Four Books To Redefine Your Professional Thinking (And One To Give A Miss)

I set myself a goal this year to read just one business book a month. The aim was to help jump-start a few projects that had been waiting in the wings, but the results have been wider reaching and have affected areas of my life that I didn’t expect.

While turning page after page and quietly absorbing information I learned something larger than any simple bullet-point or Top Tip had captured; Business Success Is A Holistic Endeavour.

How you operate in life defines how your business operates, and this goes doubly for new start-up projects. For example, I realised that my ‘backburning’ projects were not waiting for some unknown gem of information to unlock their possibilities. The truth was more shocking; that I simply wasn’t living my life in a way that would ever allow them to get off the ground, or succeed.

It was time to change directions, and the changes had to start with me. Below are the four most crucial books that have taught me how to simplify my workloads, create a host of new ideas and critically examine projects before going to market.

Foundations for Action: Getting Things Done by David Allen

For anyone looking to revitalise their professional (and personal) life from the ground up, this is the place to start. ‘GTD’ provides the building blocks for creating, developing, implementing and completing projects one by one. It offers an amazing toolkit for wrestling order from chaos in the workplace by setting clearly defined communication channels and next actions, and also shares a host of immediately-useful tips like the Two Minute Rule for capturing and delegating tasks as they appear.

After just a few pages of Getting Things Done I was completely hooked, quickly following the instructions for building a new working system. The results? Everything in my personal and professional life is now clearly defined and never forgotten, and there is always room for more creativity and good ideas.

New Business for Beginners: The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

An absolute must-read on simplified business. This book is written for people looking to start interesting new side-projects with minimal capital, but contains some of the most useful, stripped down advice for starting a successful business. Identifying the real benefits to any product or service for the end user, what to focus on and tweak for higher revenue and how to market without an advertising budget are just some of the helpful topics covered.

For me, this book fundamentally changed the way I think about business, marketing and getting something up and running. I’ve worked with companies that are decades old that would still benefit from a refreshed look at the core business tenets that this book lays out.

Prioritising Your F*cks: The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight

Despite being a parody of the similarly titled The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the value that this short read offers is one of a kind. With each chapter, Sarah Knight explores a unique area of life or work to “give less fucks about”. The language might be coarse, but the lessons are real and provide a no-compromise look at the way the reader spends time. After working through a few chapters and following the suggested activities, I was resolved to spend time on things that truly mattered while eliminating unnecessary concerns and obligations that had no real positive influence on my working life.

Maximising Efficiency: The Four Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

This book is ostensibly marketed as “how to work less and live on a beach”. However, The Four Hour Work Week is an absolute masterclass on re-evaluating your priorities, processes and participation in your professional life. By taking a look through the innumerable hacks and experiments Ferriss employs to set up — and extricate himself from — new businesses, a world of opportunities is opened up to the reader. This is truly Moneyball for the average working Joe, with hundreds of data-proven tips and tricks to separate the wheat from the chaff of day-to-day professional life.

One of the best features of the book was delving into the 80/20 analysis of time and effort management, and learning to understand that the things that take up most of your attention are often the things that most desperately need to be cut entirely from your workload. Well written, informative and entertaining, this 400+ page read is recommended for anyone looking to make a significant change to their work-life balance.

Missed The Mark: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

I can see exactly why this was — and continues to be — heralded as one of the greatest books on money and success ever written. Where all of the other books offered digestible pragmatism and helpful perspectives, Think and Grow Rich hinges on the manifestation of wealth through sheer force of will. The premise is fascinating, and can be practised — for better or worse — by any reader. Written during the Great Depression, the ‘secrets’ of this book are undeniably irresistible to anyone who has suffered great financial hardship, or who has been unable to succeed ever-changing market. But no amount of reading and rereading this book could convince me that I could wish my way to wealth — I am closer to believing that Napoleon Hill simply avoided his own financial ruin in times of economic peril by convincing other people that they could too.

-

So that’s my rundown of the most influential books I have read this year so far. It’s difficult to overstate how much my understanding of business concepts and critical examination has improved since I began this mission in January. If there are any life-changing books you would recommend that have had a profound understanding on your own professional life, please let me know! There’s always more room on the To Readlist!