Being productive is tricky. Distractions abound in our modern world. In addition, when we do get down to work, it might be hard to know exactly what to focus on, or which tasks to prioritize. With this in mind, I think these best books on productivity will definitely teach you how to be more productive in the right ways.
I’ve read / listened to all these productivity books. Overall, I’m happy to report that I myself have seen a huge increase in my own work output as my time management improves. I also procrastinate way less!
Without further ado, here’s my list. Enjoy!
My list of best productivity books
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1. Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More by Doing Less
This was actually the first book about productivity that I ever read. It’s still one of my favorites on the topic!
We tend to equate ‘being productive’ to ‘doing more work’. However, author Michael Hyatt suggests this is the wrong way of looking at things. Instead, he stresses that it’s far more important to focus on getting the right things done more efficiently.
In other words, part of being productive is learning to cut out the clutter, and direct our efforts to only producing things that truly matter to us. This can help make the work you do feel much more meaningful in the grand scheme of your life.
I love the book’s highly systematic approach. Michael starts off each chapter with a key point on how to be more productive. He then relates this to real-world situations, before offering step-by-step exercises that zoom in on improving various aspects of your workflow.
This includes actionable strategies to filter out non-essential tasks, optimize your daily habits, eliminate distractions, and so on.
In short, Free to Focus is by far one of the best books on productivity I’ve read. You’ll find the greatest value with this read if you’re someone who wishes to develop a no-fuss workflow system.
2. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
Don’t be put off by the somewhat dated-looking cover art! David Allen’s release is a time-proven classic that’s still widely seen as one of the best productivity books on the market.
David’s GTD system consists of five linked parts: Capture, Clarify, Organise, Reflect, and Engage. Giving examples for each part, he explains how his overall system will enable you to sort through the chaos of your work in order to, well… get things done! All in record time, too.
I admit some parts of the book are a bit draggy. However, overall, Get Things Done has really taught me how to properly differentiate ‘two minute tasks’ from things that require more time. Above all, this has led to a huge boost in my prioritization skills. I’m also far more productive – with much less stress!
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3. The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity
As I said before, modern life can be extremely distracting. From the moment we wake up, new emails flood in, social media ‘dings’, and everyone seems to want your attention.
Amid this bustle, it’s so easy to forget why we’ve chosen to do the work we do in the first place. In other words, when it comes to our life’s purpose, we often lose sight of the forest for the trees.
This is where I think The 5 Choices does a fantastic job bringing everything back into focus. The authors teach us how to master the art of better decision making, attention management, and energy control. All these skills play a huge role in enhancing our overall productivity in ways that benefit us on both a personal and professional level.
In short, The 5 Choices presents a fresh and holistic re-approach to productivity. I think it’ll help you enjoy the fruits of your labor far more than what you may be experiencing now.
4. The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy
Chris Bailey is truly in love with exploring how to be more productive. So much so that, in his desire to write this book, he turned down numerous high-paying job offers to spend a full year experimenting. His aim? To optimize his system of personal productivity so as to yield maximum results.
Needless to say, I think he’s achieved his goal. The Productivity Project is among the best books on productivity I’ve read thus far!
Chris covers a lot of ground. Among many things, he shows us how to nurture the habit of ‘productive procrastination’ as we remove less pertinent tasks from our workflow. In addition, his system taught me to let go of my self-defeating perfectionism – which had previously inhibited my output for many years.
In short, I really liked The Productivity Project for Chris’ relatable tone and high levels of experience. The book will definitely help you get in the right frame of mind whenever you sit down to do serious work.
5. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
I believe true productivity begins with forming good habits. In this regard, Atomic Habits is a true masterclass in the art of positive habit formation.
The biggest lesson I took from James Clear’s book is the importance of practicing small increments. That is to say, making small enhancements amid my daily work has compounded into huge pluses in my overall productivity.
In addition, James suggests that, more than simply setting goals, we need to integrate them into our very identities. For instance, in my case, the key is to “be a productive person” – not just “someone who produces stuff”. In other words, I’ve integrated ‘productivity’ into who I see myself as, as a person.
The most memorable quote in the book for me is: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems”. Thus, this book is all about nourishing the right habit system for you to achieve more of what you want in life, long-term.
Overall, Atomic Habits is easily among the best books on productivity to pick up. It’ll change the way you think about yourself, and also improve your productivity along the way.
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6. 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management
You might be someone who learns best from observing other people’s successes. If that’s the case, you’ll want to check out Kevin Kruse’s excellent book.
Compiling the stories of actual billionaires, Olympic athletes, high-achieving students, and entrepreneurs, Kevin explains how optimized time management is a constant factor in shaping their successes.
He goes on to share how time is our most precious – and scariest – resource. This sets the groundwork for his productivity system, which includes learning how to smartly prioritize our work tasks, fight off procrastination, and manage our energies, among other routines.
In short, I think 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management is an inspiring read for anyone keen on the best books about productivity. I think Kevin’s focus on real-world examples really adds weight to the many useful points he raises.
7. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
You’ve likely gone through periods where you feel there’s just way too much on your plate. Too many goals, too many work tasks, too many persons to manage. In this regard, while you may be ‘doing more’, you are in fact killing your productivity in areas most important to you.
This is where I think The ONE Thing will be the most useful to you. In short, the book promotes essentialism. This is a mindset that seeks to eliminate the fluff from your life, freeing you to chase fewer – but more meaningful – goals.
