You knew this post was coming, if you’ve been following my blog or my Instagram channel for a while now.
I’m a self-professed fan of all things productivity and an avid reader too.
A couple of years ago, I decided to check out non-fiction books on all things to do with business, management and productivity and in August of 2019, I even did a series on my Instagram page.
I called it #21DaysofNonFiction and it very quickly became one of the most-followed series on my channel.
It was amazing to see how many people were actually reading non fiction and I figured this would also be a great place to compile it all for easy reference.
So, let’s begin.
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Atomic Habits by James Clear
This book by James Clear is the only book I’d recommend if you’re looking to build habits that last.
If you’ve ever started a habit, stopped it mid way and never found the inclination to pick it up again, this book is for you.
Following these tips helped me kick start and maintain my fitness routine from October 2019.
It was something I struggled with for the longest time. This book changed everything!
WHY I LOVE IT:
📘 It’s practical
📘 It breaks habits down into small, actionable, atomic tips
📘 It helps you understand exactly why you are unable to stick with habits and what you must do to change that
📘It has a chapter summary at the end of each section which highlights the most important takeaways from each part.
📘The tone is so wonderfully conversational and non-condescending.
Just get a copy today and thank me later.
Deep Work by Cal Newport
If I had to pick my go-to person for deep, distraction-free focus, that would be Cal Newport and his book, ‘Deep Work’.
I stumbled across this book two years ago and it was just a few months before I decided to switch gears from being a regular blogger to a digital marketer and entrepreneur.
This book came at the EXACT time that it was meant for me.
Struggling as I was with social media overwhelm and a to-do list that looked longer than those encyclopedias in the library, I was frenzied and my Type A personality wouldn’t find peace!
But this book changed everything.
WHY I LOVE IT:
📘 It put things back into perspective for me, when it came to being focused and creative.
📘 It taught me to critically evaluate where I was wasting time and how I could avoid it.
📘 It even made me look past the veneer of social media ‘likes’ and the comparison game and focus only on the meaningful interactions. (Did you know that Newport himself is not on ANY social media channel? And yet his blog and books have a fabulous readership!)
📘It reminded me of a time before technology and how I was able to do reams of research and get tons of work done. Newport explains how to do that even in the age of distraction.
📘 I credit this book completely with my shift away from using social media as a diversion and using it intentionally and in a limited manner.
Get your copy here today:
Ikigai by Hector Garcia and Albert Liebermann
The next book I recommend is ‘Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life’.
I confess I hadn’t heard of this book but a dear friend insisted on sending me this book (along with two others), because she’s that kind of a person.
And oh my word, what a beautiful book it is!
Ikigai is the Japanese term for two terms combined: ‘iki’ meaning Life or alive and ‘kai’ which means an effect or a result. The combined sound of ‘Ikigai’ stands for ‘A reason for living well’.
If ever there was a book to help you step back, slow down and contemplate on the meaning of life, this would be it.
The pace is unhurried and that is exactly how you should read the book. Not in a single sitting but over a week or ten days.
Savour each chapter, make notes, write things down when they touch a chord.
Ikigai helps you understand so many beautiful things in the sheer simplicity in which it’s conveyed. In an increasingly cynical world, we all need ikigai.
When you find your Ikagai, you’d know that this is what is meant to be.
And you’d realise that productivity isn’t about getting more and more done in a short period of time.
It’s how you use the time given to you in a wise and unhurried manner.
Thrive by Arianna Huffington
Almost everyone would be familiar with Arianna Huffington, the owner of Huffington Post and more recently, Thrive Global.
But it was her book, ‘Thrive’ that connected with me, more than anything else I’ve ever read on her portal.
A little background about me before I dive into why I liked this book.
All through school and college, I was a night-owl. I’d pull all-nighters, burn the midnight oil, survive on 4 hours or sleep or less and get through the day.
And for the longest time, it seemed to work.
Then, 2001 came around. I continued to do the same thing post marriage: work through the night on notes for my classes ( I was a teacher), stay up to catch up on assignments to grade and learning again to survive on 3 hours of sleep.
Between work, a new home, a new marriage and everything else, things spiralled out of control.
Anyway, cut to many years later and I stumbled upon this book when I needed it the most. It touches upon a number of topics and some people have critiqued it as a mish-mash of topics.
But, for me, personally, the thing that stuck and stayed with me was her emphasis on good, sound sleep.
🔔 It was after this that I switched to being a morning person.
