It’s no secret that I like to read… a lot. And because of this, people are constantly asking me to recommend books to them.
I read a lot of different genres, including history, biography, philosophy, psychology, and a lot more. But I also read books about performance, efficiency, success, and productivity. I like books that offer a unique perspective or opinion because these books help me grow as a person and challenge how I think.
So, because people keep asking me, I thought it would be fun to try and make a list of the best 10 productivity-related books I read in the past year.
But, when I sat down to comb through my notes (I’m a firm believer that everyone should take notes on everything they read read), I found that it was impossible. I couldn’t figure out which were the 10 best. There were too many good ones (and there are a few I’ve forgotten about, too).
So, I lowered my ambitions slightly and decided to make a list of 10 of the best productivity-related books I’ve read in the last year. I’m not saying these are necessarily the best books of the year. But they’re the ones that have stuck out to me the most so far.
Some of the books on this list, as you’ll see, are older, and some are newer; some are written by academics, and some are written by businesspeople; some are about productivity directly, and some aren’t. But the thing uniting them all is the fact that each book on this list deals with the strategies and principles needed to become more productive (and, therefore, more successful), and each book has made a positive impact on me personally. I hope that they will make a positive impact on your life as well.
So, in no particular order, here are 10 of the best productivity-related books I read last year:
by Gary Keller.
This book was originally published back in 2013. And it was an immediate hit. It became a New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today bestseller. But, for some reason, I just never picked it up until I was looking for some airplane reading material earlier this year.
I’ll be honest: it’s rare when books with so much hype live up to their high expectations.
But this book sure did!
Keller is widely regarded as one of the most successful entrepreneurs and businessman, having built his company from nothing into the second largest real estate company in the world. He had a lot of ups and downs along the way. But he eventually made it to the top of the mountain. And this book gets under the hood and walks you through exactly how he did it. He delves into the strategies and principles behind the tactics he uses (and you know how much I love that!).
So, if this book isn’t already part of your library, I would highly recommend you consider adding it. You won’t be disappointed.
Pick up your copy HERE.
by David Robinson
In The Expectation Effect, David Robinson explores how what we expect to happen shapes what we actually experience more than what actually happens—and you just might be surprised how far this effect reaches. You’ve heard of the placebo effect, right? It’s the phenomenon where people can recover from all sorts of illnesses simply because they believe that they had medicine. Well, Robinson spends this entire book showing how this same effect is at work in every aspect of our lives—from fitness to productivity, to intelligence, health, happiness, and more. As it turns out, “expecting is seeing.”
What I love about this book is that it’s stuffed full of real scientific data and real-world examples. After citing multiple scientific studies that show the “expectation effect” at work in virtually every area of our lives, Robinson provides a whole slew of practical techniques that readers can use to jumpstart real psychological, physiological, and behavioral change. If you’re looking to make improvements in any area of your life, this book is a must-read!
Get it HERE.
by Elizabeth Emens
A few years ago, my wife and I went through a particularly busy time in our lives. We were designing a new home we were going to build, I was travelling 3-4 days per week, she was working most weekends, and we had three kids at home under the age of 6. On top of it all, my father and her mother both fell seriously ill and needed substantial care.
Needless to say, we were busy. At times it felt like we were drowning in all the details, schedules, and paperwork.
I’m sure you can relate.
We’ve all had times in our lives when we’ve felt overwhelmed by all the little things we need to manage in our lives outside of work.
Elizabeth Emens, a professor at Columbia Law School, finally gives all these details a name: Life Admin. Most of us spend an ungodly amount of time and effort dealing with life admin. From signing the kids up for swimming lessons, filing taxes, and organizing birthday parties, there’s a suitcase full of administrative tasks just waiting for us at every turn.
And, if we’re not careful, we can drown in life admin.
That’s why I recommend Emens’s book so highly. Not only does she identify a serious problem we all face and give it a name, she also provides a number of solutions to deal with the mountain of admin. we all have in our lives (and she gives plenty of examples of how those solutions can be applied).
A few hours spent with this book will pay serious dividends. Mark my words.
Pick it up your copy HERE.
by David D. Burns
This book is something of a classic when it comes to mood regulation. And I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read, but I’m glad I finally picked it up. So many of us think about our anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, and low self-esteem as part of the “way we’re wired.” But, according to Burns (who is a world-renowned psychiatrist, by the way) it is possible to change these patterns in our lives (without using drugs). It all comes down to regulating our moods by intentionally restructuring our negative thoughts.
There’s so much packed into this book that it’s nearly impossible to do it justice here. But, at its core, it’s a book about managing how you feel by changing how you look at the world. And—here’s the best part—Burns offers practical, step-by-step exercises at the end of each chapter that you can use to put what he’s talking about into practice.
And, in case you’re not convinced, here’s what people are saying about this book:
- “clear, powerful—a game changer”
- “I would highly recommend this book to anyone struggling with their mental health or anyone who isn’t feeling a considerable amount of happiness in their life”
- “this book will transform the way you think and feel”
- “whether you want to transform your personal life or your interpersonal life, this is the best book you will ever read”
- “worthwhile investment!”
- “this book is absolutely wonderful … I could not recommend this book highly enough—it is superb!”
- “Great reading and very practical and useful for anyone who needs some emotional fine-tuning. And who doesn’t need that?!”
I would agree with this high praise.
You can pick up your copy HERE.
by Patrick Bet-David
Patrick Bet-David grew up in war-torn Iran. His family escaped as refugees to Germany before finally immigrating to the United States. Patrick describes himself as “aimless” when he graduated high school. So he joined the US Army and served in the 101st Airborne Division. After being honorably discharged at age 21, Patrick floundered around a little bit. But then his father fell ill. And Patrick didn’t have enough money to pay for his father to get the best medical treatment. This lit a fire in him to make something of himself, and he’s been relentlessly pursuing success ever since. Today he is a serial entrepreneur and investor with a net worth closing in on a billion dollars.
Patrick’s life has been unique, and this comes through on every page of his book. He didn’t have a fancy college degree. He didn’t have a wealthy family. He didn’t have “friends on the inside.” Still, through careful, strategic thinking, he was able to become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America today. This book explains how he used strategic thinking to do this in his own life, and he breaks down the principles so you can apply them in your life as well.
If you’re looking for a solid roadmap to productivity and success—a roadmap that is chock full of actionable advice—then this book is essential reading.
You can pick up your copy HERE.
by Benjamin P. Hardy
Over the past few years, Benjamin Hardy has become a well-known proponent of something known as “prospective psychology.” So many of us assume that who we want to be and the dreams we want to achieve are in the distant future, and that who we are today is shaped largely by our past. But, drawing on some of the latest psychological research, Hardy makes the case that this simply isn’t true. Hardy argues that, if we change the way we relate to our “future selves,” we can achieve way more success way quicker than we might think.
I always enjoy reading books by Benjamin Hardy. He’s perspective certainly cuts against the grain when compared to a lot of other books written by psychologists. He has a PhD in organizational psychology, but he has a real knack for making complex psychological research understandable to everyone.
I recommend this book because it will challenge how you think about yourself—past, present, and future. And I believe that’s a very important part of success.
Grab your copy HERE.
by Nassim Talib
Nassim Talib became a widely respected author after writing his bestselling three-part series, Fooled by Randomness, The Black Swan, and Antifragile. In this series, Talib broke down the nature of complexity and randomness, showing that the events we consider “rare” are in fact much more common (and much more impactful) than we think.
I believe that Talib is one of the most interesting and unique voices writing today. Full stop. Having originally been born in Lebanon, he eventually earned an MBA from Warton and a PhD from the University of Paris, and he began his career as a derivatives trader on Wall Street. Yet, he speaks out publicly against the models promoted by the finance industry and asserts that academic credentials are only for show.
He became a polarizing figure while working as a derivatives trader, since he took a unique approach when compared to his colleagues at the time. And in his “spare time” he began writing books of personal essays. These essays touched on a wide range of topics, including the nature of uncertainty, how to avoid being a sucker, why it’s better to not plan out your vacations, why reading the news makes you stupid, and why forecasting is a waste of time.
Skin in the Game is Talib’s fifth book, which builds on his earlier three-part series mentioned above. The main thrust of the book is that, in order to be able to best deal with the randomness present in every element in life, you must have skin in the game. For Talib, this is not just an empty platitude. It’s a technical reality. When you have skin in the game, it changes the calculations of risk/reward.
I now consider this book essential reading for anyone who cares about productivity and success. Because it tells you how you can tilt the risk/reward scale in your favor. I don’t know about you but, if there’s a way to do that, I’m definitely in.
Get your copy of Skin in the Game HERE.
by Rolf Dobelli
One of the most important—and, perhaps the most important—factor for increasing your productivity and level of success in life is how well you think. And, while the other books on this list all deal with certain aspects of how you think, this book tackles it head on.
That’s why this book is so valuable.
Rolf Dobelli, who has a PhD in philosophy from the University of St. Galen, claims that we all have “hiccups” in our thinking, which cause us to believe things that are untrue and do things that are counterproductive.
