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These Books and Podcasts Will Help You Work Wiser in 2022

The old adage, 'work smarter, not harder,' is easier said than done.

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While we may always feel pressure to work hard, we should never feel guilty about striving to not just work smarter, but to work wiser. As champions of productivity and healthy work habits, my colleagues and I know there’s huge business value in accomplishing more with less. We love reading, listening to and learning about new viewpoints that elevate our wisdom on what it means to be a high-performance employee in today’s remote and hybrid work environments. Working wiser also means benefiting from methods that are backed by data and insights that continuously inform, predict and achieve positive outcomes.  

So to help inspire you to work wiser in the new year, let’s take a look at some of the best content we came across in 2021 about productivity, wellness and workplace habits.

Finding flow and becoming effortless 

“Burnout is not a badge of honor.” This quote from Greg McKeown’s Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most is a wakeup call for thousands, if not millions, of workers in the digital age. In his book, McKeown makes a very compelling case for why rewarding, meaningful work shouldn’t feel like a burden. Effortless is filled with tips for designing systems to tackle challenging projects and training your brain to focus on critical tasks while ignoring everything else. 

In this eye-opening podcast, McKeown and growth strategist Tanya Dalton discuss rethinking your to-do list, cultivating intrinsic motivation and dealing with small responsibilities that aren't very exciting. If you ever find yourself asking the question, “How do I prioritize my work when everything feels like a priority?”, then you need to hear what this pair has to say about the importance of support systems and filling our days with activities that will ultimately bring us joy. 

Related: How to Use Flow to Make You More Productive 

Harnessing the power of attention 

As a master of user psychology and product design, not to mention the former CEO of a social-advertising platform, Nir Eyal understands the power of attention. His book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life paints a picture of human attention as a critical resource, beautiful gift and valuable commodity. Because many addictive consumer technologies have been engineered to give us instant gratification, Eyal argues that we must learn how to deal with discomfort and practice impulse control so we can spend more time on traction — small actions that move us closer to achieving what we really want in life. 

Because technology is still a force for exponential growth and positive change, we must make the distinction between tools that make us more efficient, such as workforce analytics, and those that distract us from focusing and reaching our goals. When Eyal spoke to productivity podcaster Erik Fisher, the two talked about the impracticality of swearing off technology altogether. Listen here if you’re interested in taking on Eyal’s simple, research-backed model for learning to make good on the promises you make to yourself and others. 

Related: 7 Proven Strategies for Overcoming Distractions 

Demystifying time management 

What happens when the quest for peak productivity goes too far? This is one of the questions that “recovering productivity addict” Oliver Burkemann seeks to answer in his book Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals (the title comes from the average amount of time a human has on Earth). Berkemann acknowledges that time management is one of the most important skills we possess, yet a lot of advice on this discipline is too prescriptive and task-based. 

Even when we succeed in blasting through a given week’s to-do list, adopting the wrong mindset can leave us feeling exhausted and stressed, which can lead to burnout. Burkeman prefers an approach that can be seen as counter-narrative to the self-help industry. In lieu of tips and tricks, Four Thousand Weeks focuses on raising our awareness of sneaky time traps and unintentional procrastination. He believes we can stop worrying about attaining perfect self-discipline and instead learn to manage our inherent flaws in a way that brings us joy and peace. Tune into this podcast with workplace creativity writer Jocelyn K. Glei to hear Burkeman expound on his time-management philosophy and explain why perfectionism will always leave us unsatisfied. 

Building better habits  

It’s tragically easy to get locked in a cycle of bad habits and a “one day I’ll change” mentality. Oftentimes we get stuck in a rut not for lack of trying to get out, but because we don’t have the right system or insights to change. 

In Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, entrepreneur James Clear asserts that if you want to transform into the person you truly want to be, the key is to build a steady, reliable system of small daily actions. He underscores that many people set unrealistic goals instead of closely examining their current trajectory and identifying areas for improvement. 

In a recent podcast, James Clear and career coach Ken Coleman discuss the tendency to beat ourselves up for bad habits. They also explore why working to change our environment is far more productive than self-pity and slogging through harmful circumstances. Check out this captivating podcast for straightforward strategies on how to build better habits. 

Related: 5 Steps To Adopt New Habits and Keep Them Forever 

Become your best self in 2022   

As we enter the new year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on what will make us more personally and professionally fulfilled in 2022. From achieving flow and traction to accepting our flaws and rethinking our approach to positive transformation, there are many concepts, tools and frameworks that can help us work wiser and take control of our lives. 

As ever, the key is self-awareness, and workforce-analytics tools that measure ongoing actions can be correlated to outcomes for a continuous cycle of improvement. I hope these books and podcasts give you a deeper understanding of productivity and healthy habits so that you and your teams can bring your best selves to work every day this year.

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

As chief product officer, Ramon Chen oversees ActivTrak’s product strategy and works closely with the company’s marketing, sales and product teams to drive continued growth and market leadership.