Today’s we’re going to be talking about one of the most crucial life skills there is – time management.
Need more food? You can go to the grocery store. Need more clothes? You can go buy some. Need more friends? You can go out and meet new people.
But time is the one asset in your life that you don’t get more of. Once you waste it, you don’t get it back. That’s why all of us are trying to win the race against time – because it’s the most precious asset we have.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day, and how you use that 24 hours determines whether you will be rich or poor, fulfilled or empty, healthy or unhealthy, etc.
One of the best ways to manage your time better is to learn from people who can, which is why today I’m going to be providing an extensive list of the best time management books ever written.
Each book on this list will help you learn proven strategies for prioritizing your life and hacking your productivity so that you’re able to get ahead of your peers and have more freedom in your day to day life.
What is Time Management And Why You Need to Master It
The simple definition of time management is that it is essentially what you choose to accomplish with the time that you have each day. Successful people are masters at disciplining themselves and getting the most out of their time.
If you have an hour before you have to leave for work, do you spend it scrolling through your phone and checking emails or building a passive income stream?
If you have 30 minutes before picking your kids up from school, do you spend it watching television or getting a quick home workout in?
These are the everyday decisions that we all struggle with when it comes to time management. It’s these kinds of choices that determine how fast we accelerate towards the life we want.
Some people move towards their goals at a snail’s pace – getting things done in an inefficient way and not making the leaps and bounds that they are after.
Then, you come across those people who beat the system. The people who are able to get promoted 2-3 times in a year and double their income. The people who are able to exercise, go to their 9-5, build a side hustle, all while making adequate time for their family and friends.
Those are the type of people we all aspire to be like, and they’re no different than you are. They simply have a structured, intentional plan for managing their time and getting the most out of your day.
I hope that this list of time management books helps you build the foundation for doing the same.
15 Best Time Management Books to Supercharge Your Productivity
Before we talk about some of the best time management books ever written, I just have a little word of advice to keep in mind as you’re going through this list.
There have been some books that I’ve read, which others consider to be world-renowned and immensely valuable, that I simply got bored with and didn’t get much value out of.
And there have been others that have absolutely blown my mind despite not being on any kind of bestseller’s list. So while accolades are important, make sure that you’re choosing a book that sounds interesting to you.
Don’t buy a book because it’s on a best-seller’s list, or has sold X amount of copies worldwide – the best books that I’ve read are the ones that have naturally peaked my interest.
#1 – ** TOP PICK ** The 4 Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join The New Rich by Tim Ferris
If you’re an entrepreneur who is looking for a better way to manage your time and set your business up for success, then this book is a must-read for you. But even if you aren’t an entrepreneur, most of the lessons in this book apply to everyone.
Tim Ferriss is a legend in the world of productivity, and this was the book that put him in the elite company of self-development experts.
The main lesson of this book is simple – instead of focusing on doing as much as you can, focus on doing the few things that lead to the biggest progress.
Most people measure productivity by the amount of time they spend working, but this is a poor measure of productivity due to the amount of time we waste while we work.
If you had a heart attack and could only work two hours per day, what would you do?
This is one of the questions that Ferris poses to his readers in the book, and I’ve found it to be incredibly useful in setting up my own schedule that prioritizes high-impact activities.
Ferris also dives into how to decide which activities you need to remove or delegate to someone else, how to set up an effective to-do list, and how to structure your day for maximum impact.
If you work a corporate job, then you’ll still find this book incredibly useful. If you’re an entrepreneur who constantly finds yourself in a race against time, then this is one of the best time management books you could ever read.
#2 – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen
This book was published in 2002, and to this day it remains a go-to resource for people who want to manage their time more effectively.
Getting Things Done is considered one of the best personal organization books ever written because it provides you with a fully-fledged framework for managing the chaos of your life.
The system outlined in this book leaves no stone unturned – giving you a clear solution for almost every productivity obstacle that you can run into on a daily basis.
