3 Books to Read for a More Productive Life

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. R. Karthik

On our annual drive across the country to visit family for the holidays, my husband and I listened to hours of podcasts. On our way home, we ended up listening to several that focused on productivity and goal setting, hearing experts talk about their research and best advice. After listening to one we both realized that the messages were resonating with us and we kept queueing up more, jotting down the names of the books these people had written as we listened.

Most of these experts had published books in the past year and the ones below are the ones that I've added to my to-read list. If you're also feeling ready for reaching new goals and better, more meaningful work this year, check out these books for guidance and inspiration and join me in a more productive 2017.

Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

If you're heard about any of these books, this is probably the one. Duhigg, a reporter for the New York Times and also the author of "The Power of Habit," wrote this as a how-to for being more productive both in everyday life and at work. The book is based on his hours of interviews with business leaders and other people who have achieved remarkable success or overcome odds to reach a goal, as well as psychological and behavioral economics studies on productivity. The bestseller has advice for setting and meeting goals and a lot of inspiring stories to motivate you this year.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

We all occasionally get sucked down the rabbit hole of social media or we go down an endless road of research and reading about something we want to do, but don't ever really get started on doing it. There are amazing resources at our fingertips these days, but they also serve to distract us and keep us in holding patterns. Newport's book explains how to keep distractions at bay and focus on our work and passions so that we grow and become experts at them. His advice can be applied to business or hobbies -- anything you want to work on more deeply or with more purpose.

Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation by Gabriele Oettingen

The other two books give great advice on the steps to take to be more productive and to get things done, but this one focuses specifically on one piece, some may call it the biggest piece, of the productivity puzzle: motivation. Oettingen, a professor of psychology at New York University and the University of Hamburg, discusses how in her decades of research on motivation she discovered that positive thinking could actually hold us back from the things we want to achieve because it doesn't prepare us for the hard work of meeting a goal. Her message: focus on the obstacles and how you'll get over them, not wishful thinking. Her solution is a mental exercise called WOOP, which is Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan, and in the book she tells you how to do that exercise so that your wishes become attainable, not just hoped for.

Are you hoping to be more productive this year? Feel free to add to this book list in the comments.