There is a plethora of productivity books out there to read. So many that you could make reading them a full-time job, and even getting through a few a week you’d be further behind at the end of the year than when you started.
Today I want to talk about the ones that I think are worth your time. I’m not going to stop with just ‘productivity’ books though. You read this site because you want to run a better business, so I’m going to include books that will help you do that, from your personal productivity to how your business runs.
With the exception of the first and second on this list (which could be interchanged) I have put some thought into ordering these books as I see their utility to help you have an awesome business and get things done in it.
1. Getting Things Done by David Allen
Getting Things Done, or GTD, methodology has been around for quite a while and is probably one of the most popular productivity systems around.
The basic premise is that you develop a trusted system where you write everything down. This means you don’t have a bunch of open loops floating around in your head and can focus on your work (which is what Deep Work is about).
The key that I think most people don’t follow through on is the weekly review. I wrote about a good review process earlier this month, but to recap, I lose 15 – 20% productivity in a week when I don’t do a review and plan my week in advance.
2. Deep Work
I’ve recently written a long review of Deep Work. It has many overlaps with Getting Things Done but the focus of this book is more on convincing you that you need long periods without distraction and the book does provide guidance on how to make it happen.
In my opinion, GTD is better in that it prescribes a system to use to clear away the clutter so you can get to the Deep Work.
3. Growing a Business
One of the biggest ideas to pull from Growing a Business is that money alone doesn’t solve problems. It mostly just allows unprofitable companies to continue to operate without profit.
[Tweet “Money alone doesn’t solve problems.”]
In the tech bubble we have around us today that seems totally sane because everyone is doing it. Stop thinking of investment as some magical pill, it’s simply a tool some business owners use.
4. The Art of Work
It’s great to have a business — there’s all this freedom in being your own boss. You get to choose the clients you work with. Yet for many people it’s a trap where they start something they think will be fun and then can’t find a way out of it.
Reading The Art of Work will help you find your purpose (Jeff Goins calls it your story). With that information you can then build a business that suits your story. This is going to bring you long-term happiness since you will be doing something that is in line with your character, not just some random thing that makes money.
5. The Obstacle is the Way
This is not a fluffy book that’s going to coddle you in your work. It’s going to call you to action despite all the crap that’s going on around you. In fact those that rise above the rest are the ones that keep going at the 210th setback.
The Obstacle is the Way presents Stoic Philosophy to us in language that’s easier to digest and since any business is going to have times when things don’t go as planned all business owners need to read this to get their mindset right to move forward.
Hiring and firing is hard but you don’t have to make it harder. This, and many other topics, are covered in EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey.
The fact that someone got on your team who should never have been allowed in the building is your fault.
Just like you should be taking time to vet your clients, you should be vetting your employees. In fact if you can, make sure that the person with the problem (which is being filled by the employee) isn’t the one doing the hiring. It’s much too easy for them to just find someone to stop the pain instead of waiting to find the right person.
This also means that when you figure out someone shouldn’t be there you need to serve them by letting them go. It’s not helpful to their career to be in a job that doesn’t really want them. Help them find something new that fits better.
7. What’s Best Next
If you go back to my short recap of this book you’ll find that I only actually liked about 25% of this book starting with Chapter 13. But you need to read starting at Chapter 13 for the talk about your roles and how they fit into your overall productivity system and your business.
I’ve talked about it recently when I reviewed Will it Fly and the 4 Quadrants of my life. Knowing what is important to me means I can turn down opportunities that appear great but are truly at odds with the life I want to lead.
8. Minding the Store
The big takeaways here are how to run a family business and how to treat clients. Neiman Marcus wouldn’t distinguish between the sale of a $30 dress and a $25,000 coat. If there was a problem with either product a plane may be chartered to go fix the problem.
On the family business front, when you started working there you had no authority. You then worked your way through a number of departments proving yourself. Only once you had the skills needed were you a candidate for actually running the business. Just because you were family didn’t mean you started in management and had authority or that you ever got any real authority. Almost all family businesses need to adopt this view and get later generations to show that they bring value to the business.
9. To Sell is Human
If you want to run a good business then you need to sell. You need to move people to see the value you provide to their business. This book has lots of research about the selling landscape we have today and offers lots of practical advice on how to make a good sale.
10. The Front Nine
Couched in a golf metaphor this book has lots of practical advice to plan your year and every project you have. One of the key takeaways is to just get started. Make a drive off the tee and then play the ball as it lies.
Way too many business owners talk about the new angles they’re going to take with their business and leave it at that…talk. Many people that want to work on their own really just want to talk about how awesome they’d be if they were their own boss.
Stop that and take a step.
That’s it. If you’re looking for quality books to read on running an awesome business those are my current picks.