The only 5 productivity books you’ll ever need

DeskTime
6 min readFeb 27, 2023

Productivity is a large concern for today’s workers, who are facing a constant barrage of information and distractions. The silver lining is — many experts have taken notice, and there is a wealth of resources available on the subject.

To assist you in your quest for greater productivity, we have compiled a list of the top five books that offer valuable insights into developing effective productivity habits, techniques, and strategies. By acquiring these skills, you can unlock the full extent of your productivity, leading to greater success in your life and career.

Getting Things Done — David Allen

You can fool everyone else, but you can’t fool your own mind.

– the author

The book “Getting Things Done” by David Allen has garnered significant attention since its publication in 2001. It has influenced many individuals and is widely regarded as an accessible resource for improving productivity.

The author presents a method that helps you manage your task by organizing them in a physical system that reminds you of what’s important and when. By freeing up your short-term memory, you can concentrate on one thing at a time, leading to increased productivity. The system acts as an external “extension” of your attention span, allowing you to focus and switch between tasks with ease.

In “Getting Things Done,” Allen outlines a five-step workflow process: collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and taking action. He recognizes that undergoing these stages initially can be a significant task and advises allotting ample time to do so. However, the author provides thorough guidance throughout the process to make it manageable. The book also includes chapters on creating and tracking projects and determining the next steps at any given stage.

The material is presented in a clear and concise manner, with brief overviews followed by more in-depth explanations. By the time the reader begins to implement the actual techniques, they will likely have a solid understanding of the content.

Atomic Habits — James Clear

Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.

– the author

In “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, the author stresses that having a successful and productive life is not the result of just one habit, but rather a combination of many habits that make up a system of living. Atomic habits are small, easy-to-implement routines that have immense power when compounded over time.

The author combines both new research and personal experiences in the book to argue that success is attained through a systematic approach built on habits. Emphasizing the importance of making a habit a part of one’s identity, the author asserts that just having aspirations is not enough — a structured approach supported by daily habits is the real recipe for success.

The dedication to this process and the cultivation of positive habits with the end goal in mind are key to improved productivity. In essence, James Clear argues that designing an environment that supports your habits is more effective than relying solely on motivation.

Deep Work — Cal Newport

Less mental clutter means more mental resources available for deep thinking.

– the author

“Deep Work” by Cal Newport delves into the challenges of consuming and processing information in an age of information overload. The author argues that in order to excel in our field and become experts, we need to focus on developing a strong foundation of knowledge and understanding. This requires deep thinking and reflection, away from distractions and interruptions.

The book provides a framework for incorporating deep work into one’s lifestyle. The goal is to use our minds to their full potential and make our activities as meaningful and productive as possible.

The author emphasizes that it’s crucial to establish a routine and develop habits to help us get into the deep work state more quickly. It means working at the same place, at the same time, and in the same clothes — and even sticking to the same coffee, for example.

The biggest hindrance to deep work is our inclination towards distractions. During mentally demanding work, our mind may lead us towards the temptation to check our phone, socialize with coworkers or browse the internet. The author provides techniques to train our minds to overcome these distractions and concentrate on the work at hand. By embracing deep work, we can maximize our productivity and unleash its full potential.

4-hour workweek — Tim Ferris

What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.

– the author

In his book, “The 4-Hour Workweek”, Timothy Ferriss details how he managed to break free from the traditional work lifestyle and reduce his working hours significantly by utilizing tactics like delegation, outsourcing, and automation. He aims to inspire others to follow in his footsteps and live life on their own terms. The central message of the book is to find shortcuts to achieve your goals.

Ferriss emphasizes the importance of working smarter, not harder, and creating an Income Autopilot system that allows you to replace yourself in your business. He believes that being an owner, rather than a worker, is the key to achieving financial freedom and success. He suggests building a product-based business that can be scaled through delegation and automation and avoiding service-based businesses that are harder to scale.

Ferriss also encourages embracing mini-retirements and taking breaks throughout one’s working life instead of waiting until retirement to enjoy life. He advocates for an “information diet” and emphasizes the importance of effectiveness over efficiency, focusing on the most impactful tasks while eliminating unnecessary busy work.

7 Habits of Highly Effective People — Stephen R. Covey

If I really want to improve my situation, I can work on the one thing over which I have control — myself.

– the author

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey outlines seven principles that can help a person become more effective in both their personal and professional lives. Covey emphasizes the importance of balancing productivity with the need for self-renewal to avoid burnout.

The author also highlights the concept of interdependence, where individuals work together to achieve common goals and create outcomes that are greater than the sum of their individual efforts.

The seven habits outlined in the book are:

  1. Be proactive: You have the freedom to choose how you respond to life’s challenges. Take responsibility for your actions.
  2. Start with a final goal in mind: Plan for your life as a whole and think about the legacy you want to leave.
  3. Prioritize the most important tasks: Focus on what is important, even if it may seem less urgent.
  4. Think in terms of win/win: Approach life with a win/win mentality and strive for mutual benefit in your professional and private relationships.
  5. Be a good listener: Listen to others with empathy and understanding, and present your own views with consideration and respect.
  6. Synergize: Embrace differences in relationships and appreciate the unique personalities and contributions of other people.
  7. Take care of yourself: Dedicate at least one hour each day to personal growth and improvement in four key areas: physical, spiritual, mental, and social/emotional.

By following these habits, Covey believes that individuals can become more effective in their lives and build strong, productive relationships with other people.

Conclusion: the many avenues of productivity

Having examined the five productivity books, it’s evident that many strategies exist to tackle the subject. No single approach can be considered the best, and the method you go for will be based on your personality and life situation. By combining insights from different authors, you can create a productivity approach tailored to your needs.

However, one thing all the authors agree on is that improving your productivity and work habits is a laudable goal that can bring substantial dividends. So, we hope this article has sparked your interest and that you’ll choose some of these books to kick off your journey to be more productive.

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DeskTime

A fully automatic employee time and productivity tracking software.