“I don’t have enough time to do what I need to do!”
“I feel stuck, frozen”
“I had no idea this program would be so much work!”
Have you ever felt this way?
Everyone struggles with finding enough time and energy to finish their work. Graduate students are especially stressed with balancing program requirements, work outside of the program, and family.
I’ve used the books below to improve my own productivity and time management strategies, reduce my stress, and increase my happiness.
The most important investment you can make is to develop yourself. These books are a cheap, easy, and enjoyable way to do so.
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1. Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business
Smarter, Faster, Better explores a whole bunch of productivity strategies and techniques through story narrative, interviews, and a straight forward and readable presentation of current research into productivity topics.
I found that the book changed the way I think about:
- Decision making, both conscious and unconscious
- Time management and setting goals
- Building teams that can work together
His writing is easy to read and understand, in a similar presentation style to Malcolm Gladwell.
2. The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
The One Thing goes deep into the idea of focusing on the most important step that will significantly impact your progress and chance of success.
I found the ideas and strategies put forward by Gary Keller to be extremely useful in my own work as an engineer. I have a lot of projects going on at the same time and it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lost within all of the tasks clamoring for my attention. Pre-deciding what is my most important goals and tasks for a week and focusing on them first has dramatically increased my own productivity and decreased my stress while working on projects.
Tools of Titans is probably the best personal development book that I’ve read in the last few years.
The book is written based on notes from several hundred interviews with successful people from a wide variety of industries. The author Tim Ferriss extracts the most powerful ideas and strategies from each interviewee and presents them in a short profile.
The book is focused on actionable steps to increase effectiveness, happiness, and health. It is designed to be consumed in short bursts and then simply applied, so you can benefit from the book without dedicating a lot of time.
Every time I read it I come away with something to improve myself and my work.
The Power of Habit is another great book by Charles Duhigg, especially if you are struggling with bad habits that you want to get rid of or you want to create new habits that will improve your chances of success and satisfaction
I listened to this book in audio format during my work commute and really enjoyed the stories he used to explain to anchor the main ideas. I’ve been reevaluating some of my behaviors based on the book content, and I’ve already cut out some habits that were wasting my time and my mental energy at work (namely checking email compulsively, stopping myself in the middle of tasks to get coffee or re-check my to-do list, among others).
Eat that Frog! is a very tactical book with 21 strategies for getting more done in less time. It’s not as interesting as the Charles Duhigg books or The One Thing because it doesn’t have a larger narrative to go along with its ideas, but if you are looking for some quick tips on productivity then you might find it very useful.
The main idea I took away from the book is the idea expressed in the title, eat that frog! It’s the idea of choosing the biggest, most intimidating task as your first priority instead of doing smaller things first. I’ve found it helpful when creating Stretch and SMART goals for my projects.
Getting Things Done is one of the most famous productivity books. It’s very tactical and specific. If you are looking for a detailed productivity method, then this might work for you. It didn’t connect with me that much because I was looking for mindset and grand strategy level help, not specifically detailed methods.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People is one of the most popular books of all time about improving yourself on a professional and personal level.
The habits discussed in the book are:
- Be Proactive: Take responsibility and know you’re in charge
- Begin with the end in mind: Have an end goal
- Put first things first: Do important and non-urgent things first
- Think Win-Win: Find situations where everyone wins
- Seek first to understand, then to be understood: Listen before you start talking
- Synergize: 1 + 1 = 3
- Sharpen the saw: Invest in yourself for the best ROI