Summarised by Rod Benson.
There are hundreds of books available today on personal productivity and time management. A very small number of these are excellent, while the rest range from good to bad to just plain ugly and cringe-worthy.
Have you discovered a book or other resource that has significantly lifted your game when it comes to productivity and/or time management? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know any thoughts or suggestions you have in the comments.
Here’s a list of my top 12, with brief summaries. Books are listed in alphabetical order by author. If you asked me to nominate my top three, I’d pick the ones with an asterisc below.
* David Allen, Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (revised edn; New York: Penguin Books, 2015). First published in 2001, this is one of the most influential business books of its time. The GTD method rests on the idea of moving planned tasks and projects out of the mind by recording them externally and then breaking them into actionable work items.
Tim Chester, The Busy Christian’s Guide to Busyness (Leicester: IVP, 2006). Brief theological reflections on sorting out personal priorities, and tackling the causes of over-busyness: the need to prove oneself; the expectations of others; the need for control; the pleasure of putting oneself under pressure; the need for money; and a desire to “make the most out of life.”
David Cottrell & Mark Layton, 175 Ways to Get More Done in Less Time (second edn; Dallas: CornerStone Leadership Institute, 2014). If you don’t have time to read an entire book on time management, open a page of this one at random until you find a practical tip that helps you gain control of your time, reduce stress and enrich your job satisfaction.
* Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (third edn; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012). A classic bestseller bridging self-improvement, business management and personal productivity. Follow these seven principles to shape a more effective and fulfilling personal and professional life.
Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013). A little book about how to overcome personal weaknesses and make time for things that really matter. The author offers biblical tools to address problems of busyness generated by issues relating to pride, duty, priorities, parenting, media, rest and discipline.
Robert E. Dittmer, 151 Quick Ideas to Manage Your Time (Franklin Lakes: Career Press, 2006). Who doesn’t want to do more in less time, take control of their schedule, and create a new balance between work and family life? Ideas include start your day the night before; under-commit and over-deliver; organise your workspace; block contingency time every day; and many more.
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit: Why we Do What We Do in Life and Business (New York: Random House, 2012). A fascinating book explaining the neuroscience behind why habits exist, how they can be changed, and why we often struggle to make the change.
Alan Fadling, An Unhurried Life: Following Jesus’ Rhythms of Work and Rest (Downers Grove: IVP, 2013). Fadling, a spiritual director, demonstrates what it takes to experience empowered lives despite life’s inevitable crises and urgent demands, based on principles discerned from the life and ministry of Jesus.
Charles E. Hummel, Freedom from the Tyranny of the Urgent (Downers Grove: IVP, 1997). Proven principles drawn from biblical teaching, from today’s time-management experts, and from Hummel’s own life experience. This book builds on the author’s previous bestseller, Tyranny of the Urgent.
Alec Mackenzie, The Time Trap (fourth edn; New York: American Management Association, 2009). A classic time management book outlining ways to be more effective with your time and avoid and escape so-called “time savers.” Includes extensive commentary on the “20 biggest time wasters and how to cure them,” well summarised in an appendix. Aimed at business professionals, but many of the principles apply also to theological students.
Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog! 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time (third edn; San Francisco: Berrett Koehler Publishers, 2017). Shows you how to organise your day so you can identify critical tasks and accomplish them more efficiently and effectively. This edition has two new chapters, on how to use technology to protect yourself from least important tasks, and how to maintain focus in an era of constant distractions.
* Ken Willard, Time Management for the Christian Leader, Or How to Squeeze Blood from a Turnip (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015). A practical manual on strategic personal management, planning, goal-setting, prioritising, productivity, and maintaining a sustainable pace. Filled with good advice, even if at times it reads like an inspirational seminar.
What would you add to this list?