Book Summary: Reap the rewards of taking smarter notes.

How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking

by Sönke Ahrens

Better note-taking leads to better thinking, learning, and writing. That’s the premise of How to Take Smart Notes. But it’s not the disposable notes that most of us take, nor is it the haphazard note-taking process many of us use.

You’ll be introduced to Niklas Luhmann’s slip-box note-taking method. Luhmann, a lawyer/civil servant turned university professor, by the end of his career, had published 58 books and 400+ articles aided by his slip-box. (Some sources say 70 books, including those published posthumously from work in progress.) He wasn’t just prolific but influential. He’s considered one of the most important social theorists of the 20th century and a prominent thinker on systems theory.

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Book Summary: Expand your memory. Boost your thinking.

Building a Second Brain: A Proven Method to Organize Your Digital Life and Unlock Your Creative Potential

by Tiago Forte

Every day we face a flood of information. Some of it is useful. Much of it not. Some of us try to hoard as much as we can. Others let the bulk of it slide because they don’t have good filters for what’s useful or they’re too overwhelmed to deal with it. But, embedded in what’s slipping by are bits of information—gems—that could be invaluable for improving our relationships, advancing our careers, or developing our organizations.

The hoarders don’t fare better. Much of what they collect (warehouse) molders out of sight and certainly out of mind. In both cases, the gems are out of reach of the only place they could be useful, our attention. What if we could harness the power of technology to deal with the onslaught, capture the useful stuff, put it to work or organize it for future use, and ultimately benefit from the wealth of information we face every day? That’s the question this book answers.

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Book Summary: Better engagement = better outcomes (and reviews).

The Workshop Survival Guide: How to design and teach educational workshops that work every time

by Rob Fitzpatrick and Devin Hunt

The Workshop Survival Guide is a straightforward guide to workshop design and facilitation. Author Rob Fitzpatrick teaches early-stage startups how to get customer feedback. Co-author Devin Hunt teaches mid-stage entrepreneurs on a variety of business topics. They’ve created and delivered workshops for audiences ranging from professionals to executives, undergrads to MBAs, disadvantaged youths to others.

The book has three sections. Part one covers design fundamentals. Part two is about facilitation. The appendix describes additional teaching formats and an example of a process for developing a new exercise.

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Book Summary: Time management should start here.

Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals

by Oliver Burkeman

Four Thousand Weeks puts everything else you read or learn about time management and productivity into a better, more meaningful context. Don’t read it; instead, experience it. Let it have the serious impact on your life that your life deserves.

After basking in the warm promises of ever so many other books on time management, this one felt like a plunge into the icy water. Shocking but clarifying at the same time. A leap from the warm, comforting pretense that, if we find just the right combination of tools, we can get it all done into the cold reality that we can’t. And by the way, here’s a reminder that life is absurdly short, so what will you do with it?

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Book Summary: A manual for conversations that matter.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, Third Edition

by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler, and Emily Gregory

Relationships, careers, organizations, and communities benefit when the people involved have the skills to openly and successfully discuss high-stakes, emotional, controversial issues — when they have the skills to engage in and guide crucial conversations successfully.

Crucial Conversations walks you through an entire toolset for staying cool and getting results during these challenging conversations. In addition to the opening chapters that describe crucial conversations, the book is organized into three parts. Part one covers what to do before a conversation. Part two addresses how to manage crucial conversations, including managing yourself. Part three outlines how to wrap up crucial conversations and move from dialogue to action.

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Book Summary: Find time for your most valuable work.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

by Cal Newport

The state of many of our workplaces seems to be geared toward busyness rather than productivity. We have to run fast to keep up with the barrage of emails and chat notifications, not to mention the stream of seemingly pointless meetings. They make us feel productive but, in the big picture, do little to advance our careers, especially when we stop to consider what they displace.

We long for stretches of time to focus on the things that will make a difference—projects and breakthroughs where we can do our best work. The work that we know we are capable of if only we could find the space for it amid the demands and distractions.

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Book Summary: Find your focus.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth About Extraordinary Results

by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

The ONE Thing answers the question, what’s the path to success? Opportunities are everywhere, but that abundance is overwhelming. Plus, we swim against the tide of myths about success that keep us playing small. This book explains how focusing on your ONE Thing allows you to do less while having more, achieve exceptional results, and live an extraordinary life.

The key tool is the “focusing question:” What’s the ONE Thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? It’s a disarmingly simple question that can have a profound impact when applied. It has the power to keep you laser-focused on what matters most — for your long-term goals and any area of your life.

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Book Summary: The how-to guide for focusing on what matters.

Book cover: Essentialism

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

by Greg McKeown

Essentialism isn’t about time management, goal setting, or other tactics and tricks. It’s about developing a strategic mindset focused on identifying what matters most, continuously navigating toward what’s essential, and pursuing the right activities to achieve what matters to you. It doesn’t challenge us to do more, but to think differently.

To live as an Essentialist, we need to let go of three deeply ingrained beliefs: “I have to,” “It’s all important,” and “I can do both.” And replace these false assumptions with three core truths: “I choose to,” “Only a few things matter,” and “I can do anything, but not everything.”

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Book Summary: 4X your results.

The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months

by Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington

Most of us have had some brush with annual planning and are familiar with the rhythms of a 12-month plan. And in your personal and professional life, you’ve probably noticed that the bulk of the plan’s results get posted in the fourth quarter as everyone pushes to reach their goals before the end of the year. But have you ever wondered why can’t we bring forth that kind of focus, intensity, and effort throughout the year? What could we achieve? What could we get done?

The 12 Week Year answers those questions. It outlines how to dramatically increase your results by condensing your planning and execution into 12-week cycles. In this way, that year-end focus, intensity, and effort will be applied four times a year instead of just once.

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Book Summary: Use storytelling elements for compelling marketing.

Building a StoryBrand book cover

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

by Donald Miller

Most marketing messages are just noise. Our brains tune them out—they’re too complex, and there are too many.

The solution is crafting messages that are keyed to what the human brain loves, which are stories. In particular, stories that will help us survive and thrive. Over the eons, our brains have developed to look for stories. Stories cut through the clutter and get our attention.

That’s the premise of Building a StoryBrand. It shows you how to tap the power of story to cut through the noise.

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