One of my biggest takeaways from this book was the idea of creating a “next step” for every unfinished action or large task.
Oftentimes, we tend to get overwhelmed by the enormity of certain tasks because of their complexity. If every time you stopped working, you wrote a “next step” to complete on that specific task, it won’t loom as large over you.
You’ll close the open loops in your mind and come back to the task refreshed, knowing exactly what you need to do next.
Definitely give this book a read.
#3 – Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life By Nir Eyal
I’m a sucker for anything that Nir Eyal puts out, as I’ve always found his content to be extremely valuable.
Indistractable is no different, as it teaches how to prioritize your life and make time for the things that matter.
The best part about this book is that Eyal walks you through exactly how to set up a schedule that aligns with your ideal life. He recognizes that we all have different values and priorities – that’s why setting up an individualized calendar that makes time for these priorities is so crucial.
When it comes to downtime, Eyal shows you to schedule that in as well. He points out that too many people feel bad about being unproductive because they often don’t schedule it – something is only a distraction when it strays from what we’re supposed to be doing at that given moment.
By going through Eyal’s step by step blueprint for scheduling your life, you’ll be able to slack off without feeling bad about yourself and be more efficient with your time.
If you feel like you’re running around in circles from one activity to another without ever feeling like you’re making progress, this book could be a game-changer for you.
#4 – Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success In A Distracted World by Cal Newport
In his best-selling classic, Newport argues that one of the skills that very few possess in today’s world is the ability to perform deep work.
What exactly is deep work? Deep work represents activities performed in a distraction-free environment that are cognitively demanding. These activities require focused attention, improve your skills, and are hard to replicate.
He points out that most of us are pulled towards the stuff that doesn’t matter – what he calls “shallow work.” Shallow work represents logistical style tasks that we can perform while semi-distracted.
When you spend too much time on mundane, low-effort tasks, you’re sabotaging your capacity for deep work because deep work takes willpower, and you only have a finite amount of willpower.
In order to produce the absolute best stuff that you’re capable of, you need to train your brain to efficiently produce high-quality work. If you’re able to master this skill, you’ll put yourself head and shoulders above the competition.
#5 Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy
Any advice related to time management from Brian Tracy is worth checking out, as he’s been a staple in the self-help/productivity world for decades.
Eat That Frog is built around one simple idea from Mark Twain – if you start off each day eating a live frog, then you can be sure that’s the worst thing that will happen to you that day.
Put in layman’s terms, this means that if you start your day with a task you dread the most, the rest of your day will be easier. Whichever task you know you are most likely to procrastinate, get that thing out of the way first.
That’s the main lesson I learned from this book, but there’s so much more value that Tracy packs into a bite-sized, 144 page classic.
This book will give you an edge over your colleagues at work because there’s a ton of information in here that won’t just make you a more productive person, but also a more productive employee.
Tracy gives you actionable strategies to waste less time at work and become a productivity machine that your bosses fall in love with, and that your colleagues can rely on.
#6 – The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Done Right by Atul Gawande
The Checklist Manifesto explores the fundamental importance of checklists in making complex processes simple and repeatable.
As a surgeon and Harvard professor, Gawande talks about how even the best surgeons in the world can overlook critical steps operating without a checklist – despite having thousands of hours of deliberate practice under their belt.
Take this blog post for example. Inspired by Gawande’s book, I went ahead and created a 22 step checklist that must be completed before a blog post goes live on my website.
Could I rely on my own habits and complete the entire process without missing any steps? Probably. But there’s a chance that I would mess up and skip over, which is why I use this 22 step checklist as a guide to ensure that every post meets specific standards.
You can apply the same principle with the larger, more complex tasks you have to complete in your own life. Don’t do important work and leave it up to chance – hold yourself accountable by taking a little longer to make sure it’s done 100% right.
