Once February arrives, you’re very aware which of your New Year’s resolutions actually have a chance to stick. If you feel like you need an instruction manual to keep that momentum going (or to remotivate you), don’t just mindlessly wander through the self-help section at the library.
This list of book recommendations is designed for anyone who has aspirations of professional improvement in 2019. The editorial team at WritersDomain recently picked up these books, and we love the unique spin they offer on setting goals, using your time wisely, and changing your perspective. Use them to kick your career into high gear.
Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown
My TBR list is about 80 percent the nonfiction I hear about on podcasts, but I probably only get around to reading 3–4 percent of those books (and even that is a generous estimate). But Brown’s books are must-reads. She is a powerhouse.
Her latest book, Dare to Lead, combines the collective wisdom of her previous works and applies it to the workplace. She teaches you to create an office environment that values courage and vulnerability and discourages shaming and blaming. She also makes all her recommendations easy to follow with checklists and acronyms and exercises to use when you want to actually integrate its tips into your professional life.
I can personally speak for the usefulness of this book. I read it during a time my office was going through some major shifts in management. When I recognized some problems arising because of this leadership change, there was Dare to Lead describing similar scenarios. Some principles from the book guided me in having some tough but essential trust-building conversations.
If you’re a freelancer, this book can still be a great resource for you. At its core, Dare to Lead demonstrates that all great business is built on relationships, so you have to improve your self- and human-interaction skills to succeed — even if you write from your couch in your pajamas or the local coffee shop with your earbuds in.
Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam
My dad actually gifted this book to me; I often struggle with feeling like I’m not using my time wisely. As the kids say, I’m often “doing the most” and yet feel tired and burned out. So when my dad gave me a copy of Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done over the holiday break, I already knew I would want to change everything about my schedule and the thought already overwhelmed me.
Something that sets Off the Clock apart from the others is that this isn’t another “squeeze every minute possible so you can work yourself like a robot” ideology. As a mom, businesswoman, and general fun-seeker, Vanderkam instead shows how you can reduce the time you take to do unpleasant tasks and spend more time doing the things that bring you joy.
She also has some tips for being present in those joyful moments, such as how to record and recall happy memories. Otherwise, you’ll be like me and move through happy moments with the anticipation of the next appointment.
Regardless of how “busy” you actually are, stop worshipping the art of being busy and instead start creating a life that is productive yet peaceful.
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott
We’ve all had bad bosses. My biggest fear when I started as the Content and Community Manager was that I’d be a bad boss. So, I asked for help. Almost everyone I asked told me that I should read Radical Candor.
While the author, Kim Scott, was working as a manager at giant companies like Google and Apple, she started to think about management differently — and Radical Candor was born. Radical candor is a different approach or technique that we can use to be better bosses. The cornerstones of this philosophy are that a good boss, first, cares personally and, second, challenges directly. In other words, to be a good boss you have to care about your employees’ personal lives as well as challenging them so that they improve.
Scott explains that as a boss, it’s our responsibility to guide our teams to achieve results. She also discusses what happens when you fail to care personally or challenge directly and why radical candor is the best way to guide your team. A helpful quadrant maps out the different types of guidance.
What I loved most about Radical Candor are the actionable items. For example, the Get Stuff Done (GSD) Wheel. With steps like listen, clarify, debate, decide, persuade, execute, and learn, the wheel is easy to understand and easy to implement (mostly). While I’m still working on being radically candid, I wouldn’t be half the manager I am today without the tools and steps this book shares.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
I sought this book out because I felt like I was always distracted and had trouble focusing, especially at work. I wanted to understand why Internet surfing was super addicting but also left my attention fractured and, despite the cute cat videos, made me feel emotionally depleted.
Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist and researcher, argues that people are happiest when they’re in a state of flow, which is a deep focus on a task. To achieve flow, you need to confront a task that is challenging enough to require your attention but not so challenging that it feels overwhelming or makes you want to give up. During flow, you lose awareness of time and yourself as you make progress toward your goal.
Flow shows the research behind why a state of flow makes people happier and how to best achieve it in a variety of activities, including work tasks. If you’d like a taste, check out Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk, though I recommend reading the book for the full picture.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Until recently, I believed I didn’t need to read this book. I’d read and listened to so much content about the KonMari method that I thought I had the idea.
I was wrong.
The Netflix show quickly showed me that most reviews cut the soul out of Kondo’s book, not to mention the reasoning behind her method. So I read the book, and Kondo did, in fact, change the way I look at my stuff.
The KonMari method teaches mindful consumption and greater self-awareness. One thing I realized was that the amount of stuff in my workspace was sabotaging my focus and peace of mind.
Additionally, I realized that my decorating strategy was misguided. In the name of frugality, I’d personalized my space with busy fabric and picture frames that I’d been gifted years before but never used. However, that stuff fuels my anxiety, and I learned that my frenetic mind loves a simple outer environment.
Figuring out what “sparks joy” is a work in progress, as is adjusting my workspace, but that process makes me a better professional. And that growth definitely sparks joy.
Those are just some of our recommendations. Which books have helped you feel more successful in the workplace?