Productive Reading: 5 Books to Increase Productivity

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One of the hottest trends in business books today is the “less is more” philosophy of improved workplace productivity. Its roots can be traced back to Stephen R. Covey’s seminal work in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People habits 2 (“Begin with the End in Mind”) and 3 (“Put First Things First”). In a nutshell, the philosophy holds that we face constant noise competing for our time and energy. If you do not actively choose your priority, someone else will set it for you. The following is a quick summary of the approaches I found to be most effective.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People By Stephen R. Covey

As already mentioned, this book and its progeny are a great starting point.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

There are several reasons to like this book: short, simple read; powerful and usable principles; and a fresh graphic aesthetic to the text. The One Thing can be summed up by their power question called the “Focusing Question: What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary.” Ask that question throughout your day, and you will find yourself executing on high-leverage priorities naturally.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less By Greg McKeown

McKeown uses the term “less but better.” Similar to the other books, he focuses on what he calls the “essential” few over the noise. This book is more complex than The One Thing and provides an interesting analytical system of how to prioritize time.

The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months By Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

In this book, the authors break up the year into four strategic 12-week goal setting blocks (each 13th week is an off week). The strategy is to pick the few goals achievable in a 12-week period that most move the needle. The system is focused on disciplined action required to achieve the goals by quarter end. Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance by Dr. Jason Selk provides a similar system, which focuses on the processes (actions) required to achieve a few important product goals.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business By Gino Wickman

Traction provides an overall operating system for running a business. One of the great aspects to this system, and there are many, is that it focuses the business on certain essential priorities called “Big Rocks” that are executed quarterly. Using a systematic approach, leaders are able to tackle the issues and rocks in a disciplined fashion through focus and group accountability. We have used this system with great success, and I can say from personal experience it is a very effective way to run a business.

In our experience, it is truly possible to be more effective while doing less. But it requires you to be ruthless about your priorities and how you spend your time and energy. This approach paradoxically creates a messy work environment temporarily while you pursue your “one thing.” That trade off — tolerating a temporary backlog while you execute on the most important priority — is essential to the “less is more” philosophy.

Read more blogs by author: Darin M. Klemchuk


The Culture Counts blog is a discussion of law firm culture and legal innovation, including topics such as effective leadership, employee engagement, workplace culture, ideal work environment, company core values, and workplace productivity.  

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