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Down Time: Six PEP Picks for Productive Holiday Reading



Fancy a side of self-improvement with your Christmas siesta?

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, people: that summer break is almost upon us. Joy to the world! And as you make your final preparations for the holiday ahead, we thought we’d sign off for the year with something a little different from our usual posts: a carefully curated list of holiday reading recommendations. And, true to form, we’re avoiding the latest thrillers, chick lit and inevitable autobiographies in favour of our usual theme (no prizes for guessing).

After all, what could be more efficient than soaking up a little self-improvement as you sit back in the sun? So without further ado, here’s our pick of the best books on productivity, healthy habit-forming and setting yourself up for success:

1. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

As you well know, we’re all about pacing yourself: doing one thing at a time, minimising distractions and concentrating on what matters. That’s why we love this book, with its focus on, well, how important it is to focus. The first part explains the concept of “deep work” and why it’s so essential; the second teaches you how to systematically train your brain and transform your work behaviours in order to reach this elusive state. All very Zen, but with more achieving and less chanting.

2. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Put this on the top of your pile: it’s a true classic and if you haven’t read it, it’s a must. Duhigg translates cutting-edge behavioural science into an easy-to-understand analysis of how habits are formed and how they can be changed. Naturally, this dovetails nicely with our PEP principles, which show you how to replace inefficient work behaviours like procrastination and multiple handling with more productive habits like adopting a “Do It Now” mentality. What’s more, you get maximum beach read bragging rights for pulling out a book on neuroscience instead of a novel.

3. The Personal Efficiency Program by Kerry Gleeson

Well, we would include this one, wouldn’t we? After all, this is where it all began. When you need to dial back the discussions on deep work and neuroscience, dip into this instead. Although the content will already be familiar, this book is a must for providing a quick refresh of the practical principles of PEP. Keep it close to hand for essential encouragement, advice and productivity inspo.

4. It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Easy to see why this appeals. The authors challenge the all-too-pervasive notion that chaos is a cornerstone of the modern workplace and instead advocate a company culture of calm. As, of course, do we. There’s plenty of practical advice and tips to be found as the book shares the authors’ insights and experiences over twenty years of cultivating a culture of calm in their own company, Basecamp. Jason and David are very big proponents of keeping it simple and doing it now. Sound familiar?

5. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink

An excellent option for execs, this book explores what really motivates people from a psychological perspective. In other words, how do you encourage genuine engagement from your employees? Pink discusses how to close the gap between what science tells us about human motivation and what businesses usually offer as motivation for their employees (for example, money and incentives). He also provides examples of companies who have adopted a different approach to motivating their people and what they’ve achieved as a result. A thought-provoking read, especially at this time of year when employee enthusiasm can be at its lowest ebb.

6. Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio

With clarity being such a key principle of PEP, we couldn’t leave this one out. Ray Dalio is one of the world’s most successful investors and entrepreneurs. In this substantial tome he shares details of his own rags-to-riches success story to illustrate how anything is achievable with the right cornerstones of “radical truth” and “radical transparency”. We particularly like how this book links to our concept of “clarity of end result” – although we’re aware that for most of us, the end result is not often a US$160 billion hedge fund. Still, if you make this requisite summer reading, who knows?

And there it is: our edit of all the advice you need to power up your productivity for the new year (and this early Christmas gift will keep on giving). We’d argue that any lessons you can learn while lying on a sun lounger in a fabulous, festivity-fuelled state of inertia have to be good for you. And speaking of lessons, that’s our last post for the year – we’re signing off until January 17. Have a wonderful, work-free holiday. Consider this your leave pass. Take it and run!

Merry Christmas!