Time Management
The Best Books on Productivity That Are Worth Your Time

The Best Books on Productivity That Are Worth Your Time

Alyssa Towns
February 16, 2024
Updated on:

The Best Books on Productivity That Are Worth Your Time
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Productivity books sometimes get a bad rap for pushing “hustle culture” and a relentless obsession with work. I get where people are coming from when they feel this way—working all week and spending free time reading books about how to work better, faster, and more efficiently can make it seem like productivity books are pushing workaholic ideals.

But here’s the truth: time is a limited and precious resource, and how we spend it matters. Time is the only resource we can never get back. 

And productivity books don’t just help us work more, better, or faster so that we can spend more time working. There might be a productivity system that enables you to get your work done in less time so that you have more time and energy to invest into your personal life—so you can enjoy more after-school hours with your kids or date nights with your spouse or book clubs with your best friends. 

When I think about productivity books, I can’t help but feel excited that I might stumble upon a life-changing tip, tool, or system that allows me to find more of what matters most: my time. And I can’t help but think that you, dear reader, might be moments away from discovering a productivity book that changes the game for you, too! 

13 of the Best Books on Productivity 

In this guide, we share 13 of the best productivity books, their ratings as of January 2024, a summary, and who might benefit from reading them. All books are listed in alphabetical order by title. 

Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

First Published: 2018

Goodreads Rating: 4.36 (805,499 total ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.8 (122,023 ratings)

Summary: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones is undoubtedly one of the most popular and well-loved productivity books on the market. In it, James Clear explains how minor daily improvements (your daily habits) lead to noticeable differences and success in the long run. This book profoundly delves into the power of habits and how habits can help people shape and influence their identities. He shares his framework, the Four Laws of Behavior Change, and how to apply them so readers can create good habits and break bad ones. 

Who Might Benefit: If you struggle with building habits and routines, you might benefit from reading this book. This book will give you the strategies and tactics to transform your habits, whether you want to build better habits as an entrepreneur, executive leader, people manager, or employee. It’s also an excellent read for individuals looking to adopt better habits in their personal lives, be it committing to a new fitness regimen or cooking more meals at home. 

Atomic Habits Book on Productivity
Atomic Habits by James Clear

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

First Published: 2016

Goodreads Rating: 4.18 (157,057 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.6 (31,031 ratings)

Summary: If you’re a frequent reader of the Clockwise blog, you probably aren’t surprised to see this one on our list. In Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport defines “deep work” as “Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.” Deep Work takes readers on a journey through the lives of psychiatrist Carl Jung, professor Adam Grant, and many more to emphasize the value of focused, uninterrupted work (and limiting distractions) for successful outcomes and results in our productivity. He presents four “rules” for mastering the art of focus without distraction. You can read our Deep Work concept guide here for a deeper dive into the book.

Who Might Benefit: This book is an excellent read for knowledge workers, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and team leaders wanting to understand the difference between deep work (cognitively demanding tasks) and shallow work (tasks that are not cognitively demanding). Most knowledge works experience some combination of the two, with shallow work and distractions often stealing our time and attention. Read this book and further your productivity by signing up for Clockwise to reserve more time for deep thinking via Focus Time

Deep Work Book
Deep Work by Cal Newport

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Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy

First Published: 2001

Goodreads Rating: 3.87 (72,084 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.7 (7,435 ratings)

Summary: Eat That Frog! is a legendary time management book that teaches readers tactics to manage their to-do lists because, as Brian Tracy writes, “There is never enough time to do everything you have to do.” Brian Tracy offers 21 strategies to increase personal effectiveness and performance. Each chapter provides a different technique to cover a range of to-do lists and productivity challenges. The book is most known for the idea that your “frog” is your most significant, most important task and that you should tackle that task first thing each morning to develop the routine of “eating your frog.” 

Who Might Benefit: If you’ve ever looked at your to-do list and felt utterly overwhelmed, unmotivated, and stressed, this book is for you. Whether your workday or personal to-do lists (or both) make you feel this way, this book offers strategies that you can apply and test right away to gain more control of your tasks, career, and life. 

