If you’ve ever felt like, despite your best efforts, you can’t seem to get to the bottom of that daily to-do list—join the club.
But just because being a productivity ninja seems like a farfetched concept to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.
After all, for most of us, maintaining a high level of efficiency is directly linked to career success.
So while we can’t help pack more hours into your day, give you extra team members to split your workload, or hire your personal assistant, we can help you brush up on your time-management skills by offering up some books on the topic.
So cozy up with a copy of these new reads—and get ready to pump up your productivity.
The Big Idea: Tackle your toughest project first. Silence your cell phone. Multitask.
While it may seem like these classic tips could help just about anyone get more done, productivity expert and management consultant Carson Tate insists that the best path to time-management nirvana depends entirely on your personality.
That’s why she developed a 28-question survey that sorts people into four categories: arrangers, who think about projects in terms of the people involved; prioritizers, or those who zero in on the main goal; visualizers, who never lose sight of the big picture; and people who have a knack for sorting out the details, referred to as planners.
The Big Tip: Tate argues that since everyone thinks about time management and achieving goals differently, the strategies that work well for your coworker may be counterproductive for you.
But once you identify your productivity style, you can implement a personality-specific game plan for everything from running more efficient meetings to organizing the perfect workspace.
How It Can Work for You: Even the most daunting of tasks—like taking control of your burgeoning inbox—can be hacked in tune with your unique personality.
For instance, detailed-obsessed planners should pencil in blocks of time for tackling e-mail in advance—a strategy that plays into their tendencies to think sequentially and need for creating structure for the time they spend completing tasks.
Meanwhile, uber-efficient prioritizers should set a limit for the number of unread, low priority e-mails they’re willing to leave sitting in their inbox at the end of the day, so they can focus on other, more important to-dos.
The Big Idea: While most people view time as a fixed, limited resource, self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden has identified five devices—from delegation to automation—that actually help you multiply it.
Case in point: Carving out some time right now to set up automatic bill pay on each of your accounts will save you hours—and late fees—over the course of the year.
The Big Tip: Forget everything you’ve heard about the perils of procrastination. Although there are some tasks—like automating your finances—that should be done today in order to maximize your time tomorrow, Vaden says there are other instances when procrastinating really does pay off.
He illustrates this point with a story about a business owner who receives a big order from a customer, which he proactively works on packing into boxes two weeks before shipping. However, the customer ultimately orders more products—forcing the business owner to spend even more time readying the shipment.
How It Can Work for You: To effectively multiply your time using one of Vaden’s five strategies, you have to pinpoint the tasks that will give you the best ROI—and get comfortable with saying no to projects that waste your time and fail to yield results.
If you’re the kind of person who loses valuable hours responding to long e-mail inquiries that should have been made via telephone, or helping your coworkers with work they should have completed themselves, this is the book for you.
The Big Idea: Do you ever find yourself falling down a social media rabbit hole—or jumping from task to task without accomplishing anything?
If so, you may be one of the millions suffering from what former Harvard Medical School professor Edward Hallowell, M.D., calls the "attention deficit trait"—a neurological phenomenon in which the frenzy of modern office life erodes people’s ability to focus.
The Big Tip: Learning how and why you keep getting distracted will give you the power to reach your potential at work—whether that means curbing your electronics addiction, focusing on one thing at a time, finishing what you start, or turning worrying into problem solving.
How It Can Work for You: If you’re apt to dabble in a bunch of different tasks instead of completing big projects—a.k.a. "idea hopping"—Hallowell suggests jotting down three larger to-dos at the start of the day, and then resolving to get them done.
And if you’re a little too tethered to technology, Hallowell recommends scheduling special blocks of time—when you’ll turn off your cell phone and other distracting tech—for activities that require high levels of attention.
4. Four Seconds: All the Time You Need to Stop Counter-Productive Habits and Get the Results You Want By Peter Bregman
The Big Idea: Looking for some peace of mind in today’s fast-paced world? Leadership coach Peter Bregman says you don’t need a 60-minute yoga session—you just need enough time to take one deep breath.
According to Bregman, four seconds is all it takes to transform a bad decision into a smarter one. In fact, his book begins with an anecdote about a man who mindlessly spits out his gum while walking on the street, only to step in it moments later.
The Big Tip: By using the four-second strategy, you can change your mental defaults to optimize your work habits—and even strengthen your relationships.
Bregman cites the example of an executive whose gut reaction was to punish his employees for their excessive complaining in the wake of company layoffs. But, after taking a few sections to reconsider, he ultimately decided it was more important to bolster morale and instead focused on praising their successes.
The team’s mood and productivity both improved, thanks to the executive’s decision to think through his options, rather than letting his anger cause further damage.
How It Can Work for You: Instead of relying on knee-jerk reactions to get more work done, take a deep breath and consider whether there’s a more productive tactic.
Once you pause and realize your initial reactions are of a self-sabotaging nature, you can better align your actions to your goals.
This article originally appeared on LearnVest and is reprinted with permission.