Do you feel like a chicken with its head cut off most days. Well I did too. Until I was introduced to time management and productivity books. Now I read them all the time to find new hacks to get more done in a day. Here are 4 books that really helped me out.
I don’t know about you, but there just never seems to be enough hours in a day. I just want to do ALL THE THINGS and quite frankly the idea of compromising or giving something up just doesn’t jive with my goal oriented and over achiever type of personality.
I want to cook everything from scratch, work out daily, mediate daily, spend meaningful time with my kids PLUS build a business that involves marketing on social media, writing weekly articles and newsletters, help out clients through career coaching and resume writing and more. Never mind the fact that I also have a part time job Career Transitioning, have to deal with all the admin associated with running a business and want some semblance of a social life!
I know that it is impossible to do all of that all the time, but I want to at least try my hardest to become my most efficient self so that I can tick off a ton of boxes every day. As an information gatherer and a reader, it comes as no surprise that I have probably read every Time Management and Productivity book on the market. So my time management is a hodge podge of all of these ideas that I’ve learnt but my system is one that also changes all the time depending on the week and my life at that moment.
Here are four books that really made an impact on my life, ones that I feel have allowed me to get more things done in a day.
1. The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
This is the very first book I read about productivity about 10 years ago when I was laid off from my agency recruiting job. Back then I wrote most of the ideas off as I didn’t think it really applied to me. But there were a few things I did implement and took to heart.
I loved his concept of the “New Rich” how your total take home salary isn’t how you should define your worth. In order to be a New Rich person, you need to create a life you WANT. This really resonated with me at the time as I was in the process of interviewing for a job I really wanted (Corporate Recruiter), only 5 minutes away from my house. But it was going to be a big pay cut. This book sparked a great conversation with husband in terms of what we value most. Money wasn’t at the top of the list, not even close. We also did the calculation and the hourly rate really wasn’t that different when you took into account the hours and money saved from not commuting and extra time at the office. So when the offer did come through it was an easy yes, and saying goodbye to the stress and the commute more than made up for the loss of some money.
Some specific time management tools of his I have implemented over the years are figuring how much time it really takes to complete a task and sticking to it, finding a way to eliminate meetings (or a way to join in remotely), and outsourcing/delegating the tasks you are able to.
When I am at my most productive, I’m following some of his ideas – don’t arrive at your desk without a plan or else you will just dawdle away the day in your inbox and being busy is a form of laziness (similar to a Gretchen Rubin thought that you can procrastinate with work).
In my opinion for 99% of the population the concept of a 4 hour workweek is laughable. But I would still recommend this book to all of you as it gives great insights on how to save you some time. Especially if you work somewhere traditional where they want you at your desk, this book talks about how to convince your boss to let you work from home on Fridays, now who wouldn’t want that!
2. The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen R Covey
This was the second book on time management that I read, since it is listed on pretty much all productivity and time management must read lists! This book showed me that my career, just like my life, was completely within my control. You can’t just sit back and wait for your dream career to land in your lap – you have to BE PROACTIVE (Habit #1), and you need to remember to place what you value most above all others so you need to PUT FIRST THINGS FIRST (Habit #3). There are 4 other habits, but for me and my career these are the two that have been most useful to getting me to where I am today.
His quadrant is also such a key for time management and learning how to prioritize your daily, weekly and monthly tasks. By examining the need for this task and the deadline allows us to plan out how our schedule should look.
If you are a reader, then definitely pick this one up. If not, then googling it and reading an article or two will suffice and everyone and their mother has written about it, for good reason!
3. Get you Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight
I love the no-nonsense style of this writer, and honestly as someone who doesn’t like being confined by the corporate world, I could relate to her story of giving it all up to pursue her dreams.
Plus, her approach is right up my alley with her three steps – Strategize (plan of action to achieve a goal), Focus (break it down and schedule it) and Commit (set yourself up for success). She leans into negative thinking as a way to propel you to take action which works especially well for those who don’t have a clear direction of where they want to go or what they want to do, they just know that they want to leave or put an end to what they are doing.
Sarah wants you to be very specific with your goals in terms of time management. For example, say you are struggling to keep atop of your current workload. Take a look at the core of what YOU CAN CONTROL. Are you spending too much time on social media? Then perhaps the solution is to limit your time online. And then focus on your impulse, do you feel the twitch and call of social media? Confront that impulse head on to put a stop to it!
One of my most used time management tips came from this book and that is the concept of a “MUST DO LIST”. Sarah recommends that you have a large running master to do list and that every day you prioritize that list based on urgency and importance (similar to above!) and then move that to your MUST DO List. That is your focus for the day, nothing else!
I highly recommend this book, it is a fun read with some great tips and a little bit of inspiration for anyone wanting a career change.
4. Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
This is one of the most recent productivity books I have read. I loved it – the idea of SAVERS (Silence, Affirmation, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing) is something I fully believe in. But it has been one of the most difficult to put into place. I have bits and pieces throughout my day. I meditate every night before I go to bed (96 days straight right now), I read every day and I exercise/move most days.
