Busy, busy month…. While I may have not been able to blog each week, I have still been reading a book every week. In this blog, I have decided to cover three books, ….great for anyone wanting to improve productivity and habits.
“Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager” by Ken Blanchard
Ken Blanchard uses a fictional story telling format in this book to make his points and to make the content more palatable to a broader audience that might like a fictional story, loosely hiding its educational points. The story begins with its main character pitching an important client and failing in this task. Immediately afterward, he questions his managing abilities. About the time he believes all his lost, he sees a children’s magician—and ultimately, the two start a mentor/mentee relationship, in which she brings him back from the brink. She takes him through tasks that force him to discover ,for himself, how to become a better manager.
This book is an enjoyable quick read, and ideally suited for managers of any size organization. I don’t know that it is essential for a start-up entrepreneur, but as any organization grows, those that manage others will benefit from the lessons of this book. I think my favorite part of the book is the “discovery” of the “development continuum” which “is simply a model of four stages people usually experience when they are learning to master something.” The magician and manager relationship reminded me of the Jedi/Student relationship in the Star Wars movies.
“Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” by David Allen
David Allen opens his book with an ambitious offer: “Welcome to a gold mine of insights into strategies for how to have more energy, be more relaxed, and get a lot more accomplished with much less effort.” He also states his reason for this book: “Teaching you how to be maximally efficient and relaxed, whenever you need or want to be.”
I believe he delivers on his promise, and for the most part he is not dependent (or dare I say an advocate) of overly technical solutions to project/life management. An example is the following: “If I had to set up an emergency workstation in just a few minutes, I would buy a door, put It on two two-drawer filing cabinets (one at each end), place three stack-baskets on it and add a legal pad and pen. That would be my home base (if I had time to sit down, I’d also buy a stool!). Believe it or not, I’ve been in several executive offices that wouldn’t be as functional.”
Ultimately, everyone, everyday is bombarded with numerous tasks, jobs, distractions, and/or action items, and his ideas create methods to bring order to chaos—and to organize “stuff” (see definition in his book) in the most efficient and practical way.
Warning: He acknowledges that his first step of the “collection process” can take six hours or more. For many entrepreneurs, it probably could take easily, two full days.
Initially I thought this book might be about comprehensive to-do lists, and interestingly enough, Mr. Allen does not really advocate to-do lists per se (I had the same thought about the book I read a few weeks ago, Checklist Manifesto, which is not about to-do list either).
I highly recommend this book and will be reading it again (hopefully, my wife will read also). As a family, we can then fully implement all of its strategies in our business and personal lives.
“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg.
After reading the book, I definitely have a better understanding of how habits work, and as the author believes: “simply understanding how habits work—learning the structure of the habit loop—makes them easier to control. Once you break a habit into its components, you can fiddle with the gears.”
This book provides many interesting insights into habits. For example, “Habits never really disappear. They’re encoded into the structure of our brain.” In fact, this truth inspires the author to state the following: “The Golden Rule of Habit Change: You Can’t Extinguish a Bad Habit, You can Only Change It.”
As controlling as habits are, the structure of the “habit loop” is relatively simple: you have a cue, followed by a routine, and then a reward. It is a loop because when the cue occurs again, it will then trigger the same routine and reward. The book goes over many different examples of these habit loops, and while the activities involved can be complex, the basic structure of the habit loop is, as stated, relatively simple.
I think the book would be well served to include some expanded chapters on how to deal with (or change) specific habits (maybe smoking, overeating, etc)—which would provide insight into all types of ways to change habits. But, maybe that will be the next edition.