The New York Times has published its list of best-selling books for April, 2020. Atomic Habits by James Clear is at the top spot.
I think this makes sense. So many of us are trying to take what control we can during these circumstances, as we stay at home, work from home, and just…survive…at home. We need all the help we can get with building and maintaining good habits.
Here’s a personal observation: for over 22 + years, we have presented synopses of business books at our monthly First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. Two books, every month, for over 22 years. Last Friday, I presented only one synopsis; and our gathering was remote/virtual.
I will do this again for May. (I am deciding whether or not to present one book or two). But, as to my problem: “regular” business books do not quite feel appropriate or timely. Last Friday, I presented Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath, and it was absolutely timely. But, otherwise, I’m having difficulty choosing books that feel right for the moment we face.
But, hopefully, things will return to normal soon, and ”regular” business books will provide needed great value and insight again.
Back to this month’s list: each month, the New York Times publishes a list of the top ten best-selling business books. Of the ten, I have presented synopsis of four of them, and my former colleague, Karl Krayer, presented synopses of two others. I presented Atomic Habits, Dare to Lead, Outliers, and Leadership Strategy and Tactics. Karl presented Thinking, Fast and Slow, and Grit.
Note: this month’s list includes three books by women authors. This is a higher percentage than usual. — We’ve presented two of these three.
Here is the list of best-selling business books for April, 2020 from the New York Times. Click over to their site for links to reviews of a few of these:
#1 – Atomic Habits by James Clear
#2 – The Ultimate Retirement Guide for 50+ by Suze Orman
#3 – Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
#4 – Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
#5 – Dark Towers by David Enrich
#6 – Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty
#7 – Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
#8 – Leadership Strategy and Tactics by Jocko Willink
#9 – The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger
#10 – Grit by Angela Duckworth
Our synopses are available to purchase from the buy synopses tab at the top of this page. Each synopsis comes with our multi-page, comprehensive handout, along with the audio recording of our presentation. Click here to see our newest additions.
UPDATE WITH OFFICIAL INVITATION – AND A DETAIL OR TWO
Where: on ZOOM
We are all set for tomorrow’s Remote First Friday Book Synopsis.
If you have ever attended our event, you know that I am handout intensive. You really will be able to follow along better with a physical copy of the handout in front of you.So, if you have a printer, please print the handout.
#2 — Come on in for conversation whenever you can. I am new to this whole Zoom practice, but I have enabled the “enable join before host” button. So, I think that means you can come in, and talk to people. I will plan to join the meeting around 7:00, but will keep myself pretty much muted until I begin the program at 7:30. And, I will not “end the meeting” for a while after, if you want to continue conversations with others after we officially conclude. (I hope I am correct about how this will work…).
#3 — Here is the info, with the link to join the gathering:
Randy Mayeux is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.
Topic: First Friday Book Synopsis, April 3, 2020
Time: Apr 3, 2020 07:30 AM Central Time (US and Canada)
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 206 395 039
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Meeting ID: 206 395 039
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One Book Synopsis: Upstream by Dan Heath
Where: on ZOOM
When: This Friday, April 3, 7:30 am
The presentation will conclude by 8:05 am
Speaker: Randy Mayeux
You are having trouble reaching your top levels of productivity right now. Right? I know that I am.
Among all of the ripple effects of the current health crisis, with so many, many of us working from home, we are having trouble concentrating on, focusing on, and accomplishing, our work.
This might help explain it. Let’s call it the simple productivity formula. It was prompted by an image I saw on a Twitter feed from from lizandmollie; @lizandmollie (see image).
Here’s the formula:
Time + Clear Direction + Emotional Energy = Productivity
T + CD + EE = P
All three of these are needed to be effective and productive, aren’t they?
During this difficult moment, many have an abundance of time. But for too many, there is a lack of clear direction (“this is what I need to get accomplished right now”). And for practically everybody, there is a shortage of emotional energy. Especially for people who flourish through interactions with others; we are especially drained right now.
Usually, in these blog posts, I include some hint of what to do. At this moment, I’ve got little hint of what to do.
But, if you’ve got all three of these – T + CD + EE — then you are in for a really productive time. Good for you!
Here’s another image from lizandmollie; @lizandmollie
Since you are likely working from home, it is time to do a pretty thorough analysis of your working-from-home skills.
Yes, I know; there are only 38 gazillion articles on how to master the art of working from home. But, I want to jump in with four strong suggestions of my own, with a few book-reading recommendations thrown in.
Think about the long-established wisdom of having a good strategy, and then executing on that strategy, So, you need to decide what to do (strategy), you need to develop a plan to get that done (tactics, and execution), and you need to communicate – to overcommunicate – to everyone involved. And, you need to reach deep inside yourself to develop an ever-stronger internal motivation.
So, here are my four critical elements of becoming a success at working from homie:
#1 – Decide on your strategy. Having a big, overarching, “this is what I intend to accomplish” plan will set the stage for all else.