- Did you know that 88% of American drivers believe they’re above average at driving and 84% of Frenchmen think they’re above average lovers? Both are, of course, impossible.
- Did you know that up to 90% of crosswalk buttons at intersections don’t do anything? Yet, most of us continue to push them anyway.
- Did you know that bringing your better-looking friend to the club with you will decrease the amount of attention you get by at least 10% (and possibly a lot more)? But, time after time, people continue to think the opposite is true.
For Dobelli, these hiccups show that we all think we have more control over our lives than we actually do. We all think we’re good at being reasonable. And we all think we’re good at assessing our own abilities.
But studies have shown time and time again that we’re really not that good at any of these things. In fact, many of the things we do because we think they’re rational and helping us accomplish our goals are, in fact, counter-productive.
In The Art of Thinking Clearly, Dobelli dives deep into some of the most common psychological biases we all fall victim to on a daily basis. And—here’s the best part—he outlines strategies you can use to start overcoming these “hiccups” in your life.
No matter how smart you are, reading this book (and putting what you read into practice) will make you a better thinker.
Pick up a copy HERE.
by Kim Lorenz
If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I love principles and strategies more than tactics. Of course, tactics are important. But principles and strategies are at least 100x more important. And that’s why I’m recommending this book to you.
You won’t find a list of tactics you can implement in your life at the end of each chapter. You won’t find step-by-step instructions telling you how to achieve success. And you won’t find any “practical advice” explicitly spelled out on any page.
What you will find, however, is an engaging story of one man’s entrepreneurial journey that illustrates some of the most important universal principles of productivity and success.
On each page, Lorenz pulls back the curtain and shows in detail how he grew his tire business through honesty, determination, out-of-the-box thinking, and strategic partnerships. The book touches on a wide range of important lessons. But the central theme is clear: if you focus on solving unsolved problems (in business and life) you will have success.
I put it on this list because I think his story communicates some very powerful principles about pursuing success, and Kim’s determination and willingness to think “outside the box” is inspiring.
If you like a good, inspiring story that also teaches some very important lessons about achieving success, then this book should most certainly be on your shelf!
Get your copy HERE.
by Daniel Gilbert
Harvard professor of psychology, Daniel Gilbert, originally published Stumbling on Happiness way back in 2006. And it was an immediate hit. Not only did it become a New York Times best-seller, but it was also adapted into a hit TV series, “This Emotional Life,” which aired on PBS and attracted more than 10 million viewers.
I suppose this means I’m a bit late to the party. But better late than never, I suppose.
Anyway, the book itself is very good. Gilbert goes to great lengths to show how our brains are constantly constructing simulations of what we think could, should, and will happen. But—and here’s the rub—we’re wrong a lot of the time. Our brains, Gilbert shows, have to fill in a lot of gaps between the way things are and the way things will be tomorrow, next month, or next year. And, as our brains work to fill in these gaps, they have a certain propensity for error.
This means that we make decisions based on erroneous projections a lot of the time and that we’re constantly faced with the disappointment of reality not lining up with our expectations.
And thus we create our own unhappiness.
Now, the great value of this book is not simply that Gilbert shows us all the ways we’re wrong and misguided. It’s that he also outlines in detail practical steps we can take to start processing our world and our futures correctly.
If you follow his advice, I’m confident that you’ll start to make better decisions and, as a result, begin to create a greater sense of happiness in your life.
I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want that!
You can pick up your copy HERE.
And there you have it—ten of the best books I read last year.
Each of these books has made a positive impact on me. And I hope they do the same for you.
And, if you’re interested in some further reading…
Feel free to check out the books I’ve written as well:
Success is not a mystery. It is predictable and guaranteed, if you know the laws that govern it.
We all have an ideal life we wish we were living. But few of us ever make that life our reality.
The truth is that most people in the world believe the lie we are told about success: they believe success is a matter of talent, luck, and hard work.
And, because they believe this lie, most people end up settling for mediocre. They settle for mediocre careers, mediocre finances, mediocre relationships, mediocre talents, and mediocre health.
In The 47 Laws of Success, I expose this lie and demystify your true path to a more exciting and fulfilling future. Drawing on extensive research and more than a decade of real-world experience, I show you exactly how you can achieve and even predict your own success, regardless of your current situation or abilities.
This book reveals that the true path to success is not about becoming the best in the world at something, working harder than anyone else, or being in the right place at the right time. Rather, it explains how the path to success in any area of your life is simply a matter of learning and applying the laws that govern success.
In The 47 Laws of Success, you will discover:
- The 47 most important Laws of Success that will enable you to predict and guarantee success in any area of your life.
