10 productivity books that let you earn back time

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 24s. It’s pretty skimmable, though.


Podcast Length: 29 minutes, 30s (link to play podcast at bottom of post).

The Amazon links below are affiliate links—I get a cut of sales. I’ll be donating what I make to the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The best productivity books more than pay for themselves: they teach you how to save time, so you more than earn back the time you spend inside them. So which productivity books will help you out the most?

Here are 10 of my absolute favorites—with a mini review of each one, with what you’ll get out of reading each book.

Getting Things Done, by David Allen

 Mini Review: Getting Things Done is bigger than a book—   it’s a bona fide movement. If you find it hard to focus   because your mind is cluttered—with tasks, commitments,   and other obligations—pick this book up. 

 Also worthwhile: the Getting Things Done Workbook, which   serves as a good companion to the main book. 

Linchpin, by Seth Godin

 Mini Review: This book will teach you how to stand out at   work—regardless of whether you work for someone or for   yourself. Linchpin provides you with a blueprint for   becoming indispensable, regardless of what your “art”   happens to be.

I Know How She Does It, by Laura Vanderkam

 Mini Review: The concept behind this book is fascinating:   Laura Vanderkam pored through the detailed time logs of   highly-successful women who have kids at home, who also   make over $100,000 a year. In the book, she shares the tips   she learned from these women, including the importance of   sleep, and what time wasters they didn’t invest in (like   watching hardly any TV).

Off the Clock, by Laura Vanderkam

 Mini Review: Another fantastic book from Laura   Vanderkam, Off the Clock makes the case that, regardless of   how busy we are, we have more time than we think we do. I   walked away with countless strategies for developing     deeper relationships and indulging in more intentional   relaxation.

Deep Work, by Cal Newport

 Mini Review: Deep Work digs into how we should structure   our days in order to be most productive—and makes the   compelling case that, when we do knowledge work for a   living, the ability to focus on cognitively-demanding tasks is   one of the most powerful skills we can develop. This book i   isn’t just worth reading once—it’s worth reading each time   you find yourself surrounded by an increased number of   distractions.

I’m not a fan of when authors include their own books in these roundups, so I don’t. If you’re looking for some reading beyond the books on this list, though, here’s a link to my books!

The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigal

 Mini Review: As Kelly McGonigal explores in the book,   stress is not always a bad thing—if harnessed correctly,   stressful situations can lead us to experience a more   meaningful life. The Upside of Stress is an engaging,   counterintuitive book that will change how you think about   stress—as well as the challenges you face in general.

How Not to Die, by Michael Greger

 Mini Review: This book may add years to your life. In How   Not to Die, Michael Greger explores the foods we should be     eating in order to live the longest—and everything in the   book is backed up by scores of academic research. This is   what makes Greger’s books unique: he starts with the   science, and works backwards to how we should live our   lives in order to take advantage of the latest research.

Atomic Habits, by James Clear

 Mini Review: If you’re able to buy just one book about   habits, make it Atomic Habits. This book provides you with a   comprehensive overview of how habits work, and the latest   science behind forming new habits and breaking old ones—   Atomic Habits is one of the most comprehensive guides to   forming new habits available.

Rapt, by Winnifred Gallagher

 Mini Review: This book, by Winnifred Gallagher, explores   how we can manage our attention in order to become   happier. Years after reading Rapt, its lessons stick with me. If   you’re looking for ways to become more present in your life,   this book is a great place to start.

Mindset, by Carol Dweck

 Mini Review: Mindset, by Carol Dweck, is another classic   productivity book. It explores how we can develop a “growth   mindset”—how we can see ourselves as someone capable of   great change. The book not only digs into what a growth   mindset is, it also explores how we can develop one in our   own lives.

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