Eat That Frog Book
Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy

Buy it on Amazon

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown 

First Published: 2014

Goodreads Rating: 4.06 (107,150 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.6 (18,549 ratings)

Summary: Greg McKeown wrote, “Essentialism is not about how to get more things done; it’s about how to get the right things done.” This book proposes what it means to live in the way of the Essentialist and become a master of time and energy investments in only what you deem essential to you. The book comprises four parts: the first outlines the core mindset of an Essentialist and the remaining three break down the systematic process of deliberately pursuing less. 

Who Might Benefit: This book is a must-read for those who overcommit themselves to the point of burnout, never say “no,” and want to learn how to choose which responsibilities to take on (and which ones to trade-off). No matter what role you are in or where you are in your career journey, this book will likely positively influence your understanding of how you spend your time. 

Essentialism Book
Essentialism by Greg McKeown

Buy it on Amazon

Feel-Good Productivity by Ali Abdaal

First Published: 2023

Goodreads Rating: 3.96 (2,903 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.7 (1,016 ratings)

Summary: Rooted in decades of psychological research, Ali Abdaal shares with readers that the secret to productivity is about making work feel good. Abdaal introduces the concepts of “energizers,” “blockers,” and “sustainers” and describes how they impact productivity. The book includes practical experiments and insights that readers can use to feel happier and achieve more immediately. 

Who Might Benefit: If you have already read through most of the books on this list, try this one! It’s newer to the market (published in late 2023) and might offer a new way of thinking about productivity that you have not considered yet. And if you associate productivity with happiness and fulfillment in your work, check this book out. 

Feel-Good Productivity Book
Feel-Good Productivity by Ali Abdaal

Buy it on Amazon

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

First Published: 2001

Goodreads Rating: 4.01 (156,885 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.5 (9,468 ratings)

Summary: David Allen’s Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity offers tangible strategies for crushing to-dos and demands while maintaining a sense of relaxation to reduce stress. In this book, David Allen walks readers through turning commitments into action through a five-stage method for workflow management. The five stages (also referred to as the GTD method) include collecting, processing, organizing, reviewing, and doing. (You might also recognize the five stages as capture, clarify, organize, review, and engage.) The book also advises operating in a positive, relaxed state so readers can easily be their most productive selves.

Who Might Benefit: This is a helpful read for anyone who struggles to organize their to-dos and commitments, starts a lot of tasks and projects but doesn’t finish them, and those who wear a lot of hats in their life and career (say, the ultimate multitasker). Ultimately, the GTD method is all about dumping mental clutter out of your brain so you can save that processing power for your tasks. If you want more mental clarity, this one is for you.

Getting Things Done Book
Getting Things Done by David Allen

Buy it on Amazon

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss 

First Published: 2007

Goodreads Rating: 3.92 (292,405 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.5 (26,483 ratings)

Summary: The 4-Hour Workweek is one of the most eye-catching and intriguing titles in the business aisle of every bookstore. The premise of this book is that many people work tolerable corporate jobs created by societal standards and hold off until retirement to do what they truly want. Tim Ferriss uses his life experiences and story to paint a picture of how anyone can create an ideal lifestyle through a step-by-step process called DEAL. DEAL stands for definition, elimination, automation, and liberation. Ferriss offers prompts to help readers understand how they spend their time and what keeps them from creating a life they love. 

Who Might Benefit: First, if you choose to read this book, you should know that many reviewers say it’s a lot different from other productivity and business books, so know that going into it! This book might be for you if you want to do something different with your career, want to explore a new way of thinking about your lifestyle, or are interested in Tim Ferriss’ life and success. 

4-Hour Workweek
4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Buy it on Amazon

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

First Published: 1989

Goodreads Rating: 4.16 (729,385 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.8 (12,603 ratings)

Summary: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People continues to be a best-seller in the self-help and self-improvement space for its simple habits that empower readers of many age groups and professions. Stephen Covey’s seven habits help readers improve their effectiveness and manage their experiences by changing their perceptions. In addition to the original book, many variations are available for different groups, including teens, families, happy kids, and more. 

Who Might Benefit: No matter what industry you work in or how far along you are in your career, this book has much to offer to every reader in terms of building a solid foundation of your perceptions and how you interact with the world. Readers can apply some great takeaways in their roles at work, relationships, and interactions in their personal lives. If self-improvement is top of mind, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a top option to add to your list.

