4 Books to Become More Efficient and Effective

Published on April 19, 2022 (↻ February 5, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

I try to read 10 books per month, and average 7.3 books per month since I started tracking my reading in 2013. (From July 2, 2013, until today, I’ve read 775 books.)

I read almost exclusively non-fiction, yet that doesn’t automatically make every book useful. In fact, only 260 of those 775 books received a 4- or 5-star rating from me.

However—some books are so outstanding, they can change your life. This post marks the start of a brief mini-series about books that have changed or hugely inspired my life. I’m sharing them in the hope they can be of service to you, too.

The One Thing by Gary Keller

The cover of “The One Thing.”

When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small.

The One Thing heavily influences my work life. In most organizations I’ve been a part of, there has been a top-down push to work on several things—program x, initiative y, operation z. If not excessive and continuous, this would work out. In other times, it would not, leading instead to paralysis.

The One Thing has also helped me recoup my career, after I’ve felt so polymathish that I declared myself “author, philosopher, adventurer, artist, and developer” and whatnot, running projects in as many categories. Not only was that silly and arrogant, it was also all but “one thing” I focused on.

I’ve learned my lesson in both my own projects and in my corporate work, by narrowing down priorities as much as possible. The One Thing is the book that helped me get there, and which can help you, too, become more focused, and with that more effective.

Getting More by Stuart Diamond

The cover of “Getting More.”

[…] you are the least important person in the negotiation. The most important person is them. And the second most important person is a third party important to the negotiators.

Last year, I gave some tips on promotions and salary raises. One of these tips suggests to avoid positional bargaining. I learned this from this book, which is the one that may have had the most practical benefit to me ever, saving and earning me literally thousands of dollars, and saving and improving dozens of relationships.

How is that possible?

It’s possible because the popular bar is incredibly low. When it comes to negotiating, if ever anything’s being taught, then it’s—positional bargaining, one of the worst negotiation tactics there is. (It’s so bad, it’s like recommending that for your health, best drink a bottle of vodka and smoke three packs of cigarettes a day.)

Getting More has been a revelation—it teaches not only how positional bargaining is not a useful approach, but what really matters in a negotiation. It begins with showing how we negotiate more frequently than we think; and it ends with everything needed to negotiate, as with focus on the relationship and making the pie bigger, aiding to truly end negotiations with a win/win.

This is the most useful book I’ve ever read, and I’m sure it will be of use to you, too.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

The cover of “Getting Things Done.”

The key ingredients of relaxed control are

  1. clearly defined outcomes (projects) and the next actions required to move them toward closure, and
  2. reminders placed in a trusted system that is reviewed regularly.

Getting Things Done is an old book (2001), and I read it perhaps 15 years ago. Yet it has had a profound impact on how I organize my work, making it an order of magnitude more efficient.

I could now start listing the things that, to this day, I keep near and dear (like ensuring a system to take in work; to use reminders; to mark items I’m waiting for responses to; to defer, do, or delegate; &c.), but this is something you find in the book.

What you may not find in it (though I’m not sure anymore), is the importance to really make this your own. The key to putting Getting Things Done to best use, at least to me, has consisted not of gathering all the different principles and methods, and religiously applying them. It has consisted of understanding their intent, and using them to inspire my own system.

I don’t know how the younger Jens managed to do this, but ever since reading and working with Getting Things Done, I’ve felt I master my work. And not the other way around.

The Intelligent Investor by Benjamin Graham

The cover of “The Intelligent Investor.”

The intelligent investor realizes that stocks become more risky, not less, as their prices rise—and less risky, not more, as their prices fall. The intelligent investor dreads a bull market, since it makes stocks more costly to buy. And conversely (so long as you keep enough cash on hand to meet your spending needs), you should welcome a bear market, since it puts stocks back on sale.

What does an investment book do here (efficient? effective?), and why would it be The Intelligent Investor, and not one by Graham’s most famous disciples, Warren Buffett?

I believe reading Buffett is a good choice (if only Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder letters), but that’s not even an answer to the second question. What’s one to the first?

I’m including an investment book because learning about investing is a necessity. It’s a necessity to draw a line against speculation, which you can learn about, too, but that comes with great risk and little ease of mind; and it’s a necessity because investing, or investing well, is one manifestation of being efficient and effective. (Is this convincing? Let me know!)

Why The Intelligent Investor, then? Because this book lays the foundation for investing well, and investing long-term (buy-hold is the keyword, as opposed to buy-and-then-sell-as-soon-as-you-can). It’s an excellent book covering important investment theory, principles, and guidance. It’s a great book to—own your finances.

Now, my own investment life began with buy-and-sell-asap, and was transformed by reading Buffett. But this is the book that turned out to cover much of what Buffett and other star investors preach—and therefore I use that as my fifth paragraph-attempt at why this book is great.

❧ What a start into this book series! Have you read these books? Will you now read these books? What books do you recommend, to become more efficient and effective? Let me know in the comments, if still open, or as a response to the tweet to this post. And—stick around for a few more recommendations following over the next few days!

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!