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32. What Are Some of the Best Productivity Books To Read?

Why I hate the productivity mindset.
32. What Are Some of the Best Productivity Books To Read?
Photo by Patrick Hendry / Unsplash

Focusing on productivity can be a way to feel productive without actually being productive. Before wanting to be more productive, evaluate why you want to be so. Our culture tends to overvalue productivity at the expense of a balanced life. We are human beings are not human doings.

I used to highly value productivity. I wanted to be the best. The best artist, the best athlete, the best at university. I read books about the subject like:

This was ten years ago. If I could do it over, I would never read these books again. At least, not then. Instead, I would start doing the things I want to get better at. Why did I want to become more productive? Because I wanted to get really good at the things I enjoyed doing. Instead, I started learning how to be more productive, which made me less productive.

There is a better road to productivity and getting better at what you want to be good at.

Here are the requirements:

  1. Check out Warren Buffet's 5/25 productivity rule. Essentially, list your top 25 goals in order of importance. Then, drop the last 20. Forget about them entirely. Your life is finite, and you must focus your efforts.
  2. Do the things you want to get better at even if you’re not good at them. The problem with the productivity optimization craze is that you tend to forget what exactly you were trying to get good at in the first place...
  3. Create habits, no matter how small. Developing solid self-discipline lays the groundwork for astronomical improvements.
  4. Throw away your to-do lists.

Last year, I got the idea of running my own non-official Iron Man triathlon. I had always been athletic, but that was a long shot. I had never really swam. I didn’t start reading books or watching videos about how to swim better. Instead, I swam often, and a lot. I had a difficult time breathing and swallowed a lot of water. I spent a lot of time developing a feel for my body through the water, transforming frustration into motivation, testing changes to my techniques and creating my own exercises. Learning by myself forced me to dig deeper into my natural abilities. I developed my creativity, self-discipline and humility, key aspects to becoming a great learner.

When I finally exhausted my creativity and felt like I was plateauing, I asked for feedback from the lifeguards and watched YouTube videos on swimming techniques. Had I asked for explanations before carrying out my own exploration of the subject, my intuition and understanding of what needed to improve to make me a better swimmer would have been poor.

I believe the same to be true for any endeavour. First, learn by playing with the subject or skill — injecting enjoyment into it, then create a small habit to do that on a daily basis, and before you know it, your small habit will grow, you will get better at it, and then, if you want, you can read books about how to optimize your productivity. When you love what you are learning, you open the door to natural productivity. And by developing your own approach to a subject, you know how to enjoy it.

If you don’t currently have an activity you are working on daily, there is no need to optimize your approach to it. First, start. Then optimize.