Blog: 10+ Favorite Productivity Books

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”

– Francis Of Assisi

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Do you ever feel that crazy-neurotic feeling like there are so many things pulling at you that you don’t know where to focus your energy!??! It’s this anxiety about balancing the things you “should” do with the things you really want to do. I get so overwhelmed when I see the house is out of control, but the kids need me to read to them, but I’d really like to read a good book myself, and work on my own goals! AAHHH!!

Stop! Just stop! Is this just me? Am I alone? I really get frustrated feeling this overstimulated, over-distracted, anxious, and discouraged neurotic spinning in my head! It all started when I brought home my first baby. All the anxiety of taking care of her, and feeling inadequate and scared weighed down on me a lot. I also know now that one of the characteristics of my energy is that I get distracted by lots of details, I don’t miss anything! I expect perfection, too, which is super annoying. I would quit before I even got started because I would feel so anxious about doing it “right.”

One of the things that have gotten me through all of this anxiety is the let go of perfection and fear, and just make progress. Done is better than perfect.

Another way I have remedied my anxiety is through reading great books! These books have been my mentor over this past decade as I’ve been working out my course, teaching me a better way of thinking. In truth, it all really comes back to that mindset that we have about life. Am I willing to push through and be persistent, and use failure as a catalyst for greatness? Or do I sit back and watch life go by? No way! Not me. I am going to search for answers, and get going!

This list of books is not in any particular order, and there are many, many books still on my list (which you can see here). These are the ones that I have read so far, and it was really tough to only pick this many! Like I said, books have been my mentors. Jim Rohn has said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with,” but those five people can be authors, influencers, bloggers, podcasters, ministers, leaders, and philosophers if we just spend our time with them!

Here we go…

1. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

What I like about the talent code is that it explores how people develop their talents, but that it is not necessarily the talented ones who succeed. My main takeaway from this book is this: talent+work=skill. And not just any work. You focus on the hiccups in your development to refine them. Similar to this is Outliers: The Story of Success and Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World. Outliers talks about how those who succeed put in the hours of work to compile lots of experience. Those who succeed need to find a great mentor, but also to do more than just what they are told. They use their power of discernment to go above what’s required. Consider The Parable of the Oranges and how it really takes being proactive and fastidious to succeed. Originals is about being strategic about your course of action. Waiting for the right timing, creating a series of work to cumulate experience, and being aware of how to present your ideas so they make a difference. Supposedly, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? is along this vein, but I haven’t read it yet. Adding it to my personal list!

2. The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play

I wish I’d had this book in college! I learned so many great strategies for managing my time, and not getting sucked into the monotony of work. You set a timer for thirty minutes to do the tough stuff. Then, you reward yourself. There are lots of great tips in here for getting the work done. I know what procrastination will do to you. It is not your friend! When I was finishing up my degree with two little ones underfoot, I would really drag my feet to get the work done. Then, I would pull out my hair to get it all done at the last minute, and do a mediocre job. Put in the time, make yourself in short bursts of work, and then play.

3. The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles, Do the Work: Overcome Resistance and Get Out of Your Own Way

These two books by Steven Pressfield go hand in hand. The War of Art was more in depth. Basically, anything that is holding you back from realizing your goals is “resistance.” It could be your mindset, your insecurities, your procrastination habit, or it could be over-scheduling yourself, or getting wrapped up in low-priority tasks. According to Pressfield, even your family can keep you from being productive if you don’t set aside time to do the work. This book is about tapping into your creativity to make something. I would say this is so important for parents who allow themselves to become the martyr when they don’t take the time for themselves to develop their talents or have a creative outlet. Do the work. Set aside the time, and don’t let resistance take over!

4. The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal

This is probably my most favorite. I learned from this book that our energy ebbs and flows naturally between stress and recovery, and that they best way to be productive is to honor those ebbs and flows. In your day, you get about 90 minutes to two hours of feeling your energy flow. Then, when it ebbs, what you should do is to do something to recover. If you’re under physical stress, get physical rest. If you’re under mental stress, get mental rest. Go for a walk, sing a song, read a book, or laugh. All of our stress and recovery is based on the energy balances of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Too often we get too much mental and emotional stress, and not enough physical and spiritual stress. This book talks about how to organize your time to honor the balances in your energy between stress and recovery so you actually end up having more energy, and therefore, more time. The Now Habit also addresses this, but not as much in an existential sort of way.

