By Varun Amin
It’s very difficult to build productivity during quarantine and working from home. Being “productive” for many is an elusive goal that we strive towards, but what does this look like in practice? I’ve outlined five books which have shaped my own understanding of productivity and how to increase it.
1. ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey
‘7Habits of Highly Effective People’ is a business and self-help book written by Stephen Covey. First published in 1989, the book presents a holistic approach to solve personal and professional problems. Covey articulates seven key principles, how they shift thinking and therefore everyday actions, namely:
1. Be Proactive
2. Begin with the End in Mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win-Win
5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
7. Sharpen the Saw
My Favourite Quote: “But until a person can say deeply and honestly, "I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday," that person cannot say, "I choose otherwise.” -Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change
This quote illustrates the need to take responsibility for our current positions as a result of our past actions. This kind of thinking allows us to actively shape our future.
2. ‘The 4 Hour work week’ by Timothy Ferriss
‘The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9–5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich’ (2007) is a self-help book by Timothy Ferriss, an American writer and entrepreneur. The book is a step-by-step blueprint to free yourself from the shackles of a corporate job, create a business to fund the lifestyle of your dreams, and live life like a millionaire, without actually having to be one. The book is divided into four key sections, each of which explores one of the components to lifestyle design:
1. Define your objectives
2. Eliminate distractions to free up time
3. Automate your cash flow to increase income
4. Liberate yourself from traditional expectation
My Favourite Quote: “If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”― Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek
This passage speaks about the need for self-confidence. A wise person once told me that if you don’t back yourself nobody else will, this is something I’ve found particularly true when undertaking challenging opportunities.
3. ‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ by Jordan Peterson
‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’ is a 2018 self-help book by Canadian clinical psychologist and professor Jordan Peterson. Peterson masterfully explains each rule, employing entertaining story-based examples to lay out a set of simple principles which can help us become more disciplined and balance our lives whilst enjoying them as much as possible. He lays out twelve key rules:
1. Standup straight with your shoulders back
2. Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
3. Make friends with people who want the best for you
4. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
5. Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
6. Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
7. Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
8. Tell the truth – or, at least, don't lie
9. Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't
10. Be precise in your speech
11. Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
12. Peta cat when you encounter one on the street
My Favourite Quote: “Expedience is the following of blind impulse. It’s short-term gain. It’s narrow, and selfish.”
― Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos
In this passage, Peterson is speaking about his seventh rule. He is communicating the importance of delaying gratification to pursue meaningful long-term goals over time.
4. ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear
‘Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones’ is a2018 book written by entrepreneur James Clear. Clear is an expert on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement. The book is a guide to break bad behaviours and adopt good ones in four steps, showing you how small, incremental, everyday routines compound and add up to massive, positive changeover time. The book can be broken down to the four laws of behaviour change:
1. The1st law (Cue): Make it obvious.
2. The2nd law (Craving): Make it attractive.
3. The3rd law (Response): Make it easy.
4. The4th law (Reward): Make it satisfying.
My Favourite Quote: “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” – James Clear, Atomic Habits
This extract conveys the importance of having a path by which to achieve a goal. It’s about the procedures you put in place each day step by step, to one day reach the peak of the mountain.
5. ‘Think and Grow Rich,’ by Napoleon Hill
‘Think and Grow Rich’ was written by Napoleon Hill in 1937 and promoted as a personal development and self-improvement book. Hill wrote the book based on more than twenty years of study of many individuals who had amassed personal fortunes. ‘Think and Grow Rich’ has stood the test of time and emerged as a well-respected book with lessons for anyone who wants to find their purpose in life.
The 14 "Principles" listed in the book are:
1. Thoughts are things
5. Specialized Knowledge
7. Organized Planning
10. Power of the Master Mind
11. The Mystery of Sex Transmutation
12. The Subconscious Mind
13. The Brain
14. The Sixth Sense
My Favourite Quote: “When defeat comes, accept it as a signal that your plans are not sound, rebuild those plans, and set sail once more toward your coveted goal.”
― Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich
In this quote, Hill explores the significance of failure. As humans the key to success is what we take away from these failures as learnings and how we utilise them to once again try and reach our goals.