Managing your own productivity (and higher-level output) is an essential component of being an effective founder, manager, or team member. There are plenty of self-help books and articles on personal productivity — some of the very best are linked below.

Finding the best way for yourself to be productive (and happy at the same time) is a life-long journey. It depends not only on your personality, strength and preferences, but also on the circumstances you are in — in your professional and personal life.

Many people settle for very simple tactical productivity tips, but the more important questions are those that do well beyond day-to-day work.

A few pointers to start with, based on Peter Drucker's essential article "Managing Oneself":

  1. Find out what your strengths are. You probably think you know, but you might be surprised. A timeless recipe is feedback analysis, a process where you write down the expected outcome before every major decision. Looking back and understanding how things really worked out will help you grasp what your are really good at.
  2. Understand your performance style. Some people consume information best if they hear it verbally, some prefer reading it. Some want to talk it out. Some people work best with other people, others work best alone. Some are born decision makers, others prefer to be advisors. And some like stressful situations, while others prefer a predictable environment. Whatever it is, understanding your own style goes a long way in being effective.
  3. Values. Understand what is important to you in your professional life.
  4. The right environment. Not everybody is perfect for any kind of professional environment. This also applies to startups. Some people are great in a zero-stage environment where everything is wide open. Others excel at scaling up an proven setup aggressively.
  5. What you should contribute. It might sound obvious: Every professional role should suggest what to contribute. But particularly in startups, it's not. No job role is limited to the letter of its job description.

Useful Resources

Drucker: Managing Oneself

A short classic of self management and personal career development.

Covey: Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Another classic of self-management, deservedly on besteller lists for over two decades.

Newport: Deep Work

In today's distracted world, being able to concentrate and work deeply on really challening problems has become a hugely important skill.

Marc Andreessen on Productivity

Two articles that describe Internet pioneer and now VC Marc Andreessen's approach to personal productivity. It's a great illustration for how the best approach depends entirely on what your job is. Andreessen in 2007 (first article) was between jobs and promoted not having a calendar at all. In the second article, he is a powerful leader of a major VC firm and has scheduled every minute of his life.

Levy: Accidental Genius

How writing regularly without limits can transform your ideas and work process.

⚠️ Philosophy zone

If you want to get a bit more philosophical about personal outcomes, these are two highly recommended books.

The first is a modern take on the ancient philosophy of stoicism, which is widely misunderstood — it's not about repressing emotions, it's about being prepared for adverse situations. The second uses the psychology research of Alfred Adler (who can be considered to be the inventor of the infamous inferiority complex) to explore how you can understand yourself better and find happiness beyond the approval of others.

Both are very valuable perspectives for entrepreneurs.