Posted by & filed under Productivity.

Having spent more than a year improving my personal productivity, I can sum up what I’ve learned in a single sentence: “Pick one task and do it”. However, that would do a disservice to the journey and to the great people who helped me along the way through their writing on the subject. So, without wishing to encourage you to spend more time reading about productivity than being productive, here are three books that really helped me reach a place where I can stay focused on doing ‘the work’.

Focus – Leo Babauta

If I had to recommend one book this would be it. It has really made a difference in helping me become more productive. The books’ strength lies in its brevity and the fact the Leo doesn’t over do the GTD stuff. Instead, he focuses on the underlying issues that may be stopping you from doing ‘the work’. It reads well. Eloquent prose, set out in well-structured essays that challenge you to reflect deeply on the way that you prioritise and use your time. Particularly, useful was the focus on changing and replacing habits. By replacing bad habits with useful, more productive ones, I have seen a huge difference in my productivity.

Highlights include:

  • You don’t need to respond
  • Going with the flow
  • Single tasking and productivity

Keeping It Straight – Patrick Rhone

Patrick is one of my favourite writers on the web and his work translates really well to the structured, thematic nature of a book. Keeping it Straight is Patrick’s first book – a collected set of essays that deal with personal productivity, minimalism, mindfulness and motivation. Again, this is not a long read; perfect for the daily commute or for dipping into when the moment arises. This book is very personal, much of the content gleaned from Patrick’s journal, it adds a level of authenticity that I find is often missing from books of this ilk.

Highlights include:

  • Don’t Worry
  • Doing The Dishes
  • Email (And Other Things That Go “Ding”)

#uppingyourgame – Doug Belshaw

Doug is a friend who has been fantastically supportive, helping me on my blogging journey. He has also (although he may not have realised it) had a significant impact on my approach to personal productivity. His approach is a pragmatic one and as such he begins by getting to the heart of why we should care about being productive in the first place. This is refreshing, as many productivity related texts assume that the reader already has this figured out. Like the other two books, this is a well structured, well designed text, placing emphasis on the authors voice.

Highlights include:

  • What does productivity look like?
  • How to find your personal well of motivation
  • Productivity killers
———

As I mentioned above, it is easy to spend more time reading about productivity than actually getting on and being productive. However, while I’m on topic, I thought I would share some of the other material that has contributed to my journey. This is not an exclusive list, just a selection of the ones that come to mind as I sit writing this.

Manifesto: Inbox Zero

Idea: five.sentenc.es

Essay: Making the Clackity Noise

Essay: Cranking

Essay: The Noise

Essay: the beauty of the ellipses

Essay: Purpose Your Day: Most Important Task (MIT)

Essay: Do One Thing Well

Essay: How I Became an Early Riser

Essay: How to ‘chapter’ your life to make it more productive

Essay: The hidden power of a gift

Book: Mindfulness in Plain English

Video: Just This

Podcast: Enough: The Minimal Mac Podcast

Podcast: Back to Work

14 Responses to “Reading Productivity”

  1. Doug Belshaw

    Great stuff, James! Glad to have been of assistance and really glad you shared those essays – queueing them up via Instapaper to read on my Kindle! :-)

    Reply
  2. Doug Belshaw

    Great stuff, James! Glad to have been of assistance and really glad you shared those essays – queueing them up via Instapaper to read on my Kindle! :-)

    Reply
    • James Michie

      Speaking of Kindle related things, I’ve been catching up with podcasts and the latest episode of ‘The Bro Show’ is all about the future of publishing. I think you’d find it interesting: http://www.thebroshow.co.uk/the-bro-show/2011/8/10/episode-69-the-present-and-future-of-publishing.html

      Reply
  3. Zoe Ross

    Thanks for this, James. It’s very timely as I’m focussing on increasing my own productivity at the moment. Many thanks for the recommendations. (Your macbook air post was also perfectly timed as I decide between a macbook air & an imac…decisions, decisions!). :)

    Reply
  4. Zoe Ross

    Thanks for another great post, James. It’s particularly timely as I try to increase my own productivity and cut down on the ‘noise’. Your macbook air post has also been v useful as I try to decide whether to buy one of those or an imac (or both!) :) 

    Reply
    • James Michie

      I’m glad you found it useful Zoe. 

      Mac wise… the iMac is going to be more powerful but obviously the Air is going to be more portable. If you only want to get one then a 13″ Pro might be a good compromise. I have the 15″ model for work and it’s as fast as any desktop Mac I’ve used. 

      At the time I improved the spec to 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HD but I see that this is standard now. I use it for everything from creating PowerPoints to advanced video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, audio editing in Logic Pro and Photoshop.

      The reason I got the Air was that I wanted something extra portable to write on. It suits that need well.

      Reply
    • James Michie

      I’m glad you found it useful Zoe. 

      Mac wise… the iMac is going to be more powerful but obviously the Air is going to be more portable. If you only want to get one then a 13″ Pro might be a good compromise. I have the 15″ model for work and it’s as fast as any desktop Mac I’ve used. 

      At the time I improved the spec to 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HD but I see that this is standard now. I use it for everything from creating PowerPoints to advanced video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, audio editing in Logic Pro and Photoshop.

      The reason I got the Air was that I wanted something extra portable to write on. It suits that need well.

      Reply
    • James Michie

      I’m glad you found it useful Zoe. 

      Mac wise… the iMac is going to be more powerful but obviously the Air is going to be more portable. If you only want to get one then a 13″ Pro might be a good compromise. I have the 15″ model for work and it’s as fast as any desktop Mac I’ve used. 

      At the time I improved the spec to 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HD but I see that this is standard now. I use it for everything from creating PowerPoints to advanced video editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, audio editing in Logic Pro and Photoshop.

      The reason I got the Air was that I wanted something extra portable to write on. It suits that need well.

      Reply
  5. Mark Anderson

    This is a really good post James – thank you! As someone who is beginning their productivity journey having read GTD, it’s really useful to me to be able to read around the topic to finely hone my productivity. The OmniFocus app has been really helpful so far for me in sorting out my productivity, but know your reading points above are going to add even more to #uppingmygame too. Thank you!

    Reply
    • James Michie

      Thanks for commenting Mark. GTD was one of my starting points too but I found it to be a little too restrictive. It also didn’t get to the heart of the issue for me which was more motivational/focus oriented than organisational. 

      I looked at OmniFocus a couple of times but I find it too complex. Even Google Tasks which I used for quite some time became too convoluted. I now use a single text file in nvALT titled: A ToDo List. The first part is titled MITs and under that is a contextualised list of my most important tasks for that day. Underneath that is a single list of tasks under the title Everything Else.

      Each day I add the tasks that I feel are most important to the MIT section and leave the rest in the Everything Else list. By selecting only a few tasks I ensure that I get them done. This is the philosophy that I have found works for me after all of my reading and experimenting.

      Reply
    • James Michie

      To be honest, I’ve never read it. Timothy Ferris’ writing has come up from time to time but after reading David Allen’s GTD I tried to avoid those books that were touted as the big ‘self-help’ books. I moved towards slightly more less well known texts. I found that they tended to do more for me, as they were not so focused on selling one big idea. I did read a couple of Tim’s articles though.

      Reply

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