Super Structured


Now, this is a book to get excited about. The title “Super Structured” caught my attention straight away and with a sub title of “how to overcome chaos and win back time” how could I possibly resist?

I think this book might have been written for me, it’s perfect. It’s a step-by-step 31 day plan to give you structure in your working life. Each day you have a task to complete which takes you a step closer to being in control of your task list and working more effectively. For example on Day 2 you make a list of everything you can think of that you need to do and choose your tool for keeping all your to-do tasks. This is a great first step as it helps clear your head and get everything down on paper so that you can start to deal with it.

I had great fun working through the 31 days and feel like I’ve got a lot out of it. Some of the systems David recommends I already had in place (like a tickler file – Day 30) but some of them are new additions to my productivity systems (like an emergency checklist for when I’m feeling overwhelmed – Day 13).

The book is predominantly aimed at improving your working life, but I would say that it can be equally applied to your home life if you feel that you would benefit from some more structure there. Having worked through it once with work in mind I’m very tempted to have another go at home – might help keep the ever growing pile of paperwork in check.

Super Structured is due to be published on the 28th February – follow the link to Amazon below to pre-order your copy today. You won’t regret it!

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy “Super Structured” from Amazon >

The Big Book of Happiness

I’m turning into quite a Chris Croft fan. A couple of months ago I watched his time management course on Lynda.com and absolutely loved it. He’s got a very engaging style which made it highly entertaining as well as useful. So, ed I was very interested to read his “Big Book of Happiness”.

And I wasn’t disappointed. This is a great read, which takes you through various things you can do to help increase your happiness. It’s arranged in such a way that you can pick out one technique and give it a go, and each part ends with an action point for you which helps make it highly practical. And if you choose to read it through from beginning to end there’s a handy summary of his 87 ideas at the end.

What I particularly enjoyed whilst reading the book was looking out for Chris’s personality shining through in his writing, which it did. I do wonder whether I would have completely appreciated this if I hadn’t previously watched his video course – so I would recommend looking out for some of his videos before reading the book to get full enjoyment out of it.

As an example of the material Chris covers, I completely got the part about The Power of Music, where Chris explains how music can help choose your mood. I’m all for this and have a ‘raargh!’ playlist for times when I need an energy boost.

Overall this is a really interesting book which definitely provides food for thought when it comes to increasing your happiness. If this is a subject that you’re interested in, you can’t go wrong by starting here.

Rating: ★★★★½

Buy “The Big Book of Happiness: 87 Practical Ideas” from Amazon >

How To Be Really Productive

How To Be Really Productive by Grace Marshall is an in-depth look at what you can do to make sure you are productive. It’s not a step-by-step ‘do this, try then do that’ guide, mind but instead takes you through different areas where you can make changes to how you approach things.

It’s starts off very high level, talking about your values and purpose. Personally, I find that when I’m in the middle of chaos with so much to do that I don’t know where to start, having to think about values etc is pretty impossible. I guess from that point of view I prefer a bottom up approach, rather than top down, but I do completely take on board that you need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing.

The next chapter is all about dealing with the chaos. This was much more up my street and gave some practical techniques to try out – like an excercise for getting everything out of your head so that you can begin to organise it, and the CORD productivity model (Capture and Collect, Organise, Review, Do). This really struck a chord with me (no pun intended), particularly the explanation that when you are suffering from chaos the hardest thing is the feeling of loss of control, and that everything demands your attention at once. That pretty much sums it up for me!

Each chapter takes a different subject with a discussion of how it affects your productivity and what you can do to improve things. As I said it’s not a step-by-step, but you can take the sections that interest you and pick out ideas for what you can implement. I did find that when I got to the end of the book I felt a bit lost in an ‘erm, what do I do now’ kind of way. But this was solved by reading through it again with a pen and notepad handy to pick out the bits I wanted to use. So, for me it’s not a read once and change my life book, but instead a guide which I can dip back into to pick out different bits every now and then.

What I really liked about the style of the book is that you really feel that there is a real person behind it. Grace talks about her own experiences which makes it a very enjoyable read and helps get the message across.

Not my absolute favourite when it comes to productivity, but definitely high on the list of books that I will turn to.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy “How to be Really Productive: Achieving Clarity and Getting Results in a World Where Work Never Ends” from Amazon >

Emotional Resilience

I’ve been prevaricating over writing a review of this book because I’ve been struggling over how to approach it. I definitely think that it’s an interesting idea that your emotions can affect your work and how you interact with people. I can see that how I feel impacts how I react to things and if I took a moment to review this and adjust my response I would deal with things much better.

However, pilule this book isn’t going to make it to my list of all-time favourites. And I’m slightly ashamed to admit that it’s because it’s just too much hard work. I’ll stress that there is some really good stuff in there but when I start feeling like I’m having to wade through the content is when I start to switch off, and unfortunately that’s what happened with this book. As a result there are big chunks of the book where I quite frankly don’t have a clue what I read.