5. The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines into Massive Success and Happiness

This book honors the law of increasing returns. You can choose to spend your time consuming and being unproductive. Or, you can spend it, even in the smallest ways, being productive, creative, and proactive. The law of increasing returns basically means that if I put in the work now and consistently keep it up day after day, then eventually it will pay off. For example, if I workout today, I won’t get a six-pack of abs, but if I keep at it then I might have that six-pack a year from now. But I have to start today. Remember this old proverb: “the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is today.”

6. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM)

After I read this book, I actually felt inspired to wake up early in the morning and have a great morning routine! I am not a morning person so that is a miracle in itself! But seriously, successful people have a powerful morning routine. Hal’s routine is based on the six “SAVERS:” Silence (meditation), Affirmations, Visualizations, Exercise, Read, and Scribe (write). If you just take ten minutes for each of these SAVERS in the morning, it will change your life. Another book for good information about the power of a good night’s sleep is Sleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success. Not all the tips are practical, but the science is good.

7. UNSCRIPTED: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Entrepreneurship, and The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime

If you are at all interested in being an entrepreneur, you need to read these books. I learned from these books the power of creating something that is truly yours to prepare yourself for real wealth. MJ debunks the defensive strategies of wealth-building, and teaches you real strategies for offensive wealth-building. Creating systems that keep working without you. You can be on the sidewalk (living off of debt and having the appearance of wealth), the slow-lane (defensive “wealth”), or the fast lane (residual income and independence). Struggle is an inevitable part of this process but if your intentions are just and fair, and you put in the work to create real value/real perceived value, you will make an impact on the world. Because making an impact is what it’s really all about. SO inspiring. Take the red pill.

8. Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

These two go together for sure. They are about perseverance and humility. No one is immune to weakness, and just like talent+work=skill, a person with a growth mindset welcomes the chance to do the work, challenge their abilities, and overcome obstacles. If you’re going to read one of these, you may as well read both. They will teach you to think differently about obstacles along your path.

9. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

Like grit, and growth mindset, this courage to be vulnerable is empowering. When you are willing to do those things that scare you, even at the risk of falling flat on your face, you can accomplish anything. Brené Brown’s research on vulnerability is so crucial. Her books are perfect if you want to understand why people hold on to their perfectionism, and why shame is is unproductive. Must. Read.

10. The 5 Second Rule: Transform your Life, Work, and Confidence with Everyday Courage

When we get a thought, impression, inspiration, or idea whether it’s good or bad, we never know because we talk ourselves out of it in five seconds. That’s all it takes. So, to get yourself up and going, count down from five and then go! Sounds simple, right? Well, it is, and it isn’t. That’s why there’s a whole book about it. This book has taught me how to understand the neurological reasons why we quit before we even get started.


First Things First

This book goes without saying. If you have not read this book yet, then the other ones won’t even matter! Become principled. Don’t allow the urgent unimportant things crowd out the important but not urgent things. “Things that matter the most should never be at the mercy of the things that matter least.” You cannot shortcut natural laws. Such a great book. Classic.

Still need a kick in the pants:

Outwitting the Devil: The Secret to Freedom and Success

If we are not being proactive, standing up to our fears and failures, then we are drifting. Drifting is the devil’s tool to ensnare us and keep us down. So many things cause us to drift that we need the self-discipline, self-efficacy, and perseverance to push through. Such an inspiring book!

Currently Reading:

Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, Second Edition

My favorite part so far is right in the beginning…see this post about the serenity deception.

On more for good measure…

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams

This book taught me to let go of the outcome, be mindful and not excessive. “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” (Winston Churchill). Our ego is the part of us that is puffed up by compliments, and fueled by despair. Just be. Be mindful, be proactive, but don’t let the outcome scare you.

About the author, Jodi

I live in Richmond, Virginia with my husband, Michael, and our four young kids. We homeschool, and work remotely, so I guess we may take this on the road some day! I have a bachelor's degree from George Mason University in Health Promotion Studies, but I attended five different universities before finally finishing while I was expecting my third baby! I'm a returned missionary from the Hawaii Honolulu Mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sort of a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none, but I do enjoy reading personal development and parenting books, finding new ways to enjoy exercising, and learning more about being an entrepreneur.