Becoming productive is one part art, one part science. There are some best practices out there, but most people have to determine what is going to be the best for them through a process of trial and error.
One of the best ways to get started on the productivity journey is to read books on productivity. Shocking, I know.
While I would not say I have a PhD in productivity, I will say that I am well-studied--let's say to a post graduate level. I got to this point by reading everything I could get my hands, implementing and testing dozens of methods, and obsessively pursuing productivity for nearly 10 years.
Through this process I have read a handful of books that stand out or made a significant impact on my own approach.
These are my top five:
1. Meetings Suck by Cameron Herold
This book argues that meetings don't suck, we just suck at running them. And most would agree that's pretty accurate.
Meetings can be an epidemic that not only waste your time, but everyone else's as well. When you look at the time spent in meetings, it can be truly alarming.
I reached out to Herold for this article and he stated:
"There are 11 millions meetings every day and $37 billion wasted each year in meetings. I calculate that the average employee spends a minimum of 1 hour a day in meetings of some sort, which is 12.5 percent of their work day. When companies figure that as much as 12-25 percent of their salaries are being wasted--it's time to fix meetings for sure."
Learning how to be more productive where we spend so much of our time is a productivity breakthrough and this book is one of my personal favorites so far of 2016.
2. Getting Things Done by David Allen
This book has become a bible for many well-known executives, entrepreneurs and founders.
The core concept is based on the idea that when a task that needs to be done enters your brain, it needs to be processed and sorted.
If it is just kept in your mind, that creates an open loop and throughout the rest of the day, your brain will constantly be in a state of stress trying to make sure it does not forget to do it.
The key here is to first capture everything and then second, sort it into various categories. Finally, take time to review. For the system to work, it must constantly be reviewed.
3. The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch
This is not just the case for getting tasks done; it is a pattern that appears outside of the business world as well.
Knowing this can help you to consciously think about where your results come from and where you are simply wasting your time.
4. Zen to Done by Leo Babauta
This book was written by Leo Babauta, the well-known blogger behind ZenHabits.
Zen to Done goes even more basic than Getting Things Done--I recommend that people read both books and depending on how complex and complicated their day-to-day is, they can decide which one works best.
From what I have seen, Zen to Done is great for someone just starting their productivity journey while Getting Things Done is more advanced.
5. 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Nick Kruse
I recommend reading this book once a quarter. It takes nearly every popular productivity concept that's out there and shows you how to implement it along with providing insights for how other successful people use that specific productivity method.
For example, Richard Branson and his little black book are used as an example in one section. These tangible reference points are helpful, particularly for readers like myself who are more visual learners.
Working on productivity is a never ending job. There is no such thing as the perfectly productive individual. Like everything, it is something that requires constant attention, focus, and a strong desire for steady improvement.
Jim Rohn once said "People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing--that's why we recommend it daily."
The same goes for productivity.