The 10 best productivity books out there

by | May 24, 2016 | Book Reviews

Takeaway: The 10 best productivity books out there (in my opinion), in order: Getting Things Done by David Allen; The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg; The Power of Full Engagement by James Loehr and Tony Schwartz; Mindfulness In Plain English by Henepola Gunaratana; Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier; Linchpin by Seth Godin; The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor; Decisive by Chip Heath and Dan Heath; The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss; Mindset by Carol Dweck.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 58s. It’s pretty skimmable, though.

Over the last several years, especially during my productivity project, I’ve read countless books about productivity—some that were more helpful than others. When it came time to put this article together, it was very difficult to choose between them, with so many good ones out there.

But finally I picked the 10 best productivity books out there, sorted by how helpful I think you’ll find them. (Everyone’s different, of course, so take the order with a grain of salt!)

If you’re looking to expand your library of productivity books this summer, I highly recommend these. (If you click on any of the books, I get a small cut if you decide to buy it, and invest all of that money back into this site. I’ve also included a non-affiliate link below each title!)

1. Getting Things Done

 This book is a technical one, but if you’re into productivity, it’s a must-read. Its main idea is that the more tasks, projects, and commitments you get out of your head (and into some external system), the more mental clarity you’ll have throughout the day, and the more productive you’ll become. As the author, David Allen, puts it: “your head is for having ideas, not for holding them.”

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2. The Power of Habit

In my view, this is the best book on habits out there. Charles Duhigg knocked this one out of the park. The Power of Habit is a fascinating look into how habits work, and how you can both form new ones, and change the ones you already have.

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3. The Power of Full Engagement

The Power of Full Engagement

Let’s be honest, the cover of this book is pretty damn ugly. But don’t let it fool you: this book is a powerful one. Its crux is that by managing your energy intelligently, you can become more productive. It’s one of those books you’ll return to for years to come.

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4. Mindfulness In Plain English

Mindfulness In Plain English

Mindfulness and meditation are ideas that are intimidating on the surface. This book has a unique way of simplifying them both down to their most essential bits, and making them simple. It’s also available for free online.

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5. Getting Results the Agile Way

Getting Results the Agile Way

This book contains a treasure trove of strategies to simplify your life and get more done. Written by Microsoft’s Director of Business Programs, J.D. Meier, this book is eminently readable, insanely practical, and the tactics are lightweight and will help you get a lot more done without hours of planning. I highly recommend this book. (Disclaimer: the only thing I dislike about it is that it’s set in Papyrus.)

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6. Linchpin


This is my favorite book by Seth Godin, and that says quite a bit, considering how many great ones he has written. A “linchpin” is someone who is indispensable to their organization; who takes intelligent risks, overcomes their mental resistance, and gets more done than everyone else. This book serves as a great kick in the butt if you’re interested in getting more done.

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7. The Happiness Advantage

Happiness can often feel like a hippie-dippy idea, but this book has a way of simplifying it down to a practical level. It focuses on the practical things we can do every day in order to become happier and get more done. It has an angle that’s lacking in so many of the other positive psychology books out there.

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8. Decisive

DecisiveI’m a big fan of Chip and Dan Health, and this is my favorite book of theirs. It’s a book about how to make better and smarter decisions, and it also looks at what gets in the way of us making good decisions. I highly recommend it.

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9. The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek is a classic that is still incredibly relevant today. It takes many ideas to the extreme, but is a great primer on working smarter, and outsourcing elements of your work—if you have the flexibility to do so.

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10. Mindset


Mindset, by Carol Dweck, makes the compelling argument that what separates those who are successful from everyone else is that they have a “growth mindset.” This means they believe that their intelligence and skills are not fixed, and that they can improve upon them with time. The book is a bit academic, but at the same time, it’s incredibly enlightening.

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Finally, I’d probably be remiss to not mention my own book, The Productivity Project—which ties together my favorite nuggets from all of the books above, the latest productivity research, my productivity experiments, and interviews with many of the experts above, to separate what works from what doesn’t.

If you’re looking to add to your productivity library, I highly recommend these books.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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