Productivity, or as I like to think of it, the art of getting sh*t done.
I’ve consumed a fair few self-help books / articles / podcasts / TED Talks on this subject as I like to think of myself as a productive person who can always learn more. But mostly I started reading this kind of stuff because I wanted to leave work on time (which was rare!) and get some help in managing my time to effectively plough through the mountains of work that I had when I used to work in PR.
From reading, listening and watching, I mastered the art of forcing myself to do tasks that didn’t excite me, to get started on tasks that challenged me / scared me a little and to break down the tasks that I thought would take forever into smaller, manageable pieces. And I’m proud to say, I have curbed procrastination (well, almost!).
Now that I’m a soon-to-be-published indie author, I have to manage my time carefully to be able to write creatively, to manage a business including self-publishing and marketing as well as to learn – both about my business and about my craft. It’s slightly overwhelming how long my Author To Do List is but I’m getting through it and I’m getting sh*t done.
Here are the three books that helped me with practical advice on productivity:
1) The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
There is a lot of useful information in this book about business and outsourcing, some of which I did not find particularly relevant at the time I read it, but the section that made a gigantic difference to my mindset was about productivity.
I read, and then re-read, the advice and put it into practice and it revolutionised (seriously!) the way I worked. I recommend this book to everyone who wants to get the most out of their time.
My favourite piece of incredibly simple advice: Write a To Do List and a Not To Do List. This helps you focus your attention on what needs to happen to meet your goals. So, on my To-Do list is everything I need to do to be a successful author and on my Not To Do list is things like ‘Spending hours scrolling through Instagram for no reason in particular’ and ‘Looking at pictures on google of celebrity couples’ (weirdly, I used to do that a lot) or ‘Procrastinating to avoid doing a task’ etc.
2) The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey
This book helped shift my mindset to one that is positive, solutions-orientated, and sees the big picture. It helps to declutter your mind so you can focus on the important stuff.
Take this quote: “Proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence. They work on things they can do something about.” This section really put things into perspective for me. Why waste your time thinking about the stuff in the ‘Circle of Concern’ – things that you can’t change and which we have no control over e.g. ageing, the weather, how other people drive etc. Put your effort into that which you can change, what you can influence e.g. your attitude, your productivity, the way you view situations, the way you treat other people and so on.
3) Life Lessons from the Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma
These 101 small ‘lessons’ are each a couple of pages long and I liked to read them one at a time before bed. As well as focusing on improving your productivity, they also look at how to discover your calling in life as well as tips on how to get the most out of life such as ‘See your children as gifts’ and ‘Connect with nature’.
The tips that helped me to really boost my efficiency were ones such as ‘Schedule worry breaks’, in which Sharma advises allowing yourself to worry for a set amount of time at a specific time that day/week. And save all your worrying for that time and to really go for it worrying when the break arrives. But until then, don’t worry. It saves you SO MUCH time! Honestly, try it.
Also lessons such as ‘Don’t pick up the phone every time it rings’ and ‘Practice the action habit’.
Caveat: you have to follow through with the activities and homework in these books to get the most out of them. Don’t read them and think “I’ll do that tomorrow…” You have to read them and think, “I’m going to implement that RIGHT NOW.”
I hope you find these books as helpful as I did :-)
**My debut novel, an epic fantasy called MELOKAI, is out now! Available from Amazon, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play Books, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. Read more about my books here.**
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