🔔 I stopped checking my phone in bed.
🔔 I stopped looking at screens beyond what was necessary.
If you’re okay with self-help books with an emphasis on sleep, then this one is for you.
Quiet by Susan Cain
‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a world that can’t stop talking’ is a lovely, research-backed look into the power of introverts in a world that is filled with noise of all kinds.
Susan Cain wrote it in 2012 and in the same year gave a TED talk on the topic of the power of introverts.
As an introverted child for the most part of my life, I’ve always wondered how I’m able to currently reconcile that part of my personality with the ‘teacher’ in me.
While the former prefers her solitude, the latter thrives on interaction and engagement.
I also prefer going on my walks alone. I don’t mind the occasional companion when it’s someone who truly gets my vibe and who can match my walking pace.
Working from home? Again, I love the peace and space it gives me over anything else. But I do enjoy catching up with friends, ex-colleagues, ex-students and fellow bloggers.
‘Quiet’ then is a look into two things: The power of introversion and the way the ambivert in you can thrive in a world of extroversion.
Who Should Read It:
😇It is a book for every person who’s ever wondered if being quiet was okay.
😇 It taps into the recesses of silence and shows us what power there is in introversion.
😇If you’ve ever wondered how a person can be animated in a small group but quiet in a larger one, this book explains why.
It’s a book I’ll treasure and read again every time I’m unsettled by the noise without and seek the calm within.
The One Thing
This may probably the only book I bought in the shortest period of time (from the moment I heard about it to purchasing it).
I read about in a post about productivity on James Clear’s website (you know who this is by now: The author of ‘Atomic Habits’ ) and I was hooked from the description.
I clicked through from the article, opened my Amazon app and bought the book. That’s it!
You should also know that I’d follow James Clear to the ends of the earth when he talks about things like productivity.
And MAN! I was NOT disappointed.
The One Thing talks about finding your focus and laser-pinpointing it to ONE thing at a time.
When I think back over the last two years and study what has worked for me in the blogging space, it is actually this principle.
📌When I began working on Pinterest, I did ONLY that to the exclusion of everything else.
📌When I started working on my Instagram account in June this year, I completely shut myself off from Twitter and my Facebook pages.
Pinterest is now something I can create, schedule, set and forget in just one hour per week!
Instagram, well as some of you make know, I’ve been seeing consistent follower growth since the beginning of June,2019! I was at 1875 followers on June 21st, 2019.
A year later, I am at 3600 engaged followers.
In an age where we are struggling with abundant distractions, multiple notifications and ideas that pull you in every direction, stop and take a deep breath.
Slow down and focus on your One thing.
This book explains exactly how to do that.
The Life changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo
I fell in love with the idea of tidying up, much before it became a Netflix show.
👘Kondo begins with a history of tidying and why she felt drawn to it, even as a child. Honestly, I could only partly relate to this bit because as a child I was more drawn to reading than anything else.
But there was something in the way she spoke of it that compelled me to keep reading.
👘As the book progresses, she outlines why tidying is an important part of one’s life and why we must make place in our homes to breathe. This applies to everything that we possess.
“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” Marie Kondo
I can’t quite explain what this quote does for me, because I can feel it in my bones.
👘 In the same way that letting go of relationships or bad memories makes you feel lighter, letting go of physical clutter is like a heavy rock that has been lifted from your shoulders.
I’ve seen this happen every time I move homes.
That sense of freshness when I walk into an empty house, that sense of lightness when I see those boxes of things to be donated or given away- that is a feeling quite unlike any other.
Tidying up also has a direct impact on your productivity.
The less clutter you own in the physical sense, the less stressed you will be mentally and intellectually.
You’d observe that by following these tips, you naturally tend to find more space (literally and figuratively) for the things that truly matter in your life.
Grit by Anglea Duckworth
Grit is the first book I read in 2019 and I am more than glad that I did.
In a manner that reinforces the concept of passion plus perseverance, Angela Duckworth explains why we all need grit in our lives.
I especially liked the chapter on Grit in Parenting as it shares some interesting insights into the differences between authoritative and kind parenting as well as parallels that can be drawn from both approaches.
Studies fascinate me and they awaken a sort of latent researcher within, whom I never fully explored until last year.
There is, of course, the mild tendency to repeat herself that Duckworth falls into, but in some places it’s necessary to drive the point home.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway is that grit is something that can be learned, cultivated and nurtured, even if you’re not from a privileged background.