What it’s all about is how your emotions can impact your effectiveness and how addressing this can help you in work situations. Whether it’s interacting with other people or approaching your workload, paying attention to and adjusting your emotional response will help you day to day. Now, that’s my interpretation of the book and that genuinely interests me.

It’s an indepth book with a lot of detail and exercises for you to do – so if that’s what you’re after this could really be your book. But personally I think it could have been edited down a lot more to give the message in a much more easily digestible way – I’ve read books which get their message across much more snappily without losing their effectiveness so I know it can be done.

Rating: ★★½☆☆

Buy ‘Emotional Resilience:Know what it takes to be agile, adaptable and perform at your best: Know What it Takes to be Agile, Adaptable and Perform at Your Best’ from Amazon >

HBR Guide to Getting The Right Work Done


I wouldn’t normally go for a book made up articles written by different authors, physician which is what this is. I’m usually put off because I would expect it to be a bit ‘bitty’ and not hold together as one piece of work. But I’m glad I picked this one up. Getting the Right Work Done is a Harvard Business Review guide, bringing together a series of articles on the subject of productivity and time management – as I’m sure you will have noticed by now, one of my favourite subjects (or shall we say obsessions?).

It’s true that the book doesn’t give you one system to follow. But instead each article gives a tip on a particular subject such as procrastination, to-do lists, and delegation. What I like about it is that I can dip into it, read a short article and come away with a technique that I can immediately use. Brilliant if I need a quick boost to get myself back on track. You don’t have to read the whole thing to benefit from it. Or you could work through the whole thing article by article and build up a toolset of techniques.

One to keep close to hand and grab if I’m struggling with my productivity.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy “HBR Guide to Getting the Right Work Done (HBR Guides)” from Amazon >

The Communication Book


The Communication Book by Emma Ledden describes itself as “your straightforward, sickness practical and expert guide to the secrets of great communication for all the important scenarios you face in business today”. It is just that – straightforward, practical and I had confidence in the expertise of the author.

She takes you through a three-step process which can be applied to many scenarios and gives practical examples of it in use. I say ‘many scenarios’ rather an ‘all scenarios’ as I can only really see it being used for situations that you can prepare for (preparation being key to the process) – it’s not something that you apply to completely unexpected situations. I can for example seeing myself using the process for networking (one of examples used in the book) and for business meetings.

The Communication Book is exactly what I look for in a business book:

It was an easy, enjoyable read – I didn’t feel like I already needed to be an expert in the subject to understand it. However, that doesn’t mean that it was dumbing down, I definitely felt like I learnt something from the book. I liked the way that the same three-step process was applied throughout the book, which reinforced it and showed how it could be used in different situations. The author’s personality came through, which made me feel like she was advising me directly and helped me engage in the subject.

A great book, which gives you instantly usable techniques without being a drain on time.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy “The Communication Book: How to Say it, Mean it, and Make it Matter” from Amazon >

Simply Brilliant


This is an interesting book. It describes itself as “The common-sense guide to success at work” and it’s all about applying common sense to your work. And there’s absolutely nothing wishy-washy about the book – it’s good sensible advice from beginning to end.

The author takes you through his seven rules of common sense. I was won over in the first chapter which “extols the virtues of simplicity in our thinking and encourages us to seek simple solutions”. I really like the idea of simple solutions. It’s very easy to overcomplicate things and it can be very stressful trying to wade through a complicated situation or process. I definitely like the idea of taking time to think about how we approach things and whether we could make our approach simpler.

It’s true, unhealthy isn’t it? Sometimes you can try to be too clever, or just not think things through clearly enough, and end up getting yourself in a tangle. If that sounds familiar then this book could really help you look at things differently.

Another rule that struck a chord with me was “There is always a sequence of events”. It stresses the importance of planning tasks so you are clear on the sequence of events. This is very true. If I jump into a task without planning it out first it will inevitably take me longer as I will jump around between actions as things occur to me, or I’ll miss something important. If, on the other hand, I plan the sequence of events I can then work methodically through the steps much more confidently and efficiently.

This book is all about common sense, in which case you might say “but I knew that already” but even the most obvious things are worth reminding yourself of and reviewing every now and then. Just taking the time to think with a slightly different mindset can make a big difference.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy “Simply Brilliant: The Common-sense Guide to Success at Work” from Amazon >

How To Be A Productivity Ninja


As someone who is obsessed with (and constantly stuggles with) time management and productivity, online I simply couldn’t resist grabbing a copy of “How To Be A Productivity Ninja” when I spotted it in a bookshop last weekend. How sexy does being a “Productivity Ninja” sound? Well to me, try very!

I have spent a very enjoyable week reading the book and beginning to put the processes into action. Yes, it was an excuse to yet again re-organise my task management, but sometimes it really is worth taking time out to do it, if at the end of the process you feel more in control and inspired to get some things done.

This definitely deserves the title of “Brilliant Business Book”. It is written in an engaging style and is crammed full of practical systems which you can apply to your workflow. The book has got a real momentum to it which takes you through the whole process and inspires you to try it out. It kept me hooked throughout and what’s more had me laughing out loud at times. What’s better than a book that gives you a chuckle at the same time as inspiring you to take control of your workload?