7 Habit Book
7 Habits by Stephen Covey

Buy it on Amazon

The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

First Published: 2013

Goodreads Rating: 3.89 (11,613 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.7 (7,044 ratings)

Summary: It’s common to see The 12 Week Year at the top of business book lists (and for a good reason). Authors Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington explain how to condense an annual planning cycle into a 12-week year to drive results and action over a shorter period. In  The 12 Week Year, Moran and Lennington explain why annualized thinking is problematic, how to move away from it, and how to use it in business and personal life. The book includes exercises and templates readers can use to create 12-week plans.

Who Might Benefit: If your organization seeks to be more flexible and craves driving progress quickly, consider testing this planning method. It can be especially valuable for organizations operating in constantly evolving markets (tech companies, I’m talking to you). From a personal perspective, if you struggle with or dislike the idea of New Year’s resolutions but want to harness the energy that comes with a fresh start, you might benefit from this structure. 

The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran

Buy it on Amazon

The Checklist Manifesto:  How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

First Published: 2009

Goodreads Rating: 4.04 (67,798 ratings) 

Amazon Rating: 4.5 (13,612 ratings)

Summary: Surgeon and writer Atul Gawande drives home the power of one of the most straightforward techniques for productivity and time management in this book: a checklist. Through storytelling, Gawande describes how checklists prompt action and improvements across many fields, including medicine, banking, construction, and more. Gawande emphasizes that we don’t have to complicate organization and productivity and that sometimes simple measures are all it takes.


Who Might Benefit: If complex productivity systems and time management methodologies drive you mad but you still want to explore a new way to make progress with an easy strategy, consider snagging Gawande’s book. Or, if you want to learn about the power of checklists across various fields (regardless of whether you are a checklist person or not), add this to your reading list.

Checklist Manifesto
Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

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The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

First Published: 2013

Goodreads Rating: 4.13 (64,788 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.6 (19,614 ratings)

Summary: In The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan teach readers to have fewer distractions and less on their plate while gaining more productivity. They encourage readers to ask, “What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” The book's premise rests on the concept that you can organize your life around one thing in each area of your life to drive focus and maximize productivity. Strategies include the 80/20 principle, defining your purpose, goal-setting to the now, and more. 

Who Might Benefit: If you find yourself in a constant state of multitasking, information overload, buzzing notifications, and never enough time to manage everything, consider diving into this book. If you need help prioritizing your life and want to cut back on your to-dos, this one's for you! 

The One Thing Book
The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Buy it on Amazon

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

First Published: 2012

Goodreads Rating: 4.13 (499,972 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.6 (37,907 ratings)

Summary: In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg dives into how habits work and how habits are at the root of change. The book describes habits in three environments—the lives of individuals, successful organizations, and societies. Through powerful storytelling, Duhigg explains why changing habits can be challenging for some and offers tactical breakdowns of how to change habits through cues, rewards, and routines.

Who Might Benefit: If you feel stuck in your workday or personal routines and want to change your habits but don’t know where to begin, this is a solid read. Likewise, if you have tried to change your habits with little to no success, consider digging into this one to understand how we create and redefine habits. 

The Power of Habit Book
Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

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The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey

First Published: 2016

Goodreads Rating: 3.95 (8,700 ratings)

Amazon Rating: 4.5 (1,500 ratings)

Summary: Chris Bailey summarizes a decade’s worth of research and experimentation in The Productivity Project and offers 25 productivity tactics that he believes will significantly impact readers’ daily work. This book contains prime-time challenges for readers to consider and apply to their lives to understand how to maximize their productivity. It’s also jam-packed with intriguing statistics and new ways of thinking about our time and work, including one of my favorite chapters of all time, “The Difference Between You and Taylor Swift.” 

Who Might Benefit: One of the perks of this book is there’s something for nearly everyone in it. Chris Bailey explains tasks, time wasters (and procrastination), productivity (and how to do less), prioritization (and removing the unimportant), and more. It’s a broad dip into the world of productivity for anyone looking to improve and use their time better. 

The Productivity Project Book
The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

Buy it on Amazon

About the author

Alyssa Towns

Alyssa Towns is a freelance writer for Clockwise based in Denver, CO. She works in communications and change management. She primarily writes productivity and career-adjacent content and has bylines in G2, The Everygirl, Insider, and other publications. When she isn't writing, Alyssa enjoys trying new restaurants with her husband, playing with her Bengal cats, adventuring outdoors, or reading a book from her TBR list.

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