You—But Better

Adam M. Grossman

MUCH PERSONAL finance literature, including most of what I write, focuses on how to handle money—how much to save, which investments to buy, and so forth. But what if you have a more fundamental question: How do I earn more in the first place?

To help answer that question, I have five new summer reading recommendations. Each of these books offers strategies to help you increase your productivity—and your happiness—on the job. That, in turn, may be all you need to take your earnings to the next level.

1. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande. It’s well known that airline pilots make religious use of checklists. Outside of aviation, however, most people use them for routine tasks only occasionally. In The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande, who is a surgeon and a professor of public health, acknowledges that checklists are “ridiculous in their simplicity,” but argues that they can be incredibly effective, if done right.

Gawande relates the positive impact of checklists in his own operating room and then takes the reader on an educational tour through other organizations that also have implemented checklists to positive effect. If you work in health care, you’ll find this book particularly enjoyable, but I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see their organization run better.

2. When by Daniel Pink. For many people, 3 p.m. is the worst time of day. If you’re lucky enough to be in preschool, you can take a nap. But for working people, it can be a real struggle. In this book, Pink provides a more comprehensive understanding of the importance of timing than I have seen anywhere else.

Some of Pink’s prescriptions may sound hokey, such as the Nappuccino or his 20-20-20 rule. The former involves downing a cup of coffee and then napping for perhaps 20 minutes, while the latter involves taking a break every 20 minutes to stare for 20 seconds at something 20 feet away. Still, this book will make you think twice about the often-overlooked role that timing plays when it comes to important undertakings at work and at home.

3. Micro-Resilience by Bonnie St. John and Allen Haines. An Olympian and Rhodes Scholar, St. John knows a thing or two about managing herself for maximum productivity. In this book, she provides a number of counterintuitive insights to help you get more from your workday.

Micro-Resilience may be particularly helpful to stressed-out Type A folks, but it can help anyone who feels like they’re drowning in an ocean of to-do lists, deadlines, texts, emails and pop-up alerts. St. John provides dozens of useful and easy-to-implement tips for keeping your mind, body and spirit in balance for maximum peace and productivity.

4. Extreme Productivity by Robert Pozen. A veteran of the mutual fund industry, Pozen is hardly the typical self-help guru. It turns out that Pozen was recruited to write this book by friends and colleagues who were astonished by his ability to lead a multi-thousand-employee company and simultaneously teach, write and serve in community roles—all without sacrificing his personal relationships.

Extreme Productivity is an easy read with truly practical advice on how to more effectively read, write, speak, manage employees and more. What I’ve found most useful is Pozen’s advice on conducting meetings. If you work in an organization that is suffering from “death by meeting,” you’ll want this book for that section alone.

5. The E-Myth by Michael Gerber. This book is especially for entrepreneurs and business owners. It’s an old book, but the message is timeless: If you feel like you’re on a treadmill and a prisoner of your own creation, there is a solution.

Gerber’s mantra is that you should always be “working on your business rather than in your business.” By doing so, you effectively promote yourself from line worker to CEO: You can spend your time focusing on growth and big picture questions. Fifteen years ago, I had a great boss who gave me a copy of this book and I have reread it several times since. If you have your own business or work in a small company, I highly recommend it.

If you don’t have time for an entire book, I have one recommendation for you: a 2011 article titled Extraneous Factors in Judicial DecisionsAdmittedly, the title sounds dull. But it’s probably no coincidence that several of the above books reference this study, which reveals the alarmingly high correlation between the timing of meals and critical outcomes in the workplace.

Adam M. Grossman’s previous articles include Happily MisbehavingLaying Claim and Proceed with Caution. Adam is the founder of Mayport Wealth Management, a fixed-fee financial planning firm in Boston. He’s an advocate of evidence-based investing and is on a mission to lower the cost of investment advice for consumers. Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamMGrossman.

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