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3 Books That Explain Why You Struggle With Productivity

We’ve never been too far removed from much of the secrets to productivity.

In fact, the basis for many productivity principles today date back to the Roman Empire. It was Epictetus, a slave turned philosopher who was banished from Rome, who instructed:

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

If we could get our mindset and behaviors to align, we would all be a lot more productive.

Yet, most of us—myself included—find ourselves daydreaming at our desk, seeking out distractions from colleagues or children and pets (shoutout to my remote workers), and even feeling like our daily tasks are disconnected from our greater life mission.

Why do we struggle so much with productivity?

Usually I assume Mercury is in retrograde or astrology is never on my side. So, since I didn’t have a valid answer for you, I turned to the experts.

Here are three books that explain our complex relationship with productivity and offer innovative approaches for the professional who wants to improve their focus.

Best Books for Learning More About Productivity

If you wake up with a negative attitude, then read...

The Morning Mind
by Dr. Rob Carter and Kirti Carter

If you struggle with productivity, you might be giving into negative thoughts too easily and resisting practicing helpful habits throughout your work day.

According to authors Dr. Rob Carter and Kirti Carter, your brain is your most powerful tool for productivity. It’s more intuitive than any device, app, or coach.

In The Morning Mind, the authors deliver the most complete body of scientific research on the physical and biological aspects of mornings including the role of circadian rhythms and the best times to do various activities like exercising, eating, going to sleep, and waking to maximize your performance in these areas.

Whether your goal is to develop an effective morning routine or to make more time for projects, events, or people in your life, this book will give you everything you need to know to level up your productivity by optimizing your brain.


Unleash positive thinking and productive imagination, and flip negative thoughts and behaviors into a lifetime to improve every aspect of your life—each morning, one day at a time.

If you say "yes" to everything, then read...

The Joy of Missing Out
by Tanya Dalton

Have you ever replied “Going” to a meeting invitation, but you knew your presence wouldn’t be necessary? It’s likely you only accepted the meeting because you thought you might miss out, fall behind, or drop the ball.

Nationally recognized productivity expert and bestselling author Tanya Dalton noticed that many people fall victim to FOMO (or, the fear of missing out).

For those who regularly say “yes” to things they don’t really want to do, Dalton proposes adopting a new philosophy—JOMO—in her book, The Joy of Missing Out.

By challenging readers to pursue discovery, find clarity, create simplicity, and achieve harmony, Dalton helps them develop their own operating systems that are exclusive to their lives as individuals.

When you buy this book, you’ll gain access to new systems, routines, and structures for making it easy to make decisions about what you’ll do next each day. This includes her 5 Ps of Planning: Purge, Process, Prioritize, Protect, and Propel.

If your feelings of overwhelm are the biggest source of your productivity struggles, I recommend that you crack open The Joy of Missing Out.


Named Top 10 Business Book of the Year by Fortune magazine, The Joy of Missing Out offers you a liberating shift in perspective: feeling overwhelmed isn't the result of having too much to do -- it's from not knowing where to start. Once you reject the pressure to do more, something amazing happens: you discover you can finally live a guilt-free, abundant life.

If the productivity apps aren't helping you anymore, then read...

Focal Point
by Brian Tracy

Focal Point is a great book for the busy professional who is always looking for new systems, techniques, and strategies for becoming more productive.  

Throughout 12 chapters, top business speaker and researcher Brian Tracy explores proven personal management principles including strategic planning, financial independence, and spiritual development.

Each of these concepts and more are crucial elements of productivity, whether you’ve realized it or not in your own life. By combining insights from experts such as Peter Drucker and anecdotes from coachings with his training and development clients, Tracy uncovers productivity gold such as:

  • Double your value, double your income
  • Separate the urgent from the important
  • Practice a mental fitness program
  • Determine your business and career values
  • And so much more

Even if you don’t think you need help in the productivity department, you should seriously consider adding this book to your collection. If you don’t believe me, then take it from Dianna Booher, author of E-Writing: Communicate with Confidence and Get a Life Without Sacrificing Your Career.

She says:

“The more successful you are, the more you need this book. The major choice today is between the good, better, and best activities and decisions about time. This book helps you cut through the clutter to the core opportunities!”


The Wall Street Journal business bestseller with over 50,000 copies sold! In Focal Point, Tracy brings together the very best ideas on personal management into a simple, easy-to-use plan. Focal Point helps readers analyze their lives in seven key areas and shows them how to develop focused goals and plans in each.

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Gabrielle Reed

Editor at Leadership Essentials

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