#2 Cultivate an ever-stronger internal motivation. The kind of motivation that does not rely on carrots and sticks. The kind of motivation that the experts call “intrinsic motivation.”
Book Suggestion: this is a good time to read Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates You by Daniel Pink. Here is his own “twitter summary” of his book: “Carrots & sticks are so last century. Drive says for 21st century work, we need to upgrade to autonomy, mastery, & purpose.”
It boils down to this: when working from home, you have to be your own taskmaster. You have to want to do the work that you need to do; want to do it from somewhere deep inside of you. Reading this book can help you think through this challenge, and work on deepening your own intrinsic motivation.
#3 – After you decide what to do – what “big things” to do, and what incremental things to do along the way — then you need to get your things done.
Two strong reading recommendations for this part of the work-at-home puzzle. The first is the “bible” of getting things done: Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen. This book is overflowing with practicable, usable advice on how to get your things done.
The other is The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande. Dr. Gawande knows a thing or two about checklists; he developed the WHO surgical checklist, and helped develop the Ebola checklist. But, if you read this book, he looks at checklists from medicine, from construction managers (from really big construction projects), and chefs, and pilots, and…
Read this book, work on and use your checklists, and you will have far fewer things fall through the cracks.
#4 – And…you need to communicate with everyone, all the time. You need to over-communicate!
Though there are snippets of wisdom in a number of books about this, what I most recommend is that you read this blog post: “The Rule of Seventeen” – If you Want to Get Your Message Across & Accepted, Repeat, and Repeat and…..
One of the developers of this concept is Ed Savage, a regular participant at our First Friday Book Synopsis events in Dallas, and an organizational development guru. This practice is critical.
When you work from home, you simply have no “accidental” encounters to help spread the word; about anything. No coffee break encounters. No spur of the moment “let’s have lunch” conversations. No bumping into each other in the hall, to ask quick questions. So, you have to become very, very intentional about overcommunicating.
Communicate; then communicate again; and again; and then some more.
As Verne Harnish put it in Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: “until your people are mocking you, you’ve not repeated your message enough.”
Now, admittedly, this post did not deal with many other critical issues of working from home: how to set up your office; what to wear while working; how many cat videos to watch a day. But, if you pay attention to these four, and do some serious reading, you will get better at the job of doing good work from home.
I have presented synopses of all of the books I mentioned in this post. You can purchase my synopses: each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, along with the audio recording of my presentation. Click on the “buy synopsis” tab at the top of this page, and search by title. Click here for our newest additions.
I have read, and presented synopses of, well over 500 books since we began the First Friday Book Synopsis back in the late 1990s. The books I have presented deal with every aspect of business, and, other books I have presented for the Urban Engagement Book Club deal with issues of social justice (poverty; racism; education; homelessness…).
I have learned so many lessons from these authors and their books. And, there are a few lessons that I have read in book after book, time and again, that I’m not sure we have learned at all.
Here are two that come to mind at this moment in our new crisis:
In The Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb says that no one can predict any specific black swan. By definition, a black swan is something (usually, something bad) that no one could see coming. But, they can see this: a black swan is coming. Don’t be surprised when it does arrive.
In Factfulness, Hans Rosling included a global pandemic as one of the six bad things that genuinely worried him. #6, by the way, was the bad thing that no one knows how to predict; the unknown, thus utterly unpredictable, bad thing.
But, if you read this book, you realize that we should have had teams of people developing solid plans for the coming global pandemic. It was predicted. It has arrived. And we were not ready, when we should have been.
(from Jocko Willink, and others, about the value of the after-action review)
Lesson #2 – You will make mistakes. So, be sure to carve out time to learn from your mistakes. Then, actually learn from your mistakes.
Each branch of the military apparently has a different vocabulary for these critical exercises, but it goes like this: when you plan and then execute an operation, you then do an after-action review. You ask four key questions;
#1 – What was supposed to happen? What was our intent?
#2 – What actually happened?
#3 – Why was there a difference between what was intended — what was supposed to happen — and what actually happened?
#4 – What can we learn from this so that that bad thing does not happen again?
There already have been plenty of mistakes made during this crisis. Some of them (many of them) are genuinely deadly; people are dying. But we need to do plenty of very careful, honest, humble after-action review work when all of this is over.
And leaders who are not willing to learn from mistakes made are very bad leaders, because they doom us to make the same mistakes again.
There are other lessons I am pondering. But these two stand out pretty clearly to me.
Stay safe; and stay well.
By the way, the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is a book to help you become “antifragile,” the opposite of fragile. This book seems like a needed read for times such as this.
My synopses of books by Taleb, and Willink, and many others, are available for purchase. Each synopsis comes with my comprehensive, multi-page handout, plus the audio recording of my presentation. Go to the buy synopses tab at the top of this page, and do a search by title. Click here for our newest additions.