The books I read in January are mostly non-fiction or “how-to” books that will help with my career and life goals. I do this because I want to learn more about how I can get the best out of my year. I also want to see what new habits I can form that will lead to me achieving all the new goals for the year. Here are five books I read and reread yearly to get my work year started on a highly motivated foot :
1. When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink
I read this book a year ago and it changed the way I approach my work life. In WHEN, Daniel Pink shows us the dramatic impact our decisions can have based on when we execute them. Time is the only thing in life that we cannot get back and what we want more of. Pink highlights how we can make the best use of this limited resource.
Pink discusses the best time of day to do things depending on your chronotype- Lark, Third Bird or Owl. In reading this book I discovered I am a LARK- which means early mornings are when I should get my most important work and solving analytical problems. As a lark, I should not be making any life changing decisions after 2:00pm. After finishing this book, I immediately put into place the tips and advice Pink gave for larks and I can see a marked difference in my productivity and general performance.
If you are wondering how you can tap into your productivity and do your best work this year, finding out your chronotype is a great place to start. I would also recommend reading this book to see how you can maximize your time to serve you best.
2. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport
“Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.”
I have heard the phrase, “follow your passion” so many times I started to believe that if I wasn’t joyously skipping to work every day, I wasn’t doing work I love or having an impact. In So Good They Can’t Ignore You Cal Newport explores why following your passion may not be the best career advice, and how doing that may lead to your detriment.
Cal Newport’s main argument is “The passion hypothesis is not just wrong, it’s also dangerous. Telling someone to “follow their passion” is not just an act of innocent optimism, but potentially the foundation for a career riddled with confusion and angst.” For the last several months, I have been focusing a lot on my passion and in reading this I am taking a step back and noticing how my work and passion can function cohesively. As someone who loves reading a storytelling, how go I get more opportunities to do this in my career?
Newport suggests that instead of blindly following your passion, you should work at obtaining Career Capital, which is, “rare and valuable experience in your field” and work at having a Craftsman Mindset; this is where, “you focus relentlessly on what you can offer the world.” Newport goes on to show how acquiring Career Capital may lead to you having control over your life and work.
I highly recommend this to anyone who is struggling to find passion or some sort of meaning in their work. This book will give you the next step you need to take to get motivated at creating career capital and taking control of the direction of your work life.
3. The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz
With only 168 pages, Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements packs a huge punch. To date, I have read this book at least seven times, and this speaks to how important the four agreements are. These four “simple” agreements, if we are able to put them into practice, will see our lives and mental health improve significantly :
- Be Impeccable With Your Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
This is a very powerful, life changing book, providing you do as it instructed. I think I tend to take things a bit too personally- it might be the creator or millennial in me. However, over the last four months I have been working hard on not taking things personal and I notice I am more open to feedback and constructive criticism. With regards to the other three agreements, well, I am still working on them.
I honestly do believe if you work at these Four Agreements, your life will change in phenomenal ways.
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4. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done by Jon Acuff
“According to studies, 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. But though 100% start, only 8% finish. Statistically you’ve got the same shot at getting into Juilliard to become a ballerina as you do at finishing your goals. Their acceptance rate is about 8%, tiny dancer.”
Jon Acuff in Finish: Give Yourself the Gift Of Done gets to the “WHY” of why people do not finish what they start. I am a serial starter – I am always ready to go begin something: a new project, a new training, a new marketing plan. While I do finish, I know that I start way more than I finish. I read this book back in 2019 and it made one of my top favorite read of the year because Acuff showed me exactly why I am not finishing things.
Why we don’t finish can be summed up in one word: perfection. According to Jon Acuff, developing tolerance for imperfection is the key factor in turning chronic starters into consistent finishers. This blew my mind, because I have been letting perfection get in the way of me finishing my goals. If I mess up, I decide I need to quit and start over… on a Monday of course.
We are all here writing down our goals for the year, if you want to see all those goals through, I highly suggest and recommend that you read this book. It offers practical ways for you to get over those finish lines.
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5. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
“The quality of our lives often depends on the quality of our habits.”
As we start the year, we are all hoping to get rid of old bad habits and start new, healthy ones. This is the perfect book for you to read, because James Clear really gets to the heart of what it takes to build healthy habits and what it takes to get rid of the unhealthy ones. Clear offers practical advice on how to build these habits in ways that aren’t overwhelming.
I get so caught up in the overall picture that I sometimes forget that in order to make that huge goal, I need to make small, daily improvements. It is through these small improvements, done on a daily basis, that we end up with defining moments in our lives. In Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the process that leads to the goals and how we need to focus more on putting processes and systems in place to achieve these goals.
We all have areas we struggle with, we all have blind-spots, picking up this book will offer a refreshed view on how to form good habits.
These are the five books I would recommend everyone read to start their work year and to help in setting their career goals for 2020. I do hope this will be a fruitful year for you filled with success, promotion, and doing the work you love and you are proud of.