OK, when I first started reading about the process I thought “Isn’t this just Getting Things Done?” (another of my all-time productivity favourites and I’m shocked to have just discovered that I’ve never reviewed it, what’s wrong with me?). There is no doubt that the author has been very much inspired by the GTD system. To be fair GTD is so good that it’s worth reading another take on it if it inspires you to start using it. But I feel that the Productivity Ninja system is more of an adaption of GTD, in some ways improving it.

One important addition for me is the Daily To-Do List. However much I love GTD I always find it dissuades me from compiling a daily list on the basis that the next actions list was enough. But in reality my next actions list would be so long that I’d feel overwhelmed trying to decide what to do next and end up doing the quick,easy stuff with least resistance. With Producitivity Ninja, choosing my Daily To-Do List from my Master Actions List every day allows me to pre-pick the things that will make the most impact that day, leaving me with a short, much more focused list for that day. So maybe Productivity Ninja is for those who have tried and liked GTD but never quite settled into it.

In case you haven’t noticed, I love this book. It’s one that I’m sure I will come back to again and again whenever I need a productivity boost.

Rating: ★★★★★

Buy “How to be a Productivity Ninja: Worry Less, Achieve More and Love What You Do” from Amazon >

Influence


Influence: What it really means and how to make it work for you. The blurb describes this book as combining “… the latest research in neuroscience and emotional intelligence with clever, pharmacy practical and highly effective techniques to take your influencing skills to an impressive new level”. It’s a book about how to NLP techniques to influence.

With hindsight I should have known that I wouldn’t get on with this book. I’ve dipped into NLP once or twice and know quite a few people who swear by it. But it’s not something that I find I can buy into. At best it can come across as common sense dressed up as “science” and at worst can seem very manipulative. So of course a book on “influence” wouldn’t sit right with me.

The book contains some really good advice on how to communicate better, sick particularly on how listening is a very important skill (and one that I definitely would benefit from working on). I can appreciate that. If this was rebranded as a book about how to communicate effectively I could buy into that. But, unfortunately as soon as it starts being touted as science it brings out my prejudice (and I admit it is prejudice) and I get irritated. Then bring in the idea of using it to influence people and the “manipulative” alarms start sounding.

I blame myself, I really should have known better.

On the positive side it is a very readable book and, as I said, there is some good stuff on communication. But overall it’s not my bag.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Buy “Influence: What it Really Means and How to Make it Work for You” from Amazon >

 

Mindfulness for Busy People

I love this book. Go and get yourself a copy of it. The end.

What? You need more detail than that? Oh, cialis sale go on then.

Mindfulness for Busy People is exactly that, nurse a book about mindfulness for people who are … um … well, busy. (I’m doing well, aren’t I?) The cover claims it’s for “turning frantic and frazzled into calm and composed” and you know what, I think that just from reading the book through once I’m partway to being calm and composed. And I had definitely started out in the frantic and frazzled state.

Mindfulness is something that I had heard a little bit about without completely understanding what it was. I’d been put off finding out more because it can have spiritual associations, and I tend to be more of a practical list-making kind of person. But this book introduces the subject in a completely down-to-earth way, making it accessible to even the most cynical person (like me).

The book is written in a very engaging style which makes you very aware that there are real people behind it. It eases you into using mindfulness with exercises along the way, many of which have audio recordings to guide you. I began to feel the benefit pretty much straight away as it made me realise that I was making my busyness worse for myself because of all the thoughts constantly going through my head. And having pointed that out to me it gave me some practical ways for dealing with the thoughts.

I’ve been brushing my teeth mindfully, having a shower mindfully, washing up mindfully, walking home in the wind and rain mindfully (that was an interesting one), but the real breakthrough for me is the realisation that I’ve been causing my own stress, not the amount of work I have to do. Yes, I’ve got a lot (I’d be complaining if I didn’t have any, right?), but never being able to settle to one thing for very long because of the voices in my head saying ‘but you should be doing this’ and ‘you’ll never get through everything, faster, faster’ is my real downfall. So for the last few days, once the voices started up I have been saying to myself ‘yes, I’m worrying about that project, but right now I’m doing this and that’s what I should be doing’. I’m using it to focus on one thing at a time and be much more aware of what I’m experiencing.

As I write this I’ve got a voice in my head saying, ‘it’s all very well practising it over the weekend but how will you cope once you’re in the office with emails to answer and the phone ringing?’. Well, I acknowledge that concern but will continue to approach the day mindfully, and right now I’m writing this review, which is going to get my full attention. Ha!

To be honest I don’t know if I’m doing it ‘right’ but I shall continue to practice and come back to this book for a refresher every now and then.

So, as I said at the beginning go and get yourself a copy. It could make a real difference to you, particularly if you’re suffering from seasonal stress.

Buy “Mindfulness for Busy People: Turning from Frantic and Frazzled into Calm and Composed” from Amazon >

Rating: ★★★★★

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