What to Read if You Want to Focus on What Really Matters (Time + Priority Management)

I value time. I think it’s the most wonderful gift we’ve been given. But it’s finite and we don’t know how long we will have. Probably not the most uplifting way to start out a blog, but it’s true. If you’re looking for books on how to do more in less time or how to hack every second of your day, these are not those books. These books are on how to invest your time well, organize your days, focus on what matters, and benefit in the long term. Each one of these has a slightly different perspective on what that is or how to do that so my hope here is to focus on the differences and why you may like one over another. 

#1 –Essentialism

This book focuses on how to focus on what’s important and forget the rest. To be an essentialist, we must not focus on getting everything done, we instead must focus on getting the right things done. The essential things. Did you know that our word priorities was never initially intended to be a plural word? When initially used from 1400 – 1900, it was just – priority. Then in the 1900s, we decided we should have more than 1 of those and made it into a plural use as well – priorities. This is just one of the many highlights I have from the book. 

#2 – Effortless

This book is all about making things simpler to do rather than more difficult. While it can be beneficial to stretch ourselves purposefully by getting out of our comfort zone, not everything in life has to be incredibly hard. Sometimes, best path is the easy path. You’ll learn about creating rituals, removing unnecessary steps, and solving problems ahead of time. 

#3 – The One Thing

The quote that threads this book together is this “What is the one thing so that by doing it everything else is easier or unnecessary?” Another way to phrase that question is, what is your first domino? What is the one that that when you knock it down, it creates momentum for everything else to fall. This book is focused on that. Doing the few things that make a huge impact, rather than all the things that may make less significant impact. 

#4 –7 Habits of Highly Effective People

My favorite thing about this book in regards to being focused and effective is the sections about putting first things first and beginning with the end in mind. Each day your decisions should align with what you envision for the future and creating a personal mission statement can help ensure that happens. In addition, using the Eisenhower Matrix to look at what is urgent and what is important will be incredibly helpful if you’re not already familiar with it. Rather than just reacting to urgent matters, we must set aside time to be proactive. While the entire book is an incredibly impactful read, just these two chapters are worth it. 

#5 –Deep Work

Deep work is focused on doing the most important work without distraction. In contrast, shallow work is isn’t cognitively demanding and can often be done while distracted. In order to produce important work, you have to find ways to implement deep work. “The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.” If you want to get incredible results, you have to stay committed and disciplined to removing distractions so deep work can occur. 

While I know this isn’t an exhaustive list, I tried to best include the books I have read more than once or reference pieces of often. In my own work, I use tips from each of these authors to focus on what is essential by asking myself about the one thing, make it easy, proactively plan time for the proactive work, and minimize distractions while I do it. The various tools and tips from each of these authors have changed the way I work significantly. I hope they are as helpful for you as they’ve been for me. Happy reading! 

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