The 5 Best Productivity Books To Motivate You in 2021

Looking for the best books on productivity? Then you’re in the right place!

My definition of “productivity” is getting more done in less time or with less effort. And who doesn’t want that?

Becoming more productive means conquering our procrastination, getting organized, and learning time management. Why? So we can avoid feeling overwhelmed, stressed or powerless. It’s not really about working longer or harder, but working better so we can accomplish more and reach our #goals faster.

But there’s a problem: Every year, countless productivity books are published. So how do we know which ones to invest time in reading?

Good news—I’ve done the research for you! I looked through hundreds of book reviews and dozens of reading guides to find the true all-time winners. (Yes, really! Check a few of our sources at the bottom.)

We discovered there is no ONE productivity book that is best for everyone, so we chose the best book in five separate categories:

1. Best for Habits: Atomic Habits by James Clear

Atomic Habits is a guide to building good habits and breaking bad ones. James Clear says all our habits follow a 4-Step Habit Loop which includes: cue, craving, response and reward. He explains practical techniques to "hack" each step so we can achieve lasting personal change.

Reviewers Say:

Positive: People found the book comprehensive, actionable, and focused on specific tips that really work.
Criticism: Some were disappointed that it didn't contain more new and original ideas.

There’s an old saying that I love: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Being more productive is not about feeling a burst of motivation for an hour. It is about biting off a little more of our goals every day… until we’ve eaten that elephant. (Whether our elephant is writing a book, starting a business or learning to play guitar.)

James Clear writes a blog about productivity that is popular and fantastic, but it has hundreds of separate articles! This book Atomic Habits takes the most important things he knows about productivity and condenses them into one practical framework. The online reviews for this book don’t lie: these tips really work!

2. Best for Students: Deep Work by Cal Newport

Deep Work is about focusing deeply so you can thrive in your professional career. Cal Newport says reducing distractions and increasing our ability to concentrate will allow us to learn new skills faster and produce higher quality work.

Reviewers Say:

Positive: People love the many actionable tips for avoiding shallow work, focusing deeply, and avoiding all the modern digital distractions.
Criticism: Some say the book could have been much shorter, and it spent too much time arguing for the importance of focus, which most people already agree with.

Here is something that I’m sick of hearing and you probably are too: We live in an age of distraction. But it’s true! Today our attention is being hijacked endlessly by newsfeeds, notifications and algorithms.

Cal Newport says the most reliable way for us to become successful in this environment is by going against these trends. That means learning to focus deeply on one task for long periods of time, which allows us to produce work that is more complex and valuable. (Which he labels “deep work.”)

Let me put it this way: Mark Zuckerberg didn’t become a billionaire by using social media, but by coding his own social media platform. And that took many, many hours of deep focus. Not scrolling endlessly through 5-second videos about funny cats.

If you’re a student, then deep focus means you can learn faster, get better grades, and spend less time studying. If you’re a professional, then you’ll benefit even more because “deep work” appears to be getting more valuable at the same time that it is becoming more rare. It’s supply and demand, baby!

3. Best for Entrepreneurs: The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

The 4-Hour Workweek is about escaping the default 9-5 rat race and designing your ideal lifestyle. Tim Ferriss says we can improve our productivity by eliminating, automating and outsourcing the work we don't enjoy. He also shows how to build a passive income business to fully liberate our time.

Reviewers Say:

Positive: People liked that the ideas challenged their old ways of thinking. They also learned many useful tips for streamlining their work lives.
Criticism: Some people were annoyed by the author's self promotion and tone. They believe the ideas in the book are unrealistic for everyone to follow.

The promise of The 4-Hour Workweek sounds way too good to be true: Quit your job and start making magical automatic internet money, working just 4 hours a week beside some tropical beach!

Yeah right, buddy!

Okay, I don’t think it’s possible for everyone… but I was able to make it work and have been living from that magical internet money for over 10 years. (But I just work from my apartment or a local cafe because I don’t want sand in my laptop!)

In my opinion, the tips in this book for choosing and testing a business idea are absolute gold. Tim Ferris explains that it’s not enough to do something we’re passionate about, we also need to make sure there is a demand for it!

4. Best for Time Management: Getting Things Done by Robert Allen

Getting Things Done is a system to help us be more organized and productive. It basically turned into a popular movement during the early 2000's. David Allen says we can feel in control of our busy work lives, simply by learning to manage our daily tasks effectively.

Reviewers Say:

Positive: People found the system effective for getting more done and feeling less overwhelmed.
Criticism: Some thought the book could have been shorter, especially the newer edition which talks more about theory.

Is your life so busy that you feel overwhelmed? Are you having trouble keeping track of all the little things you need to get done? Then here’s the book for you!

Getting Things Done teaches a very specific system for how to organize all our tasks so we know exactly what we need to work on every day. (Personally, I found the book a little dry, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s meant to help us clean up our messy lives, not to be super entertaining.)

My favourite idea from David Allen was to ALWAYS have a “Next Action Step” for each of my projects, so I know exactly what the next step forward is. This removes a lot of the uncertainty and indecision that can lead to procrastination. A simple but powerful “hack.”

5. Best for Motivation: Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins

Can't Hurt Me is a guide to building mental toughness, and it's also the motivational life story of David Goggins. When he was young David survived abuse and racism, but later he transformed himself into a Navy SEAL, ultramarathon runner, and world record holder.

Reviewers Say:

Positive: Readers loved the practical tools for overcoming challenges and Goggins' real-life stories.
Criticism: Some didn't like the bad language and felt that Goggins pursues pain to an unhealthy level.

Are you just looking for a kick in the pants to get moving? Then here’s the book for you!

I love that Can’t Hurt Me is mostly a collection of stories from David Goggins’ life. It’s almost like you’re there with him while he was transforming himself into a Navy SEAL and ultramarathon runner.

He shares brutal details about how he pushed himself past his old limits for pain and exhaustion. It makes you believe that *you too* are capable of far more than you thought.


Sources

  1. Goodreads – Productivity Books Shelves
  2. Amazon Best Sellers in Self-Help
  3. Five Books – The best books on Productivity recommended by David Allen
  4. Entrepreneur – 15 of the Best Time Management and Productivity Books of All Time
  5. NY Mag – The 10 Best Books on Productivity, According to People Who Get Things Done
  6. Verywell Mind – The 7 Best Motivational Books of 2021, According to Mental Health Experts
  7. Reddit – What is the best productivity-related book you read in 2020?
  8. LifeHack – 30 Best Productivity Books You Should Read To Boost Your Productivity
  9. Skyprep – Top 6 Productivity Books You Should Read in 2021
  10. Tameday – The 10 Best Books on Productivity You Should Read in 2020
  11. The Art of Living – The 70 Best Books on Time Management
  12. Monday – Top 10 productivity books you must read in 2021
  13. Rick Kettner – The 5 Best Productivity Books For Entrepreneurs To Read
  14. Awesome Coffee – 10 Best Productivity Books for 2021
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