I want to do the rest, and I agree with the author that the mornings that I get up early and get all of that accomplished are the days that I am most productive as it sets a great tone for the day.
My problem (or excuse) is my kids. I have a 6.5 yo and a 5 yo who wake up at 6am and quite frankly I don’t want to get up any earlier. And even if, on the odd day, they are sleeping, when I try to sneak downstairs it ends up waking them up. Plus, first thing in the morning they just want to be near me, typically they want to snuggle in bed (there are only a few more years of that and I want to soak those cuddles up!) and then be in the same room as me so it is hard to focus.
But I believe so much in this. I believe that setting your intentions and your goals will not only increase your productivity but also increase the likelihood of you being a success. So I literally just researched a shorter version (since the book recommends about 90 minutes) and came across the 6 minute Miracle Morning by Hal. I’m going to tweak it to 8 minutes and only focus on the pieces I don’t do every day:
Silence: 2 minute gratitude meditation (in addition to my nightly meditation)
Affirmation: 2 minutes affirmations
Visulaization: 2 minutes visualization
Exercise: during the day
Reading: during the day
Scribing: 2 minute scribing – my gratitude, my daily goals and plan.
Anyone willing to join me? Tomorrow, I’ll let you know how it went!
The amazing thing about Happiness Books and these Productivity books is that they introduce to us concepts that we may never have thought about. But more importantly, they tell us the story of how to make the changes and how those changes can have a lasting impact on our lives. So if you are stuck in a job you hate and don’t know what to do, they can help you figure out what you want and how to make the time in a day to get there.
If even that is overwhelming, how about a 30 minute phone call – we can chat for free, let’s strategize where you are, where you want to go and how to get there.
Does your job search have you feeling down? Don't give up! I've got 9 tips and tricks to stay inspired during a tough job search! Scroll to the bottom for a handy infographic to refer back to!
Searching for a new job (whether you are in a job or not) is a necessary evil.
You either need a job because you aren’t working or you need one because the one you are in isn’t working. The challenge is that it is a process of constantly putting yourself out there only to be rejected multiple times which makes it tough to keep up a positive attitude.
When you are out of a job, the stress and pressure mounts with each passing day. You find reasons to blame others for you not getting a job – a natural self-defense mechanism that unfortunately doesn’t really help.
Or you start beating yourself up and your self-confidence begins to plummet. What compounds matters is if you had a surprising lay off or termination, and honestly how many aren’t hurtful or surprising!
When you are in a job that you aren’t satisfied in, you start questioning whether this is even worth it! Maybe this job you hate isn’t so bad after all and you go back into stagnation mode because after all it is easier than constantly putting yourself out there. Besides the fact that the job search takes up time you just don’t really have!
It is easy to get into these negative thought patterns and even easier to stay there. What is harder is to break them. It is crucial to your success that you snap out of it.
It may seem hard right now but TRUST ME it is worth it in the end. Don’t forget the goal – to find a fulfilling career, a job that challenges you, an organization that values you and a work/life balance that brings you more freedom to enjoy life outside of the workplace!
In order to do that, you need to focus on staying inspired throughout the job search. You need a plan in place for what that job search looks like and you need a plan in place to enjoy things too.
You need to take care of your emotional and physical wellbeing so that you have the energy and confidence to wake up every day and put yourself out there.
If you aren’t working, you also need to make sure you get out of the house and connect with people. Isolating doesn’t help, no matter how introverted you are!
I know what you are thinking, Sara the last thing I need right now is more work! I get it. Most of the “Life Hacks” I’m going to suggest are easy. Most won’t take much time at all. In fact some will save you time! And others will give you more energy to put into the search.
Here is my list of 9 tips and tricks that you can do RIGHT NOW that will keep you inspired to stay positive and to keep at the job search!
STAY INSPIRED BY BEING HEALTHY:
1. Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night to give you energy.
2. Move Your Body. Every. Single. Day. Improve your mood, reduce stress, increase your energy!
3. Eat a balanced diet. Junk food doesn’t leave you feeling your best am I right?
STAY INSPIRED BY BEING PREPARED
4. Write a Foundational Resume and Cover Letter. These are so easy to tweak and will save you hours in your job search.
5. Plan your week by booking Job Search Time in your calendar. 1-2 hours/day MAX. Don’t forget to book in Networking!
6. ENGAGE with people! Do your job search at a coffee shop, go to networking events or career fairs. Get out of the house!
STAY INSPIRED BY BEING HAPPY
7. Start a Gratitude Practice – what 3 things are you thankful for each day.
8. Find Joy. Every. Single. Day. Do something you LOVE. Bake a cake, garden, go for a hike, anything!
9. Focus on YOU. Think about all the great things you have accomplished and done and all the great things you bring table. Give yourself a high five, every day!
Feeling really at the end of your rope with the job search and want a Pep Talk? That's what I'm here for! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a time to chat and we'll figure out ways to get out of this rut!