- What the Spectrum of Success is and how to determine your current position on it.
- How your brain’s limitations can become your success superpower.
- Why you shouldn’t become the best in the world in your field.
- 3 simple practices that will allow you to identify the 1% of activities that are producing 50% of your results.
- How to create and harness the power of momentum to propel you to success.
- Why you should help your competition succeed.
- The 2 most effective strategies to improve your ability to focus.
- How to create success feedback loops.
And much, much more.
Get your copy HERE.
To-Do List Transformation: How to Supercharge Your Productivity by Turning Your To-Do List into Your Brain’s Most Powerful Ally
Do you struggle to get everything done on your to do list? Are you overwhelmed by all the things you have to do every day? Do you feel like you’re constantly busy but, at the end of the day, you don’t feel like you’ve accomplished anything important?
If so, you’re not alone!
The vast majority of professionals admit that they get less than half the things on their to-do lists done each week. This isn’t because they’re lazy or underachievers; most people want to get more done. They’re tired of feeling like they’re always trying to catch up to the demands of their lives, but they feel like they don’t have enough time in the day to do everything that needs to be done.
Can you relate? Do you struggle with getting everything done that needs to get done? Do you wish you had more time each day?
If so, there is a solution. And it’s not as complicated or difficult as you might think. You don’t have to give up on using your to-do list, as some people claim. And you don’t have to start using some wacky, time-consuming “system.”
In To-Do List Transformation, you will learn about the real reason why you struggle to get everything done on your to-do list each week, and you will will be given detailed, step-by-step instructions you can begin to apply immediately to transform your to-do list from a source of stress and anxiety to the most important tool in your productivity arsenal. When you learn how your to-do list can work along with your brain, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.
In this book, you’ll discover:
- 7 things you’re doing with your to-do list that cause your brain to work against your productivity and produce more stress
- How to use your to-do list in a way that works with the way your brain is wired, instead of against it
- 8 key reasons why you will want to transform your to-do list
- The exact details you should track and measure in order to maximize your results
- How to make sure that every item on your to-do list will bring you closer to accomplishing your high-impact goals
- 7 effective to-do list methods
- Why you need a productivity ecosystem and how your to-do list contributes to its health
- 16 simple tactics that will make or break your to-do list
- How to make your to-do list your action plan
And a lot more.
This is the only book you will need to transform your to-do list from a source of pain and frustration into your secret productivity weapon.
Get your copy HERE.
Procrastination Detox: 13 Simple Steps to Conquer Procrastination, Get Unstuck, and Create the Life You Want
Do you find yourself overwhelmed because you put off important tasks? Are you constantly making excuses to your friends and colleagues because you’ve fallen behind on projects? Are you embarrassed because you often miss important deadlines?
If so, you’re not alone!
A lot of people struggle with procrastination in one form or another. It’s not because they’re lazy or underachievers; most people want to accomplish more, and they know they can. They’re tired of constantly running late, being perpetually disorganized, and pulling all-nighters just to meet deadlines. They’ve tried the common “tricks” and “hacks,” but nothing seems to work. Most people want to change, they just don’t know how. They’re frustrated.
Can you relate? Have you tried to stop procrastinating only to slip right back into old habits?
If so, do not believe the lie that says some people are “wired” to be a procrastinator. That’s not true; the reason you haven’t been able to conquer procrastination is because you’ve followed the bad advice of treating the symptoms instead of the actual problem.
Thankfully, the solution to procrastination is much simpler than you might think.
In Procrastination Detox, you will learn about the real reason you procrastinate, and you will be given detailed, step-by-step instructions you can use to conquer procrastination and start to create the life you really want to live.
- How you’ve trained your brain to think it’s supposed to procrastinate
- Why negative emotion makes you want to be distracted
- 4 simple exercises you can start using today to become more decisive
- A blueprint to reprogram your fear response
- The most important secret to staying motivated each and every day
- 5 practical tips to use multitasking as a safeguard against procrastination
- How to prevent yourself from getting bored
- Why you are most likely falling victim to the myth of self-delegation
- The critical first step you should take when you feel overwhelmed
- 7 ways to reverse your brain’s preference for instant gratification
- A simple solution to overcome perfectionism
- 3 essential steps to stop the cycle of anxiety in its tracks
And this is only scratching the surface of what you’ll find inside.
The bottom line is that this is the only book you will need to conquer procrastination. It cuts through all the complicated academic research to offer simple, science-based solutions that you can use to get unstuck and create the life you want.
Get your copy right HERE.
*This page contains affiliate links. This means that, when you purchase any of the books above, I might be able to earn a small commission from the sale (at no extra cost to you).