When I start reading a book, I don’t try to internalize it line by line. It’s too overwhelming to attempt to retain every bit of wisdom packed inside the pages. Instead I simply try to take note of one big concept from each book and make a point of implementing it in my life.
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I’ve found this approach of focusing on LESS actually allows me to retain MORE—and therefore effect a greater amount of real change in my life.
Here are three impactful productivity-related books, as well as the one big lesson I took away from each and put to use.
3 of the Best Books Ever on Productivity
1. The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss
Key takeaway: Time blocking and the 80/20 principle
I read The 4-Hour Workweek for the first time early on in my entrepreneurial journey. When starting out, like most entrepreneurs, I was wearing a bunch of hats and juggling a lot of demands. I could identify with Tim in that he has a lot of aspirations as an entrepreneur, likes to write, and wants to influence people in a positive way. Plus, I felt personally connected with him from his podcast (The Tim Ferriss Show). All of these things drew me to him and his approach.
In the fifth chapter of the book, called “The End of Time Management,” I discovered a principle I could undoubtedly put to use in my life: Too many people are trying to be more effective by ADDING stuff into their life instead of identifying what’s most important and removing the extra stuff.
The chapter begins with an incredible quote from Antoine De Saint-Exupery: “Perfection is not when there’s no more to add but when there’s no more to take away.”
Realizing the truth in this inspired a mantra I’ve held onto to this day. Say no to almost everything, so you can say yes to the thing that matters.
I use the 80/20 rule to understand what that thing is on any particular day. This concept, also called the Pareto principle, suggests that 20 percent of activities produce 80 percent of results. Keeping this in mind helps me prioritize what to focus on—what to say yes to and what to say no to.
Instead of working for working’s sake or working with the wrong people, this book helped me re-frame how I think about my day. Maybe I shouldn’t be structuring things I like around work—instead doing the opposite. Not only does it make my work and my life more fulfilling, but it also emphasizes the importance of time.
This led me to implement time blocking in my days, a time management strategy that has had a massive impact on my productivity, fulfillment, and ability to direct my focus toward the goals I’ve set out to achieve.
2. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod
Key takeaway: Do something intentional with the first waking moments of the day
I read Miracle Morning in the last couple of years because I heard Hal Elrod on a podcast and was intrigued by his story. He’s personally been through a lot, and his story is incredibly inspiring.
His book recommends starting your day with the following steps:
- Scribe (write)
To be 100 percent transparent, I have rarely accomplished all of these pieces. What the book did teach me was to be intentional in those specific areas at some point every day.
And there are a few that certainly have become regular practices for me; now they’re a part of my routine I can’t live without. First and foremost, although I don’t do it consistently, I go on long spurts where I journal regularly. It’s been very useful in understanding my goals and how to get to them.
I also enjoy writing down what I’m grateful for—both personally and professionally—and going back to look at those past journal entries and see my growth. I especially like doing this in the morning as a way to set the tone and start my day on a positive note.
Second, I’ve adopted meditation. I do this many days and really appreciate the focus that comes out of what meditation brings. A lot of people, when they think of the practice, they think of something monks do, something outdated, something boring. But I’ve found that it can be what you want it to be.
I’ve tried various apps to help me meditate. The one I’ve used most consistently and like the best is called the “Waking Up App” by Sam Harris. It’s incredibly well done and has great meditations that are only about 10 minutes long. It’s what finally really helped me commit to these sessions more regularly.
Third, I’ve been reading. Although I don’t necessarily read in the morning to start my day, I average 15 to 20 hours per week listening to books. Engaging with books continually pushes me in terms of learning, being inspired, and feeling challenged. Everyone should be reading—no matter where you are or what job you have.
And now it’s easier than ever, because it’s no longer about having a book in your hand thanks to audiobooks. You can listen anytime, anywhere, while doing anything.
Plus, physical books can be tough if you don’t gain much from words on a page. I personally retain more now, because I’m listening rather than reading. Even better, I can take in more at a faster pace by listening to audiobooks at 1.5 speed.
It’s propelled me in all aspects of my life, and I encourage everyone to make reading or listening to books a part of their regular life.
Finally, of the Miracle Morning practices Hal Elrod outlines in his book, exercise is an absolute MUST for my life. I work out five to six days per week. Some days I even do two-a-days.
I find that I’m a complete wreck if I don’t work out. Physically, exercise helps you feel better. Mentally, it can be an incredible break in your day—no matter when you do it. For me, it’s an integral reset in the middle of my day.
Oftentimes people make excuses, whether it’s not having time to work out, lacking motivation, or something else. The fact is, when I’m feeling my best, I am exercising regularly.
Exercise can also be an incredible community-building practice. If you go to a gym or participate in classes, you have people around you to motivate you, challenge you, encourage you, and make you better. Regardless, it’s worth finding a type of exercise you enjoy. That way you’ll do it regularly, because you actually love it.
3. Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman
Key takeaway: Visionary/integrator language, setting goals, and responsibilities surrounding managing and maintaining goals
Gino Wickman’s book Traction is on this list because it changed my company significantly and thus changed my ability to contribute to and feel fulfilled in it.
The book lays out the roles of two leaders in the business: the Visionary and the Integrator. As defined by Wickman, the Visionary is a person who:
- Has lots of ideas
- Is a strategic thinker
- Sees the big picture
- Has a pulse on your industry
- Connects the dots
- Researches and develops new products and services
In comparison, an Integrator is the person who:
- Is the tie-breaker for the leadership team
- Is the glue holding the organization together
- Is accountable for the P&L results
- Executes the business plan
- Holds the leadership team accountable
- Is the steady force in the organization
- Is the filter for all of the Visionary’s ideas
- Integrates the leadership team harmoniously
- Helps remove obstacles and barriers
Understanding the difference between these two roles was transformative for me. I am 100 percent a Visionary. Realizing this, I could identify what I wasn’t good at and why I was so frustrated when trying to do those things. Any by recognizing my areas of expertise, natural ability, and skill, I could focus on those things.
Once we got a coach to implement the concepts in Traction, it dramatically increased our team’s productivity and business. Without it, we wouldn’t have the processes, clarity, and synergy that we have today.
Wrap Up: Why My Life Really Changed
If I didn’t make it clear already, books have transformed my life in significant ways. Choosing just three for this article was nearly impossible, because I’ve consumed so many and gotten so much out of them.
While I did learn a TON from The 4-Hour Workweek, Miracle Morning, and Traction, my life is only more focused, healthy, fulfilling, and fun because I put those lessons into practice.
If you’re like me and long-winded inspirational books seem a bit overwhelming, I highly recommend focusing on ONE thing from each that you can truly implement in your daily life to make a difference. When you look back at your journey and success, you’ll see how those small adjustments added up to some truly MASSIVE change.
What are some truly impactful titles you’ve read? What did you learn?
Share below in the comments!