In terms of the other time management books on this list, this probably won’t be the most actionable one you can pick up. However, it’s nonetheless profound to listen to Gawande talk about such a boring concept in such a romantic way.
#7 – 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think By Laura Vanderkam
We all have 168 hours each week to set ourselves up for success, so how come some people squeeze out every hour of this time, while others never feel like they have enough?
In this book, Vanderkam draws from the experience of real people who have found creative ways to be more efficient with their time. If you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll likely get what everyone is getting. You’ve got to get a little creative if you want to be effective at time management.
Vanderkham dispels the myth that we simply “don’t have enough time.” It’s not that we don’t have enough time, it’s that we spend too much time doing things that don’t matter, which leaves too little time for doing the things we want to do.
Among the many takeaways from the book are these three key core ideas:
Figure out your core competencies. What are you best at? Spend time doing those things and limit the amount of time spent on everything else.
Keep track of your time. You’ll never know how much time you’re wasting until you keep an hour by hour log of what you’re doing. Realizing these inadequacies will tell you exactly what you need to fix.
Offload. Certain tasks like grocery shopping, cleaning, lawn care, etc. all take away time that you could spend improving your life and engaging in activities that bring you joy.
#8 – To-Do List Makeover: A Simple Guide to Getting Important Things Done by S.J. Scott
I’m a huge fan of S.J. Scott’s work, and a few of his books are actually on my list of the best books on habits.
This book focuses more on productivity, and more specifically – how to create an effective to-do list that isn’t a disorganized mess.
We all write to-do lists that we think will turn us into productivity machines. But often, the lists we create have the opposite effect.
Anyone can write a to-do list, the hard part is creating one that can actually fit into your busy life, and that’s actually what Scott helps you figure in just 100 pages. It’s one of the shortest time management books on this list, but it’s at the top of the list in terms of value delivered per page.
#9 – Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg
Duhigg is the author of one of the most revolutionary books ever written, The Power of Habit.
This time, he takes a crack at demystifying productivity, and mostly succeeds. While I don’t think it’s as revolutionary as the former book, it’s still filled with a bunch of valuable insights.
What’s great about Duhigg’s work is that every single idea he presents is backed by science. It’s not just the tips that are great, Duhigg proves to you exactly why these tips work through numerous studies pulled from psychology, neuroscience, and even behavioral economics.
Just like with The Power of Habit, it’s the science and psychology behind the strategies that makes them easier to comprehend. Readers have found that this book has changed their approach to productivity and helped them feel more fulfilled, personally and professionally.
This book is a very enjoyable read, and it will be especially fun to read if you resonated with Duhigg’s first book about the life-changing power of habits.
#10 – The Productivity Project: Accomplish More By Managing Your Time, Attention, And Energy by Chris Bailey
After graduation, Chris Bailey decided to take a year off and run a bunch of productivity experiments on himself.
He tried things like meditating for 35 hours per week, working 90 hours per week, waking up at 5:30, and even living in total isolation for ten days. He also tried numerous productivity strategies and recorded the effectiveness of each one.
Everything that he learned during this year is packed into a really enjoyable book that focuses on teaching you to manage your time, attention, and energy.
One of my main takeaways from this book is that we all should be taking advantage of The Rule of 3. He says that in order to achieve your goals, you need to work backwards:
- First, you write down your top 3 goals
- Then, you break them down into 3 weekly targets
- Take those weekly goals and break them down into 3 tasks you need to complete today
There’s a lot more than that to learn from this book, but that’s just a little nugget that I found valuable and wanted to share. Definitely give this book a read if you don’t want to spend a year experimenting like Bailey did and just get the answers.
#11 – 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students, and 249 Entrepreneurs by Kevin Kruse
This is a great book if you’re looking to learn how to maximize your time from those who’ve already cracked the system.
Everyone goes about time management differently. And because of the insight that Kruse provides about the habits and routines of high-achievers, you’ll be able to cherry-pick strategies that you find intriguing and implement them into your own life.
