7 resources that helped improve my efficiency in 2016

In my recent newsletter (subscribe for updates), I shared end of the year updates and mentioned my 2016 goals and if I accomplished them. After I sent the newsletter, I realized that I focused on the things I did not accomplish and not so much on the things that I did accomplish. The number one thing I accomplished in 2016 was developing a system to help combat procrastination.

I always used to pride myself on being organized and a planner. Since even before high school, I would plan my day hour by hour in a planner or on a piece of paper. This habit followed through high school and beyond. To my family, friends, and coworkers I was someone who was determined, efficient, responsible, and dependable. I took pride in that.

When I entered my PhD program, I noticed that those same qualities were not translating into my work. I didn’t know it then, but I was feeling overwhelmed with the pressure of multi-tasking. I typically am a person who likes to work on one thing or two things at a time. But in the PhD program, there were many moving pieces and no longer could I manage it on my calendar or piece of paper.

I needed a new system and if I were to succeed in my program,  I needed it fast.

When I need to solve a problem, I seek out solutions. I figured out that feeling overwhelmed was my root problem

I started reading books and blogs and watching videos that could help me become more productive and efficient. These books, videos, people, blogs, etc. have all played a role in setting me up for an improved 2017 and beyond.

Hopefully one of these resources can help you.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

On January 5, 2016, I purchased Deep Work by Cal Newport. I read his blog and I like his take on working efficiently in a distracted world. This book helped me figure out why my previous productivity system was not working. I realized that even though I blocked off time to do work, I did not treat it as sacred. If I said I was going to spend three hours every day writing, sometimes that time would get cut in half because I allowed distractions to enter my blocked time (phone calls, meetings, doing work for other people, etc). As obvious as it is, this book helped me realize that my time is precious. What I also enjoyed most about this book is that Newport not only explains why living a distracted free life will help improve productivity, but he also tells the reader how to implement the principles.


The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth by John C. Maxwell

I love John C. Maxwell. I have read many of his leadership books and I enjoy the simple ways he explains personal growth concepts. This particular book, I listened to via the audiobook version, which is read by Maxwell.  I felt like he was talking to me and I was getting a pep talk on life. Like Newport’s book, the information in Maxwell’s book provided me with some key insights that were useful for me to improve my productivity system and personal growth plan.


Asian Efficiency Blog

I have no idea how I found Asian Efficiency, which is a productivity and time management blog. I think I was searching on Google on how to organize tasks and I stumbled upon an article on filing systems. Where Newport and Maxwell’s writings provided me with insights on how I could improve, the Asian Efficiency blog pointed me to the tools I could use. In a future blog post, I will talk about my system that I have developed over the last month based on information I found on that blog.


Entrepreneurs Go All In – Behavior Gap Radio hosted by Carl Richards

2015 and 2016 were podcast years for me. I have always listened to audiobooks and podcasts, but 2015/2016 I started listening even more. There are many great podcasts out there, but one episode that I listened to a few weeks ago stood out to me. Earlier in 2016, I found Carl’s podcast because I read his finance column in the NY Times. This particular four-minute episode was about entrepreneurs and how they go all in when it comes to putting capital into their business. They go all in because they believe their business will give them the best return on investment in the long run compared with investing or saving in other areas. Though this episode had nothing to do about productivity, I really liked the message of return on investment. Now, before I commit to something, I think to myself, “will this give me the best return on investment in terms of my short and long-term goals?” This has helped me do a better job with saying no to others and even to myself.


How Great Leaders Inspire Action presented by Simon Sinek

This 18 minute video is about leadership and business, but I feel the underlying theme of “start with why” is applicable in all situations. After watching this video, I took a step back and reflected on what is my why. Why do I do what I do in terms of career, my blog, etc. This video is what prompted me to rewrite my about page (what do you think?).


The #AskGaryVee Show

I discovered Gary Vee in 2016 and I just love his bluntness and energy. I started watching his YouTube videos and I love all the advice he gives on entrepreneurship. I can’t decide on which video I was inspired by the most, but overall, I just like his entire philosophy about putting in the work to achieve goals. After I watch his videos, I feel even more inspire to work towards my goals.


Do you often find yourself distracted or procrastinating? Why do you think you do so? What resources or tools have helped you become more efficient and productive? Share your thoughts in the comments section.



Photo Credit: Ayo Otake