If you want to succeed in life, you will need to learn how to be more efficient. Time is your most valuable resource, whether you realize it or not. The more successful you become, the more you will learn to value your time.
In an effort to squeeze more time out of each day, you really only have two options. You can:
- work longer hours or
- become more efficient with the time you have.
At first glance, I’m sure most of you would agree that becoming more efficient is the better solution. Nonetheless, I am flabbergasted by the amount of time people waste through poor prioritization, poor work ethic, poor systems, and/or just plain laziness.
This appears to be especially rampant in salaried W-2 jobs. Often times, employees strive to do the least amount of work without getting fired. There is not much of an incentive for them to stay late or accomplish more, because their pay remains the same. With the exception of the rare go-getter who is trying to be promoted, most people will do the minimum required each day and leave as early as possible.
Why You Should Care About Reading Productivity Books
As an entrepreneur, you will need to stop thinking this way. Instead, you will need to attack each day with the mindset of, “How can I get the most work done in the least amount of time?”
This will effectively double, triple, or more the amount of work you get done each day and help you move the needle forward faster.
Bill Gates was once quoted saying, “I always choose a lazy person to do a hard job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
Plainly put, you can either work harder or work smarter (read: more efficiently). Following are some of the books that helped me start thinking more efficiently and being more productive.
The Best Books on Improving Productivity
1. The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
This was the first book I ever read about efficiency, and it absolutely changed my mindset on work. I had always considered myself to be a hard worker but had never taken the time to become more efficient. A prime example is that I was spending one or two hours each week transferring information from one format to another at work for my boss.
After reading this book, I was able to figure out a way to format an Excel document so that when the information from the first form was inserted, it would automatically crank out the information I needed for the second form. Granted, it took me three or four hours to build this Excel form, but once completed, it saved me at least an hour every single week. The old me would have never thought to take a few hours to create this form.
The name of the game with the four-hour workweek is to outsource things you can outsource and build systems to streamline or replace other tasks to eliminate the amount of time you need to spend working on each item.
2. The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch
The Pareto Principle, better known as the 80/20 principle, was named by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto noted that for many events, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
This original observation was in connection with population and wealth. Pareto noticed that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. He then noticed this principle held true with other countries and other segments of life.
This is a very useful principle to acknowledge, especially when streamlining your company. Perhaps 80% of your profit comes from 20% of your customers or 20% of your products. You could then eliminate the other customers/products and focus on growing the 80% that is more efficient.
I like to use this principle as it pertains to outsourcing. I try to outsource the 80% of tasks that don’t yield big results and focus my time and energy on the 20% of tasks that do. The more of your time you can focus on the most important 20% of your business, the more successful your business will be.
3. The ONE Thing by Gary Keller
Multitasking is a lie. For some reason, people have bought into the idea that they can (successfully) complete multiple tasks at the same time and yield the same (or better) results than if they had been focusing on one thing at a time. Unfortunately, that just isn’t true.
The One Thing explains that you should focus on the one thing that will help you move the needle closer to your goal. Think: “What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
This a great question for honing the process of taking simple, calculated steps toward achieving your goals. Ultimately, you need to focus on the most important next step and then tackle it daily.
4. Deep Work by Cal Newport
Deep Work, authored by the renowned Cal Newport, is a book that I wish to implement more and more in my life. I have taken a few of its ideas to heart and try to find more time to lock myself away for deep work.
The idea is simple: When you eliminate distractions, you can accomplish great things. The book breaks this down into four different strategies for creating time to get into deep work (also sometimes referred to as “flow”). Ultimately, it is important for you to find time to lock yourself away from all distractions, put your head down, and focus on completing tasks.
I like to do this whenever I’m feeling foggy. I’ll go sit in a quiet park with nothing but a yellow legal pad and a pen. There I’ll sit, brainstorming, writing, thinking, and focusing until the ideas start flowing—and they always do. One of these days, I would like to take a week to lock myself away in a cabin and really focus on nothing besides deep work. I think the value of this strategy is immense.
On the surface, this probably doesn’t seem very efficient. Locking yourself away from the world to think. I can assure you from personal experience that it is. You need to spend time thinking, strategizing, planning, and focusing if you want to move the needle forward in your life.
5. Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
This entire book (that’s very short) is about one concept: To “eat the frog” is to start your day with the biggest, most important, and most dreaded task. This is the task you’re most likely to procrastinate on. While simple, this concept truly ensures your days will be much more productive.
6. Anything Lean Six Sigma by Michael George, et al.
The Lean Six Sigma series is a process of continual improvement. You can earn different belts as you move through it: white, yellow, green, black, etc. These are sought-after achievements by a lot of large corporate organizations because employees with such training can save a company millions through system optimization.
Made popular by Toyota, Lean Six Sigma concepts enabled the company to streamline assembly lines and factory workflow. These same principles can be applied to many things throughout your life, so it is definitely worth studying.
If you are in the military, I highly recommend that you attend at least the yellow and green belt Lean Six Sigma courses offered. The military will pay for these, and you will learn how to problem-solve for efficiency with systems. Not only are these courses fun, but they have the potential to be extremely valuable.
The Bottom Line
The more efficient you are as a person, the better off you’ll be in life. You’ll be able to accomplish more in less time, and that is a true win-win proposition!
Implement the Japanese principle of Kai-Zen, which translates to “continuous improvement.” The more you study efficiency and the more efficient you become, the more you will accomplish each day.
- Focus on the most important next step.
- Do the hard things first every day.
- Outsource tasks that aren’t worth your energy.
- Plan your day, week, month in advance.
- Spend time in deep work/thought.
Just a 1% difference every day equates to well over a 300% return at the end of the year. And that is quite the improvement. Work smarter, not harder!
What other books would you add to this list? Podcasts? Blogs?
Share in the comment section below.