Top 7 productivity books for startup executives
Our company’s mission is to help startup executives like yourself 10x their productivity. In our journey, we’ve helped dozens of executives at series A and above startups get past their largest blockers and deal with their biggest struggles. In this article, you can tell us what your pain point is, and we’ll tell you where to find the answer.
Tell us your main productivity pain points and we’ll tell you what to read
Reading is essential for upskilling yourself, but time is scarce. The right approach for the truly busy is to see reading as a painkiller, not as a vitamin. That means you should only take on a new book if it offers a solution you’re looking for, not just as a nice-to-have. Whether you’re looking to improve time management, cultivate a growth mindset, or enhance your communication skills, the right book can provide the answers you seek.
Table of Contents
- Atomic Habits: learn how to build stronger habits
- Deep Work: learn how to reduce context switching
- Scrum: if your team’s performance is suffering
- The One Thing: learn how to ruthlessly prioritize
- Building a Second Brain: if you can’t get to the end of your to-do list
- Smarter, Faster, Better: if you feel pressure to amp up your intensity
- Extreme Productivity: if you’re juggling too many responsibilities
Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
667,621 ratings – 44,621 reviews
Read if you don’t know how to build stronger habits
If your biggest pain point as a startup executive is struggling to build good habits that align with your goals, “Atomic Habits” is the book for you.
When setting goals, remember that the key to success lies in your habits. Many individuals excel at planning their goals, but they often overlook the impact of their habits. Your habits hold the power to shape your future. By assessing your current routine, you can predict where you’ll be in six months. Productive habits drive progress and lead you closer to your objectives, while bad habits can hinder your achievements. If you find yourself falling short of your goals, take a closer look at your routine and consider making positive changes to ensure greater success in the long run.
“Atomic Habits” by James Clear provides a practical and proven approach to building good habits and breaking bad ones. As a startup executive, your success often depends on the daily habits you cultivate, and this book offers invaluable insights on how to make meaningful and lasting changes to your behavior. Clear emphasizes the power of tiny, incremental changes—atomic habits—that lead to remarkable results over time. He explores the science behind habit formation and offers actionable strategies to create a positive feedback loop of continuous improvement. By understanding the mechanics of habits, readers can leverage them to drive productivity, personal growth, and professional success.
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”
About the author
James Clear is a renowned author, speaker, and expert on habits, decision-making, and continuous improvement. He draws on scientific research and real-life examples to distill complex concepts into practical strategies. His writing has appeared in major publications like The New York Times, Time Magazine, and The Wall Street Journal. With a focus on the small changes that yield significant results, Clear’s work has inspired millions to adopt positive habits and transform their lives.
Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport
139,665 ratings – 11,260 reviews
Read if you want to reduce context switching
If you keep on being pulled in every direction and, as a result, struggle to find uninterrupted time to focus, “Deep Work” is the perfect read for you. Cal Newport’s invaluable insights will empower you to overcome distractions, boost your productivity, and achieve greater success by harnessing the power of deep work in a world that is increasingly demanding our attention.
In “Deep Work,” Cal Newport presents a game-changing approach to productivity that is especially relevant for startup executives seeking focused success in a world filled with distractions. The book delves into the concept of “deep work,” the ability to concentrate on a cognitively demanding task without distraction. Newport argues that deep work is essential for achieving high-quality results and fostering meaningful accomplishments in today’s hyper-connected world. Through a blend of compelling research, practical examples, and actionable strategies, Newport guides readers on how to cultivate deep work habits, eliminate digital clutter, and optimize productivity for greater success.
“In this new economy, three groups will have a particular advantage: those who can work well and creatively with intelligent machines, those who are the best at what they do, and those with access to capital.”
About the author
Cal Newport is a renowned author, computer science professor, and productivity expert. He is widely recognized for his insights into work, technology, and productivity, and his research has been featured in major publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. Newport is known for his evidence-based approach and his ability to present practical solutions to modern challenges faced by individuals seeking professional success.
Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland
20,798 ratings – 1,805 reviews
Read if your team’s performance is suffering
If your startup is struggling with low team performance and lackluster results, “Scrum” is a must-read. Embracing Scrum can help you transform your team into a highly productive, collaborative, and goal-oriented unit, allowing you to tackle complex projects with ease and achieve remarkable outcomes in half the time.
This book is perfect for startup executives looking to optimize their teams’ performance and enhance overall business outcomes. Whether you’re in software development, product design, or any other field, this book provides actionable strategies and insights to help you simplify workflows, tackle complex challenges, and achieve remarkable results with your team.
“Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time” by Jeff Sutherland is a game-changing book that unveils the power of Scrum, an agile framework designed to supercharge productivity and team performance. Jeff Sutherland, a prominent figure in the technology industry and a co-creator of Scrum, draws from his extensive experience to reveal how this innovative methodology can revolutionize the way startups approach projects and teamwork.
The book delves into the principles of Scrum, emphasizing the importance of small, self-organizing teams and iterative development. With real-world success stories and practical tips, Sutherland demonstrates how Scrum can enable startups to deliver exceptional results with unprecedented speed and efficiency.
“It’s not about how much work you can get done; it’s about how much you can get done effectively.”
About the author
Jeff Sutherland is a renowned figure in the world of software development and project management, best known as one of the co-creators of Scrum, an agile framework that has revolutionized the way teams work and deliver projects. With a background in aeronautics, computer science, and medicine, Jeff’s diverse expertise has allowed him to approach complex challenges from various angles.
Having served as a fighter pilot, surgeon, and Chief Technology Officer, Jeff brings a unique perspective to his work and has been at the forefront of agile methodologies for decades. He has held leadership positions in various organizations and has been a driving force in helping teams adopt Scrum principles and practices to achieve exceptional results.
The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
61,822 ratings – 4,478 reviews
Read if you don’t know how to ruthlessly prioritize
If your biggest productivity pain point is prioritizing and focusing on what truly matters, “The One Thing” is a must-read. It offers a simple yet profound approach to achieving extraordinary results by honing in on the “one thing” that can drive significant impact and success in both professional and personal endeavors.
The “one thing” you accomplish today seamlessly aligns with your “one thing” for the week, which, in turn, contributes to your monthly “one thing,” and so forth. These incremental steps lay the foundation for achieving your ultimate, overarching goal. By consistently pursuing the “one thing” at each level, you create a clear and purposeful path to success.
“The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is a productivity book that focuses on one essential thing to achieve remarkable success. The authors emphasize the importance of prioritization, time management, and the power of concentration to overcome distractions and achieve extraordinary outcomes.
The book presents a powerful concept known as the “one thing,” which is the single most important activity that, when accomplished, makes everything else easier or unnecessary. Individuals and teams can eliminate multitasking and maximize their productivity by identifying and dedicating focused effort to this critical task.
About the authors
Gary Keller is a highly successful entrepreneur and the founder of Keller Williams Realty, one of the largest real estate companies in the world. He brings his wealth of experience and insights to the book, sharing practical tips and strategies for achieving peak performance and personal fulfillment.
Jay Papasan is a best-selling author and executive at Keller Williams Realty. With his expertise in real estate and business, he complements Gary Keller’s ideas and provides real-world examples to illustrate the power of the “one thing” principle.
“What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential by Tiago Forte
10,311 ratings – 1,036 reviews
Read if you can’t get to the end of your to-do list
If you’re constantly overwhelmed by an endless to-do list and struggling to manage the perpetual influx of information, “Building a Second Brain” may have the solution to your problem. Forte’s proven method empowers startup executives and professionals to take control of their digital lives, capture ideas efficiently, and unlock their true creative potential. By implementing the principles of a second brain, readers can revolutionize their productivity and transform their work processes for the better.
“Building a Second Brain” by Tiago Forte is a transformative productivity book that introduces a groundbreaking approach to managing information overload and unlocking creative thinking. Forte’s method revolves around creating a digital “second brain” – a systematic knowledge management system that helps individuals organize and harness the vast amount of information they encounter daily.
“A second brain helps you think more effectively, get more done, and make progress on things that matter.”
About the author
Tiago Forte is a renowned productivity expert and founder of Forte Labs, where he helps professionals and entrepreneurs optimize their workflow and creativity. With years of experience in personal knowledge management, Forte’s expertise shines through in this book, offering practical guidance and actionable strategies to access information, boost creativity, and elevate productivity.
Smarter, Faster, Better by Charles Duhigg
32,742 ratings – 2,440 reviews
Read if you feel pressure to amp up the intensity
If you often find yourself under pressure to amp up the intensity and unlock your team’s full potential, “Smarter, Faster, Better” is just for you. This book provides invaluable insights into the science of productivity, helping you foster a culture of excellence and innovation within your startup. Through Duhigg’s profound observations and practical advice, you’ll discover how to optimize your time, leverage the power of habits, and propel your venture toward success, all while cultivating a more focused and purpose-driven approach to work.
In “Smarter, Faster, Better” Charles Duhigg, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author delves into the science and psychology behind productivity and success. This captivating book offers a fresh perspective on how individuals and organizations can optimize their performance and achieve outstanding results. Duhigg skillfully weaves together real-life stories, cutting-edge research, and practical insights, making it an essential read for startup executives striving to enhance productivity and efficiency.
”Productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways. The way we choose to see ourselves and frame daily decisions; the stories we tell ourselves, and the easy goals we ignore; the sense of community we build among teammates; the creative cultures we establish as leaders: These are the things that separate the merely busy from the genuinely productive.”
About the author
Charles Duhigg, a renowned investigative journalist and best-selling author, has earned a reputation for his in-depth exploration of human behavior and habit formation. With “Smarter, Faster, Better,” he once again demonstrates his ability to present complex concepts in a relatable and engaging manner, empowering readers with actionable strategies for personal and professional growth.
Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours by Robert Pozen
1,486 ratings – 140 reviews
Read if you’re juggling too many responsibilities
If you find yourself struggling to juggle numerous responsibilities as a startup executive, “Extreme Productivity” is a must-read. It will give you the tools and mindset needed to become a more effective and balanced executive. Pozen’s insights will guide you in managing your time efficiently, prioritizing tasks, and making strategic decisions to optimize your performance. By implementing the principles from this book, you’ll gain a clear focus on your priorities and avoid burnout.
In “Extreme Productivity,” Robert Pozen offers a comprehensive guide to achieving exceptional productivity without compromising on work-life balance. The book presents practical strategies and techniques to help startup executives efficiently manage their time, increase their output, and tackle numerous responsibilities with ease. Pozen draws from his extensive experience as a senior executive and academic, providing valuable insights on setting priorities, simplifying tasks, and maximizing productivity.
“To-do lists are useful for a few things, but they’re limited. What they’re useful for is not determining priorities, but remembering them.”
About the author
Robert Pozen is a renowned author, teacher, and executive who has held prominent positions at various financial and academic institutions. His expertise in productivity and time management shines through in this book, making it a go-to resource for those seeking to excel in fast-paced startup environments.
In conclusion, as a startup executive, your time is invaluable and scarce. The good news is that there is a productivity book tailored to address every pain point you may be experiencing. Before diving into one of these recommended reads, take a moment to identify the specific challenges you want to overcome and ensure the book you choose holds the answers you seek. Investing your time in the right book can have a positive impact on your productivity, helping you optimize your workflow, tackle context switching, build better habits, and unlock your creative potential. But how can you make this as minimally time-consuming as possible? By remembering one thing: you must see reading as a tool to solve an imminent problem you’re facing right now – not as a vitamin, but as a painkiller. This way of thinking will point you in the direction of the one book you must read, and avoid other titles that might be just repetitions of what you already know.
If you’re struggling with one of these pain points and no book seems to help, you may want to read this article instead and find a more drastic way of dealing with your biggest roadblocks.