Time management books aren’t often this extensive in the variety of personal stories they share, and while you read this book you’ll realize that at one point or another, high-achievers struggled with the same things that you do now.
Eventually, they figured it out, and you’ll do the same.
#12 – Free to Focus: A Total Productivity System to Achieve More By Doing Less By Michael Hyatt
Similar to “Getting Things Done,” this is a wonderful book for those looking for a structured productivity system to help you be more efficient with your time.
The Free to Focus productivity system follows 3 simple steps:
- Stop: First, you need to take a step back and think about why you want to be more productive and figure out your high-leverage activities.
- Cut: In this step, you’ll realize that what you don’t do is just as important as what you do. You’ll learn how to delegate work and cut out the non-essentials.
- Act: Hyatt teaches you how to complete high-leverage tasks in less time, with less stress by implementing effective prioritization and time-batching.
The main objective of productivity shouldn’t be success, it should be freedom, and Hyatt lays out exactly how to make this happen.
#13 – Zen to Done: The Ultimate Productivity System by Leo Babbuta
Leo Babbuta is the founder of one of the largest personal development blogs on the internet, Zen Habits.
His content centers around simplifying your life, building better habits, and becoming more productive, and over the years he’s put out thousands of pieces of life-changing content extensively covering all three of these topics.
Perhaps his best work is “Zen to Done,” which seeks to help people simplify their life and achieve more by doing less. ZTD is a system that will help develop the habits that keep your day structured, and your tasks and project organized.
What’s great about this book is that it doesn’t just give you a productivity system to follow, Babbuta teaches you how to build the habits necessary to put the system into action. This is something that many of the other books don’t focus on, and it’s a crucial concept because you’re often lured into procrastination because of your hard-wired habits.
You may have the perfect productivity system, but if you don’t develop the habits necessary to make that system work, it’s unlikely you’re going to see results. If you’re looking for a book that teaches you how to develop the right productivity habits that set your day up for success, then I highly recommend checking out Zen to Done.
#14 – How to Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Mastering Difficult Tasks and Breaking the Procrastination Habit by S.J. Scott
Can you tell I’m a big fan of S.J. Scott’s work yet? This is the second book that Scott has on this list of time management books, and it’s well deserved.
Procrastination is the biggest obstacle that we deal with when it comes to productivity. It stops us from making progress on the tasks we know deep down we need to do, and in turn stops us from living the life we deserve.
Scott teaches you how to beat procrastination and stop it from becoming a habit that wreaks havoc on your life. After reading this book, you’ll understand why you procrastinate and exactly what to do about it.
#15 – The Now Habit: A Strategic Program For Overcoming Procrastination And Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil Fiore
Last but not least, we have this great book from Neil Fiore.
This book helps people win their battle with procrastination, and more importantly helps people stop feeling guilty for being distracted. Fiore points out that one of the keys to stress-free productivity and enjoying guilt-free play is unscheduling your life.
What is unscheduling? Unscheduling is a practice where you throw out your old calendar and schedule the things you want to do for the week. Instead of scheduling what you need to do first, you schedule what you want to do and then let work fill up the rest of your time.
Things like meeting friends, golfing, and playing with your kids won’t feel like distractions when they are scheduled on your calendar. Readers have found this book as an incredibly useful tool for reducing the stress that comes along with trying to master productivity.
Well, that concludes this list of the 15 best time management books that you can use to manage your time more efficiently and prioritize your life. You now have a variety of books to choose from to get started on your productivity journey.
My best advice is to choose one of these time management books and embrace it fully – don’t be the person who jumps around trying new strategies every week. That’s a one-way ticket to ending up even more stressed out and less productive than you are now.
Too much information can be overwhelming, so take things slow. Read one book, commit to the strategies fully, and then evaluate whether or not it’s working for you before adding in new routines and habits, or picking up another book.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and wish you the best of luck with your productivity and time management goals!