With the new year comes glorious possibility, which makes this a perfect time to think about improving your outlook and productivity at the office. This trio of books offers ideas, support and strategies in equal measure, no matter your goal: Want to get more done? Banish distractions? Feel connected to your work? These titles are here to help—and inspire.
When it comes to work, what gets you revved up? Analysis or action, efficiency or innovation? Do repetitive tasks drive you bonkers, or are they soothing? While most of us can easily answer those questions, in Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style, Carson Tate points out that most of us don’t actually take the answers into account when we plan our workdays. Calendars and to-do lists are great for some people, but for others, they’re highly detrimental.
“The truth is that the problem is not you. It’s how you are trying to overcome your busyness that is the problem,” Tate says. The workplace productivity expert and career coach explains that, based on research into brain activity and work styles—plus her own experiences and those of her clients—there’s no single, right way to achieve productivity. Instead, there are four predominant “productivity styles”: Prioritizer, Planner, Arranger and Visualizer. A 28-question quiz, the Productivity Style Assessment, will guide readers toward identifying their own style, as well as the styles of their bosses and co-workers. Tate’s on-point assessments of what works for those styles (and what’s never going to, so don’t try to force it!) are supremely useful.
Four detailed case studies are interesting and inspiring, and subject-specific chapters like “Lead a Meeting Revolution” and “Tame Your Inbox” offer hope for the harried. Work Simply is an insightful, supportive book for those who want to do more and better (and have some fun along the way) but haven’t quite figured out how.
Ah, our techno-centric era—the immediacy of texting, the wonders of wireless, the ability to take photos of anything at any time and send them to anyone. Amazing, sure, but also a recipe for feeling scattered, stressed and always behind. Edward M. Hallowell understands: He’s an M.D. specializing in attention deficit disorder (ADD) and the author of 14 books on the topic, including the best-selling Driven to Distraction.
In Driven to Distraction at Work: How to Focus and Be More Productive, he sets his sights on the six most prevalent time-wasters, from compulsive email-checking to ineffective multitasking to being unable to say no. These distractions are all part of what he calls Attention Deficit Trait (ADT), or “a severe case of modern life.”
While conditions such as ADD and ADHD are genetic, ADT is situational—people may suffer from it at work, but are just fine at home. Wherever it happens, it doesn’t feel good; restlessness, frustration and an inability to focus are the unfortunate result. But there’s hope in these pages.
Based on his treatment of thousands of patients, Hallowell offers ways for readers to identify the distractions in their lives and learn how to deal with them. For example, those who are “toxic worriers” should “Get the facts. Toxic worry is rooted in lack of information, wrong information, or both.”
If achieving “flexible focus” (which he defines as a balance of logical and creative thinking) is proving a challenge, “Draw a picture. Visuals clarify thinking. Draw a diagram, construct a table, cover a page with zigzags. . . . You may soon see the bigger picture you’d been looking for coming into focus.”
Hallowell’s voice is knowledgeable, accessible and, above all, encouraging. We can do it!
GETTING YOUR GROOVE BACK
Christine Carter gets things done: She’s a sociologist at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center; is the best-selling author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents; has been cited in The New York Times; interviewed on TV by the likes of Oprah and Dr. Oz; and is raising two daughters. But, as she explains in The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work, not long ago, even she found herself completely overwhelmed and exhausted. Something had to change.
“I needed to get my groove back, to live in my sweet spot . . . that point of optimum impact that athletes strike on a bat or racquet or club, that place where an athlete has both the greatest power and the greatest ease,” she writes. And couldn’t we all benefit from a life that’s easier—less harried, less stressful and more balanced? Carter acknowledges that it might be difficult to achieve a state of flow when there’s so much going on, but her “Sweet Spot Equation” promises to help readers achieve a happier, more relaxed life via tips, strategies and examples in five major areas: Take Recess, Switch Autopilot On, Unshackle Yourself, Cultivate Relationships and Tolerate Some Discomfort. Her data is fascinating, her strategies empowering and, while avid readers of balance-your-life books will have encountered these concepts before, Carter’s take offers fresh approaches; the “Work on your eulogy, not your resume” and “Distinguishing mastery from perfectionism” sections are excellent examples. It’s heady stuff, but if it means getting closer to that sweet spot, it’s definitely worth the effort.
This article was originally published in the January 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.