.
The Checklist Manifesto
Whether you are a checklist kind of person or not, Atul Gawande will convert you to the power of checklists to increase your productivity. Using fascinating stories, he’ll show you how checklists have revolutionized such industries as pilots, surgeons, and construction. As with all good business books, when you’re finished, you’ll be inspired to create your own checklists to ensure that your life runs as smoothly as possible.
Organizing Solutions for People with ADD
Susan C. Pinsky
For those with short attention spans, books on how to focus can be lifesavers. Whether you have Attention Deficit Disorder or are just forgetful and disorganized, Pinsky will help you organize your life. A combination of decluttering and time management, Pinsky’s book shares practical tips and suggestions to help you improve your work, home, and social lives.
Classic Books About Productivity
Considered one of the best books on productivity, Flow likely served as inspiration for many of the authors on this list. Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi’s studies showed that humans are happiest when they achieve a state of flow. When you are completely absorbed in an activity, you feel happier and more creative.
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Stephen R. Covey
I felt I couldn’t have a list of productivity books without mentioning Stephen Covey’s classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Covey’s groundbreaking ideas are widely accepted today. You’ll often hear of how this book inspired successful entrepreneurs. However, I almost didn’t mention it because I was bored to tears by the dull managerial terms when I read it.
Explore the Best Books for Bloggers!
A Few More Books on Productivity
Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson
Forget business plans, outsider investing, and constant growth. Fried and Hansson show a new way to run a business – one that is small, agile, and wildly successful. Rework is a concise and straightforward compilation of realistic business advice for modern businesses. This matter-of-fact approach to the basic principles that are common sense but often overlooked is a quick read; the audiobook is under 3 hours.
Getting Things Done
David Allen suggests that your productivity is directly related to your ability to relax. By clearing your mind and organizing your thoughts, you can get more done, all while staying stress-free. A productivity expert, David Allen’s book is referenced in almost all the books on productivity I’ve read.
How to Be a Happier Parent
K. J. Dell’Antonia
Productivity isn’t just for your career. K. J. Dell’Antonia teaches you how to find more happiness in your family life. You’ll find useful tips to help you manage your time, your household responsibilities, and find more joy in raising kids. With a focus on nine common trouble spots, you’ll find yourself more productive, often while doing less.
The 12 Week Year
Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
Moran and Lennington want you to throw annual plans out the window and instead subscribe to the idea of a 12-week year. In all, the 12 Week Year is just a system to force yourself to accelerate your goals. By focusing on mid-range goals, you don’t give yourself enough time to procrastinate until later, but you do have enough time to make a significant difference. Not exactly the most original concept, but a fair one to try if you are looking for books to increase your productivity.
How to Break Up with Your Phone
It’s the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you touch at night before falling asleep. The smartphone has become a ubiquitous part of our modern lives, and if you want to be more productive, it’s time for that to change. Catherine Price has a realistic 30-day plan to help you break up with your phone. Price eases you into your phone breakup by helping you slowly use mindfulness and planning to your advantage.
Eat That Frog!
If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you’ll at least know that’s the worst thing you’ll do all day. Tracy wants you to modify that statement so that you can start your day doing your most challenging task. Then you’ll know it’s all uphill from there, and you’ll find that can get much more done. Eat That Frog! is a simple primer that summarizes the findings across the industry without offering any original content.
The Productivity Project
One of the most unique books about productivity is Chris Bailey’s year-long experimentation with the topic. Bailey took a year off work to spend a year trying to unlock peak his productivity – changing his sleeping routine, his caffeine habits, and every aspect of his life.
What Productivity Books Have You Found Helpful?
What do you think? Have you found books on productivity helpful? What time saving books would you recommend? As always, let me know in the comments!
More Nonfiction Books to Read: