By Ink+Volt Team

10 Must-Reads to Help Boost Your Productivity, Focus, and Success


Learning from the very best.

There’s nothing we love more than hearing about a great book that comes highly recommended.

In the spirit of giving, we’ve put together a bunch of critical, innovative, and engrossing reads bound to give your goals the inspirational push you’ve been looking for as you power through to the end of this year.

Much like the other advice we’re constantly throwing your way, each of these books is designed to help you grow a little (or a lot!), think hard, challenge yourself, practice resilience, and most of all, be more successful than you were the day before.

Most of these books are fairly recent, but don’t feel too distressed if you spot a few from way back — these reads offer advice that’s timeless.  

Feeling thirsty for some juicy must-reads? Go on, dive right in:

The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman

If some of your goals this month involve mastering a new skill (or at least finding your footing in one), Josh Kaufman is your go-to guy. Best known for his book, The Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman stands by his belief that proficiency in a new skill lies within strategy. It’s not how many hours you put into your new practice, but rather how you spend those hours, that matters.

Popular research suggests that it takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill, but Josh convinces us that it can be done in just 20. With his systematic approach to rapid skill acquisition, you’ll learn how to deconstruct complex skills, make your practice as productive as possible, and conquer the typical challenges and learning barriers you’re likely to encounter when learning something new.

While the whole book is targeted towards helping you learn more skills, expect to find other pearls of wisdom scattered throughout the pages. For example, I learned that making the decision to do something and actually starting to do it, can sometimes be the most difficult part of the process.

The book is also a bunch of fun and follows the journey of Josh as he field-tests his own theories. So now the only question that remains is: what can YOU learn in under 20 hours?

The Pros
It’s as entertaining as it is informative.

The Cons
Turns out this one is difficult to fault!

Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy

“Everyone procrastinates. The difference between high performers and low performers is largely determined by what they choose to procrastinate on.”

If you’re a chronic procrastinator and can’t quite work out the best way to nip this bad habit in the bud, Brian Tracy will tell you that it’s time to eat that frog.

By eating the fattest and ugliest frog in the pond first thing in the morning, you can live out the day with the peace of mind that nothing will be harder or more tiresome that what you’ve already done. Phew.

In other words, what are you dreading today? What is urgent, important, and bringing you the most stress? That’s exactly what you need to do first, without excuses, doubts, or second thoughts.

Brian Tracy advocates for slim and trim to-do lists and ruthless prioritization. If you’re feeling intimidated or even skeptical, this just might be the read for you.

The Pros
It’s founded in 21 actionable methods and decorated with a heap of applicable tips and thought-provoking one-liners.

The Cons
It’s slightly drawn out and sometimes presents information you probably already knew and have heard a few times before.

Work Simply by Carson Tate

If you feel easily overwhelmed by the sheer amount of advice, tips, and be-all-and-end-all guides for boosting productivity and being successful out there, start with this book.

Instead of offering you one philosophy of success that may or may not work for you (like most books do),  Work Simply focuses on helping you find your own personal working style. Carson Tate takes it one step further by presenting you with a bunch of different success strategies suited to your way of thinking, learning and growing.

It’s a relief to find a book which reminds you that what works for one person does not necessarily work for another.

The Pros
Sound advice that can be applied across many parts of your life.

The Cons
Work Simply presents just 4 different work styles, which keeps it simple, but is also slightly restrictive. You might feel discouraged if none of them quite suit you, which is exactly the opposite of what the book strives to do.

Tribes by Seth Godin

If you’re looking for a motivational push, Tribes by Seth Godin will inspire even the most reluctant of leaders to change the world.

By suggesting that leaders often come from the most unlikeliest of people, you start to believe that anyone (including yourself) can and should become the kind of leader they would want to follow.

According to Seth, you don’t need to be a CEO, company founder or serial entrepreneur to connect with this book. Intrigued? Find out what makes a leader and why now, more than ever before, the world needs you to lead.

The Pros
Inspirational, motivational, and a captivating read.

The Cons
It’s much more motivational than it is practical.

The More of Less by Joshua Becker

We’ve all got a lot of stuff and, according to Joshua Becker, this clutter is getting in the way of what really matters.

The More of Less helps you realize that with less stuff you have to focus on, you’re more easily able to grow meaningful relationships, be healthy and start pursuing what really makes you tick.

The Pros
Simple, applicable and relevant.

The Cons
Minimalism has risen in popularity in the media lately, so it’s possible that you’ve heard some of this advice before.

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and Robert Kiyosaki

A quick Google search will reveal that every man and his dog are onboard with this pick. It’s even earned the legendary status of being one of the most highly rated books on Amazon.

The Miracle Morning lives up to its name, bringing you 6 of the simplest habits to help you create the life you’ve always wished you had. Though you may doubt whether it really is that easy,you can’t help but love the foundation it establishes for making important life changes, breaking habits, and driving forward productivity.  

Robert Kiyosaki suggests that big goals are achieved through consistently engaging in small and simple steps, which is definitely something we believe in,

The read is easy peasy, but the value comes after you’ve finished the book and start to integrate the habits in your early morning ritual.

The Pros
Strikingly simple, with a solid premise and powerful habits that anyone can find value within.

The Cons
The language can feel a little cringey, reminding you of a not-so-great self-help book. It also has a “my way or the highway” feel to it and we believe that finding personal success doesn’t follow a one-size-fits-all model.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport

You probably already know that distractions aren’t ideal, but how much damage are they really doing?

Cal Newport argues that by giving in to the irresistible allure of an incoming email or by giving in to the beckoning call of Buzzfeed or Reddit, you’re incinerating your ability to engage in tasks of true cognitive value.

Essentially, by not maximizing upon the potential of your intellect, you’re limiting smart you could be. Imagine what you could achieve if you eliminated distractions?

Deep Work: Rules for Focuses Success in a Distracted World not only makes a great point about distractions in a digital era, it presents concrete ways (most of them really simple!) to minimize the amount of times you avert your eyes from the real task at hand. His suggestions are so easy to do that you can’t help but feel empowered to go and do it.

We only got a few chapters in before making a couple of Cal-inspired gestures to be more productive throughout the day.

The Pros
You won’t run out of ideas to help you eliminate distractions!

The Cons
Some, though not all, of the tips may seem obvious and basic.

Rethinking the Power of Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation by Gabriele Oettingen

When isn’t it a good idea to think positively? Can positive thinking actually prevent you from getting promoted, starting a new business venture, or achieving an ambitious goal?

Gabriele Oettingen thinks so — and she does a convincing job at rethinking a traditional social norm and presenting a more powerful solution to getting things done.

At the heart of her message, she argues that positive or wishful thinking can bring idealized and unrealistic expectations of the hard work, setbacks, and challenges you’re likely to face in accomplishing your goals.

Rather than just crossing all fingers (and toes) and hoping for the best, Gabriele says you should focus on the obstacles and make a plan for how to deal with the worst case scenario.

This way, when the worst of the worst gets thrown at you, you’ll not only be expecting it, you’ll feel confident on the best way to endure through it.  

The Pros
Creative, original, and makes you rethink the way you approach new challenges.

The Cons
Must we really criticize this read? This was was a winner in our books!

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Where does happiness come from and how can we find it? Mihaly Csikscentrmihalyi brings forth a captivating read for anyone pursuing deeper purpose or a more gutsy feeling of fulfillment in life.

If you’re feeling philosophical or in the mood to question, critique, and explore, this could be your next read.

Mihaly argues that true bliss comes through “flow”. What is flow? It’s the effortless concentration or absorption within an activity you love. An athlete would describe it as “being in the zone” and an artist might say they were “lost in the moment”.

However, while the emotion or feeling has an intensity to it, the activity itself doesn’t have to be extreme. It can be found in an intimate conversation with a friend or through reading a book you love (hint, hint).

By combining the right elements in any given activity, whether it be physical, work tasks, doing things with friends or filling up your downtime, you can begin to find your flow.

To find out more about these elements, you’ll have to read the book.

The Pros
Surprisingly down-to-earth without losing it’s inspirational edge.

The Cons
Slightly repetitive in parts.

Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill

An oldie but a goodie, Think and Grow Rich has been pinned one of the most influential books of all time.

If you’re a hustler, moving all of your cards to either grow rich or be successful, this book will give you tangible techniques and a tested formula that can easily be applied to your life.

The book is grounded within years and years of research. Napolean Hill made it his mission to interview the world’s most successful people and find out what things they all had in common. He comes up with 13 solid lessons to help you unravel the “secret” of being successful.

The Pros

Great read that’s full of powerful content. You learn more than what to do, you learn how to do it.

The Cons 
Many of the anecdotes feel slightly outdated and the language errs on the side of wordy here and there. But hey, for the era of it’s publication, that’s to be expected.

Share your favorite books with us!

If you have a favorite book that isn’t on this list and really should be, please throw us a bone and send along your top picks to help@inkandvolt.com. We are always looking for great reads to make us smarter and we love sharing the best of the best. Happy reading!