Our Four Favorite Books About Productivity and Project Management

Effective project management is crucial to the success of any business—and keeping yourself sane—but establishing a healthy balance between the priorities of competing tasks and the rigors of work and personal life is the key to doing it effectively. Easier said than done. It takes a little help. In this article, three people from around Omni HQ share their favorite books about project management and productivity. We hope the insightful tips they gained will help you deal with your own distractions, stress, and burnout.

We’re sure you’ve heard of the productivity bible “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity,” by David Allen. (If you haven’t, “Getting Things Done,” or GTD, is a system for managing everything—from your day to day stuff, to the big goals you don’t yet know how to accomplish.) We haven’t included it here so we can introduce some books that may be new to you, but the methodology is the inspiration for OmniFocus and it’s definitely at the top of our favorites list. There was also an excellent adaptation of the book released in 2018 that contextualizes the GTD principles for young people, helping them navigate social pressures, overcome procrastination, and plan for their futures. That one’s called “Getting Things Done for Teens: Take Control of Your Life in a Distracting World,” by David Allen, Mark Wallace, and Mike Williams.

(1) “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle,” by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

I found “Burnout” helpful because it acknowledges the patriarchal society we live in and offers insightful and actionable advice for women navigating the workplace. I’ve read many books on project management from a man’s point of view, and I appreciated the viewpoints and unique challenges shared from a woman’s perspective. I loved the conversational (and often humorous) way these two sisters approach the subject of effective project management.

“This book has shifted my priorities. I’ve learned how to not feel guilty when I take time to be with my daughter. It’s okay to just have fun—and to schedule time for fun. I’ve finally figured out how to compartmentalize what society considers important, and I now take time for what is truly important to me.

Effective project management is impossible when you don’t take time to rest, and the Nagoski sisters focus on the importance of taking a moment to reset and recharge. We need to be conscious of how we schedule our days. My takeaway from these two authors is that it’s OK to take a break to refresh your mind. “Burnout” presents the science that backs up the connection between taking time to reset and effective project management in an approachable manner.

“Burnout” was written with women in mind, but it’s really for anyone who struggles with setting time aside to take a breath and restore your reserves. Now when I take time to rest, I can flip the work switch back on revitalized and focused, which makes me a more effective project manager.

—Annette Fuller, Support Human

(2) “Growing Gills: How to Find Creative Focus When You’re Drowning in Your Daily Life,” by Jessica Abel

“Growing Gills” is a fantastic book for creatives feeling bogged down with ideas, and Abel offers helpful suggestions for how to prioritize your to-do list. (I also love that the author shared she uses OmniFocus to stay organized.) Abel has good ideas on how to say “no”—something that’s hard to do in the workplace (or at all). She also talks about why multitasking isn’t the best way to get things done.

I identify as being on the ADHD spectrum, and dealing with inner and outer distractions is a skill I’ve learned throughout my journey. This book helped me develop a plan for staying focused on one thing when I’m juggling several different tasks. I’m now more aware of the complexities that one thing might require, and I schedule time accordingly to deal with unexpected challenges.

I appreciate how this author presents actionable solutions for project management with the creative in mind. If you’re drowning in ideas, “Growing Gills” offers terrific insights about how to master the skills needed to bring your creative ideas to fruition. Nothing in life or at the workplace is as simple as it seems, but if you know how to prioritize what’s important, you’ll accomplish more than you ever imagined.

—Mark Boszko, Video Producer

(3) “Extreme Ownership,” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin

“Extreme Ownership” changed my perspective on how to be a better manager. I started owning my mistakes the moment they happened and working on finding ways to implement positive changes in real-time. One of the biggest mistakes a leader can make is not being self-aware of problems requiring personal change. I now know how to be an agent of change to elevate my team’s productivity.

Reading “Extreme Ownership” has also impacted the way I communicate and how I help others speak up. I’ve learned the importance of creating a safe place to talk. All too often people are afraid of sharing their ideas. This book has given me effective strategies on how to get everyone on the team to contribute, which is when true collaboration and innovation within an organization happens.

The frank way these two Navy SEALs compare and contrast business scenarios with their military training made it easier for me to connect with the real-life examples they share. This is recommended reading for anyone looking for practical and actionable strategies to effectively lead and communicate with others.

—Grayson West, Design Manager

(4) “Radical Candor: How to Get What You Want by Saying What You Mean,” by Kim Scott

OK, this one is cheating—it’s not technically about project management, but it does provide a lot of valuable tips regarding communication strategies and techniques for empowering teams to succeed. It’s kind of project-management adjacent. I found Scott’s insights on how to be a caring and effective leader impactful. This book has fantastic advice about how to offer praise and constructive criticism to help your team grow. Respectful and kind relationships are possible in the workplace, and it’s the secret of success for many leaders I respect.

—Grayson West, Design Manager