And that true grit is what helps us through our failures, making us get up over and over again.
The One Hour Content Plan by Meera Kothand
This recommendation is pretty exclusively for bloggers and solopreneurs.
I first came across Meera Kothand in October 2017, when I was planning to launch my email newsletter.
From her simple tutorials to her in-depth assistance, I was completely taken up by how she took e-mail and turned it into a marketing miracle. All of this without sounding pushy or sales-y.
I sent out a tentative mail to her with a newbie question and I was both thrilled and touched when she got back to me personally! That did it for me.
Anyone who takes the trouble to engage with you, despite their busy schedule: Those people are GOLD! Take my word for it.
When it comes to email marketing, while I follow a lot of people and their advice, I consider Meera the absolute authority on the subject.
Then, in October 2018, I bought a bundle of digital courses and e-books called the Ultimate Genius Bloggers’ ToolKit. This book was included in it.
It was the very first book of hers that I read and I was HOOKED! Such simple, actionable tips that she takes and transforms into an idea-generation machine!
After that, I started buying everything she brought out! To date, I have bought her:
📕 Create Editorial Planner (THIS IS A DREAM PLANNER)
📕 Your First 100 (How to build an audience of raving fans)
📕 But I’m not an expert
📕 300 Email Marketing Tips
And I recommend EVERY SINGLE ONE of those books. No kidding.
Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
While ‘Deep Work’ is for how to get deeper focus at work, ‘digital minimalism’ is for every single one of us and our ongoing relationship with tech.
Digital Minimalism shares something we all need: A philosophy on how to engage with technology in the right way.
Not by completely swearing off it or using tips and tricks and hacks to curb your impulses, but by an intentional, mindful approach to the idea of social media and technology itself.
It’s a concept on which I have built the foundation of my business as well as my blog’s rebranding.
It’s why I spend more time offline than on social media, which is responsible for my bread and butter.
Confused? You won’t be, if you read this book.
Getting Things Done by David Allen
His book on getting things done is a sort of a Bible for many writers in the productivity space.
The principles here have been expanded upon and elaborated by many other people.
In fact, even Leo Babauta, one of my favourite writers and the author of the popular website Zen Habits wrote the book ‘Zen to Done’ based loosely on the principles espoused in this book.
While it isn’t as anecdotal as James Clear’s book or as easy to read as The One Thing, it has some excellent points you can draw upon.
Pick this one up if you’re okay with a bit of research-based writing.
Do It Today by Darius Foroux
Do it Today’ by Darius Foroux is a 118-page non-fiction book on the reason why we should not procrastinate and how to stop doing it.
It’s actually a compilation and edited/updated versions of multiple blog posts of his with rather effective insights into the art of doing things now.
💙WHAT I ENJOYED💙
The no-nonsense approach. Foroux is very straightforward in his writing and I appreciated one of his earliest disclaimers in the book: ‘Read the book however you want’.
Simple, practical and actionable tips with examples to back up what he says.
Relatability. He shares anecdotes from his own life, always a good thing when you write non-fiction. (James Clear does this spectacularly well, by the way!)
Productivity and handling procrastination are like fitness- lifestyle choices and setting routines in place. He teaches you how to do that.
Habit Stacking by S.J. Scott
I came upon this particular book after reading Atomic Habits.
Habit Stacking: 127 Small Changes to Improve your Health, Wealth and Happiness is a book that can be read in installments.
And the thing I particularly loved about it was how he went into the idea of Habit stacking with specific examples to help you apply it in your own life.
When you read the book you might think, ‘Wait, this is common sense. I am pretty sure I do most of it anyway.’
But you’d be surprised to learn that the most obvious of habits are the ones we tend to ignore or overlook.
Most people who read this book come away with a better insight into how to manage their time effectively by taking it in small doses.
Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
If you’ve been in the productivity space for any length of time, you’d be familiar with Brian Tracy and his famous ‘Eat that Frog’ concept.
Effectively, it comes down to picking the largest frog or the most intimidating task for the day and finishing it first thing in the morning.
Doing so will not only have a positive impact on your life and your results.
It will also ensure that you don’t procrastinate on the important task.
As a blogger, that could be anything from writing quality content on your blog, creating a sales funnel for your product or writing out your social media marketing strategy for the week ahead.
First things out of the box, tackle this task and the rest of the tasks flow in easy synchrony.
A must-read book, this one.
Note: If you’re based in India and would like to buy any of these books, head over to my Amazon India shop here and pick them up.