Photo credit: iotdfi, sxc.hu

Ever felt conquered by seemingly unending tasks, concerns, and worries in your work and personal life? Are you exhausted in juggling multiple responsibilities and projects that you can’t even afford a good night sleep? 

You’re not alone. The challenges in the workplace are more than ever. With the faster transfer of information through advanced technologies, industries somehow fall to thinking that humans can also catch up with the crazy pace. Computers can multitask, so why not humans also do it? Machines can work at night and in constant changing shifts, then we may as well try it with ourselves. It’s sad to see some employers think of and treat their employees like machines, just only with blood, paid to accept and execute orders, just there to do the work - forgetting about the personal lives of the individuals.

But it’s not always the fault of the employers, we often think of ourselves as infinite beings that can handle every request and invitation that come in our way. Inspired by the movie, we act like “Yes Men” marching smilingly with our expanding responsibilities. But I’m afraid that many “Yes Men” are now confused and exhausted crying men.

It’s good to have responsibilities, but not to the point when you’re only defined by what you have to finish or the poor results of your actions. If you have loads of tasks to do and insufficient time and energy to conquer them, positive thinking wouldn’t help that much – you need more proper thinking or common sense, but it’s been said that common sense is not common at all.

I’m not writing these words to discourage those people who think they’re as fast as Wolverine, have same muscles like Superman, or possess spider sense like Peter Parker – I’m here to wake them up to reality. Because I’m also one of them before. Boosted by numerous be-the-best-and-do-your-best kind of books, I’ve tried to multitask and think that I can win in every division. But after waking up from exhaustion, I found out crappy products, broken promises, damaged integrity – things I wouldn’t signed up for in the first place.

We cannot duplicate ourselves like Naruto and do the famed multitasking myth. “Multitasking” is really a constant switch-tasking that guarantees to make you burned-out, ineffective and producer of lower than average outcomes.

Is there a better way? Absolutely yes. There are numerous people who’ve already pondered the best approach in dealing with our seemingly never ending stream of tasks and commitments. Hundreds of studies and thousands of articles are already on the blogosphere for anyone who wants sane advice, not just free foolhardy tips from an inefficient coworker. Like Robert Kiyosaki said, the most expensive advice you can get is free advice. So never accept an advice on how to handle time from people who are experts on wasting it.

We always have a choice: listen to the clattery opinions or to the voice of wisdom. If you’re choosing the latter, you can listen to the people who are committed in helping you and me in the subject through their written words.

The first time I research about productivity was when I’m on my internship and behind on my tasks. One article led me to multiple articles and then to book recommendations. After four years of constantly reading books about productivity, I considered these books to be best in their category, at least for me. I’m still learning and far from perfect in applying the recommendations, but I’m hoping that you would join me in the journey in becoming more committed and effective in the most important areas of our lives.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

This book is simply awesome. If I can only read five books in my life (which would be a total nightmare for me), this one would be absolutely on my list. Though not an explicit “productivity book”, it’s the best personal growth book out there. Stephen Covey teaches about the 7 habits of people who are dependable, responsible, and effective in causing positive impact in their community. He’s a superb teacher with deep conviction that we must all develop the habit of “Putting First Things First”.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

One of the newest book on the list but arguably one of the most comprehensive on the subject of minimalism, which means “less is more”. The author expanded the topic in more areas and called it essentialism. This book follows the tradition of other books on grouping people (Nonessentialist and Essentialist) for better exposition of concepts and practices, one other book is Give and Take by Adam Grant, a book about success which defines three kinds of people: givers, takers, and matchers – a must-read on its category. Greg McKeown does a superb job in advocating the reasons to embrace the practices of the Essentialist, which are actually fewer than those of Nonessentialist’s but are more counted in the long run.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

Heralded as one of the best book in productivity in business circles, this book evolved into becoming a brand and a way of thought for many executives. Applying David Allen’s recommendations would make you a professional task manager, perfect for detail-oriented individuals. Among the books listed, this one is the first I’ve read.

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

Leo, the blogger behind the famed ZenHabits, is one of the best and most humble out there. He’s a total advocate for a simple life - with clarity of purpose, intimate relationships, brimming health, and controlled finances. This beautifully written book would encourage you to embrace the mantra of centering on less but getting more out of life - “The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to Essential… in Business and in Life”.

Focus by Leo Babauta

How to really look and dive into important things in times of constant notifications, information overload, and ringing phones? Can we escape the lure of distractions? On this free eBook, Leo covers the steps on how to intentionally eliminate those things that are just posing for importance, remove the veils of interferences and be present in every moment.

Zen to Done by Leo Babauta

Getting Things Done (GTD) is a complete package, but some find it complicated because it’s primarily written for executives with more distinct priorities to handle. So with his signature talent of simplifying almost everything, Leo delivered an easy to understand and easy to implement GTD system.

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Think of Tim as the franker and more of no-nonsense-and-let’s-get-the-job-done-real-quick-or-I’ll-kick-you-in-the-butt version of Leo. His recommendations are more radical but among the best you can find. He simply hate rules or those people who say “I need to check my Facebook every hour or I’ll die.” If you’re too indoctrinated in procrastination, baptized into ineffectiveness, and an evangelist of the heretical doctrine called multitasking, you’ll surely get beat up by Tim but would come out better as a result.

Insanely Simple by Ken Segall

Inspired by the most respected and adored business man of the 21st century - Steve Jobs, Ken Segall explains how Apple, with Steve on the lead, say no to thousand good things in order to say yes to few great things. Readers would surely find invaluable insights that can be applied in business, arts, life and even on the little things that need to be hit by the Simple Stick. Be insanely simple in a world full of crazy complexities.


Read these books, nurture your perspective. If you need to abandon some practices, then do it! Being productive is never a selfish endeavor, you’re part of a society that needs people who actually produce good products, good services, and good influences. Be insanely honest on prioritizing and be brutal in eliminating the inessentials. Some people are so proud in declaring that they’re busy, as if being busy is a mark of productivity - it’s miles away from the truth. Great people are not busy people; great people are focused people.

Do you want to have regular intimate moments with your wife? Do you want to be a constant playmate of your daughter or never miss the soccer game of your son? Do you want to nurture your relationship with your God and have time for the people He commanded you to love? It’s up to you, you’re always given a choice. You have a limited life here on earth, don’t spend it on limited things – invest it on the things that would last. You can be average, or even crappy in many, but I believe it’s more fulfilling to be great in few, the few that would make you proud in the last moments of your life.

See also:
Made by the Greatest

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