Above all, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan suggest that in order to produce truly extraordinary results, you first need to narrow your focus. In other words, you can do more by doing less – which isn’t actually a paradox at all.
Overall, I think people struggling to handle too many obligations will benefit the most from this read. The ONE Thing is among the best productivity books to help you better align with your ultimate calling in life.
8. Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity
“Being busy” isn’t the same as “being productive”. Smarter Faster Better guides you to move towards the latter in several clearly-defined steps.
The book grounds itself in eight key ideas. These are: Motivation, Teams, Focus, Goal Setting, Managing Others, Decision Making, Innovation, and Absorbing Data. Author Charles Duhigg devotes a chapter to each of these, making sure to include stories of real-life people and companies to drive home his points.
As with 15 Secrets, I enjoyed Charles’ efforts to write in a relatable way, avoiding a pedantic tone. This made all his tips much easier to digest and integrate into my own life. In addition, he also includes a fairly hefty appendix section that further clarifies all of his main ideas.
Overall, Smarter Faster Better is among the best books on productivity that achieves what it sets out to do. If you practice what’s inside, you’ll be making smarter decisions as you produce greater and faster results!
9. Hyperfocus: How to Manage Your Attention in a World of Distraction
Have you ever gotten ‘in the zone’, rapidly churning out great work free from distraction?
If you’ve experienced this beautiful state of mind, you may now be wondering “How can I replicate it more often?”
Here’s where Hyperfocus truly shines. In short, the book gives you the right recipe to consistently achieve high levels of productivity – with much less stress and far more enjoyment.
Backed by neuroscientific research, Chris Bailey (there he is again!) dives deep into the different types of distraction that threaten to hijack our attention. He also teaches us how to manage our focus in healthy ways via smart multi-tasking, taking strategic mental breaks, and so on.
Above all, Chris reveals a clear path that shows us how to be more productive on a regular basis, removing the guesswork. Hyperfocus delivers the goods – and then some!
Here are a few more best books on productivity!
10. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
A unique mix of cultural critique and actionable advice, I think Deep Work holds a simple system that will greatly improve your productivity. It trains your mind to keep distractions away, especially the pull of social media.
In addition, I also enjoyed Cal’s discussions on willpower – a finite resource that must be properly assigned to only the most crucial tasks.
However, at the same time, he also explains how idle time isn’t actually a ‘waste of time’. Instead, with the right strategy, it can be effectively used to replenish your energy for greater productivity.
11. Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind
What makes Manage Your Day-to-Day stand out from other books about productivity is its multi-voice. The book is written by a big cast of 20 different authors (under the 99U umbrella).
I think this collective effort has produced a solid overview of the most proven productivity tips, as endorsed by many persons.
Above all, the book gives you a series of actionable steps to take control of your life, inspiring you to take a step back to re-access your work priorities.
12. The 30-Day Productivity Plan
The 30-Day Productivity Plan is most suited for people who want a precise day-by-day strategy on how to be more productive.
Personally, I think the book does a fantastic job at casting light on many bad anti-productivity habits we might not be fully aware of. It then teaches us how to best overcome each of them.
In short, this read offers a solid ‘big picture’ blueprint for getting more done with much less stress and frustration. In addition, there’s an insightful section that talks about the impact of self-doubt on our workflows.
13. Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life
Much like Atomic Habits, Indistractable trains you to develop positive habits to improve your overall productivity. As the book’s name implies, it also shows you how to minimize needless distractions, giving you more time to get real work done.
In addition, author Nir Eyal strikes a smart balance between scientific research and easy-to-follow advice, all written in a highly relatable way.
Above all, I found his discussions on ‘internal’ and ‘external distractions’ to be the most useful in helping me overcome weak links in my own focus.
14. Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time
Apart from an awesome title, Eat That Frog! breaks down productivity into three key ingredients: decision, discipline, and determination. The goal here is to guide you in taking baby steps to improve each skill, thus enhancing your overall productivity.
Ultimately, I think The ONE Thing does a slightly better job covering these specific areas of productivity. Nonetheless, for a quick read, Eat That Frog! still serves as an excellent primer for people looking to combat procrastination.
15. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play
Being productive doesn’t mean you have to entirely deny yourself of play. Instead, it’s all about cutting back on time-wasting, so that there’s enough chance to do both!
The Now Habit shows you how to achieve quality output sooner rather than later. This in turn allows you to enjoy guilt-free relaxation that is duly earned from a good day of productive work.
16. The Checklist Manifesto: How To Get Things Right
Many of the best books on productivity focus on systems and mind-shifts.
However, there are times where having a simple checklist is enough to get things done. In Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande details how this classic organization method can aid in optimizing workflows across different contexts.
To be honest, I think the book gets a bit dry in some places, due to a heavy emphasis on medical discussions. Nonetheless, it offers a very fresh look at the most effective way to include checklists into your daily work routine.
17. Organize Tomorrow Today: 8 Ways to Retrain Your Mind to Optimize Performance at Work and in Life
True productivity begins at the very start of each day. In this regard, Organize Tomorrow Today presents many useful mental exercises that’ll aid you in tackling the day’s work ahead. In addition, the book also uses a lot of sports analogies to explain key concepts better, rooted in real-world proof.
I especially loved the sections on how to properly plan ahead, which includes categorizing tasks based on priority, among other practices.
Overall, the book is a must-read for anyone who likes moving in a clear direction towards highly organized goals.