Are you on the hunt for more fulfillment and happiness in your career? Here are the best three books to help guide you towards Career Happiness
Like I said last week in “I Choose To Be Happy”, a few years ago I did a deep dive into the world of Happiness, specifically reading lots of books, listening to podcasts and challenging myself to work on feeling more joy and happiness in my everyday life. At the start I only focused on my personal life and it wasn’t until I picked up some of the following books that I realized that this idea of going after Happiness can be extended to the workplace.
Like many of you, I’ve believed the message that you should be content with what you have and that in order to be truly happy you just focus on just being grateful for the life you are currently living. And while I do think that going after something just for more money or a better title isn’t going to bring me happiness, the following books helped me realize that going after a career that brings more meaning to my life (and others) is not only okay but vital for my overall happiness.
I wanted to write this post because I know we all tend to hold ourselves back from pursuing our dreams – either from a fear of failure, an uncertainty of where to go or a feeling of worthlessness – and I want to provide some resources that can help you get unstuck and move your career forward.
Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar
Tal Shahar is a Harvard lecturer and psychologist, one of the pioneers of Positive Psychology, considered to be the newest branch of psychology looking at how to create optimal conditions allowing us to thrive (instead of just surviving as many other branches of psychology focus on).
Happier is a book that examines how we can attempt to create more time in our lives for meaningful activity and he provides many exercises that allow us to figure out how to find that meaning and how to start to live a more meaningful life.
I find that there is a message that exists that you can either go full on 100% into a career (as Tal calls it the “rat racer”) or 100% into happiness but that you can’t have both. What this book did for me was to show me that you can strive for career success while still having some “balance” and that can lead to happiness. Tal showed me that the message, that wanting success makes it impossible to also achieve happiness, is wrong and that you can actually have both. If you are striving for success in a way that makes your life meaningful and in a way that focuses on the journey not the outcome (the elusive I’ll be happy when…) then you are putting together a winning formula.
What this book did for me was give me permission to strive for that success in my career.
10% Happier by Dan Harris
This is one of my favourite books on Happiness and I always recommend it to clients, friends and colleagues. The story starts with an outline of Dan’s career working as a journalist in battle zones leading to a cocaine addiction and culminating with him having a full blown panic attack on air. The book then explores his search for answers – how can he learn to overcome his addiction, reduce stress but not lose his competitive edge so that he could still progress his career. He reaches out to all of the normal self-help gurus – Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle (in many laugh out loud moments!) leading him to Mindfulness Meditation.
He talks about how Mindfulness Meditation has allowed him to be more successful in his job, especially as it taught him how to respond not react to situations, how to manage stress and how to harness his competitive edge to greater success.
For me, I know that in order to try and give my 100% to my family, my health and my career that I need to ensure I’m taking care of my mental state which, for me, includes an active meditation practice. When I am meditating daily I notice a difference in my ability to handle difficult situations, my creativity and my stress levels allowing me to do all three more effectively.
While Tal gave me permission to strive for happiness through career success, Dan gave me a tool that sets me for success while reaching for the stars.
Better Than Before – Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project (and the follow up Happier At Home) was really my first foray into this world of Positive Psychology and Happiness. Those two books allowed me to make small changes in my personal and home life that led to joy. And her third book built upon that but for the first time it also had me focusing on how to take what I was learning and apply it to my day to day life at work.
Better Than Before is not a traditional book about Happiness, instead it is about habits and how the formation of habits can lead you to happiness or can lead you to despair. In it she describes her Four Personality Types (further explored in her most recent book, The Four Tendencies) that she has noticed when it comes to sticking to habits. You have the Upholder (habit sticker), Questioner (habit sticker ONLY if it makes sense), Obliger (habit sticker ONLY to make others happy) and the Rebel (habit sticker ONLY if they feel they aren’t sticking to expectations). What I love about this is that she gives tips and tricks on how to form or break habits based on your tendency, so as a Questioner I have to find habits that can withstand my critical eye! She also discusses the 10 Obstacles to Habit Formation, essentially the excuses we create to not stick to our new, good for us habits.
This book really helped me think about some of my work habits and allowed me to come up a plan on how to create some good habits (like administration) and how to break some bad habits (like using work to procrastinate from things like administration!).
Better than Before was really the next logical step for me, I now had given myself permission to go after my dreams, I had a tool that ensured I was able to manage the ups and downs that are natural in the workplace and with this, I now have the foundation of day to day habits that allows me to focus my mental energy on building and developing my coaching business.
These three books really helped me to get to where I am today and I hope that they help illuminate your next steps as well!
In case you aren’t a book reader, Gretchen’s and Dan’s podcasts which also provide some tips and help:
Happier – Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft
10% Happier – Dan Harris and a variety of guests
Have you read any happiness books that have really helped you? Drop a line in the comments to let me know.
Are you realizing that maybe it is time to start your own search for happiness but not sure how – let’s figure it out together. Set up a FREE Discover Your Career strategy call today.
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Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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