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How to Read 31 Books in Four Minutes


Program Your Life:
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity By David Allen

A cult leader with the mildness of a middle manager, Allen preaches a rigid system based on label-makers and manila folders.

• Create a collection bucket (notebook, in-basket, PDA) for all your input.

• Empty the buckets regularly by deciding what action each input needs.

• If the action takes less than two minutes, do it immediately.

Help Your Better Half Win:
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard By Chip and Dan Heath

A new set of tactics in the endless struggle between our rational self and our emotional self.

• Come up with a black-and-white, all-or-nothing, absolutely essential goal.

• Define each “mistake” as a crucial part of the learning process, rather than an individual failure.

Worry Your Way to Inner Peace:
The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking By Oliver Burkeman

Taking the low road to happiness.

• Focus on worst-case scenarios. (This reliably produces happiness, because the worst case usually doesn’t appear.)

• Goals that are too definite lead to cheating.

• Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity, just start taking action, using what you have, who you know, who you are.

Be the Prince:
The 48 Laws of Power By Robert Greene

Machiavelli for the modern mass market.

• If you need help, appeal to people from the angle of their own self-interest.

• Refrain from committing on contentious issues, so that you become a desired (and powerful) object.

• Be suspicious of free or cheap things, but use other people’s trustfulness of them to your advantage.

• Concentrate on one single outlet of power, so as not to dilute your strength.

Learn Not to Beat Yourself Up:
Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To By Sian Beilock

Understanding this most shameful phenomenon, for athletes and ­others, in order to prevent it.

• Before a challenging situation, like an important test, write down your worries about it.

• To avoid overthinking, try counting backward by threes or singing a song to yourself.

The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential … In Business and in Life By Leo Babauta

A minimalist, neo-Taoist Martha Stewart.

• Work on your most important task first thing in the morning.

• Block out time to clean your desk.

• Fully focus on the simplest of activities, like showering or eating; move on to more complicated tasks.

Learn to Live With Loud
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking By Susan Cain

A feel-good book for the silent type.

• Look for “restorative niches”: time when you can escape from the tyranny of extroversion.

• Seating arrangements become crucial in an introvert’s livelihood. Opt for casual buffet-style dinner (instead of sitting around a large table). It’s a less imposing atmosphere.

Readjust Your Thinking Cap:
Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long By David Rock

The neuroscience of the working world, from creativity to collaboration.

• Practice setting expectations a little lower.

• Say this to yourself when feeling anxious: “That’s just my brain.”

• If you must multitask, toggle between active-thinking tasks and repetitive ones.

Pay Attention:
The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation By Thich Nhat Hanh

A Buddhist chestnut on how meditation can change the world.

• When washing dishes, treat each of them as objects of contemplation and focus on the rhythm of your breath.

• Try to remain mindful for an entire day—as you bathe, do chores, even speak.

Let Your Mind Work:
Thinking, Fast and Slow By Daniel Kahneman

The War and Peace of the war between the impulsive, unconscious self and the reasoning self.

• Frowning will help you avoid the pitfalls that come with being overconfident.

• If you want to hire the best person for a job, establish six traits that represent the ideal candidate before the interviews start. Make your decision based on the candidate’s consistency with these traits, rather than your first impression.

• In order to lessen the emotional blow that comes with losing a gamble, repeat this mantra to yourself over and over again before gambling: “You win a few, you lose a few.”

Make It Easy:
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness By Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein

Building a better nanny state (“A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down”) by making people do what they should do because they want to.

• If someone is doing something in a way that is better than average, don’t point it out—if they realize they aren’t “normal,” they might adjust their behavior.

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