I’m experimenting with a new post format: a simple list of things I’ve found useful lately. I hope you find it, well, useful!

Here’s a book, a productivity tip, and a quote.

1. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success

I wrote about Adam Grant’s Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives our Success in a recent post, and I’ll likely do a full write-up in the future.

In the meantime, let me just say this: I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s an exhaustively-researched, data-driven explanation of why it’s good to give (and how to be generous without becoming a doormat).

If you read a lot of books, you occasionally stumble on one that abruptly adjusts your worldview before you realize what’s happening. For me, Give and Take has been one of those. If you like the other books I’ve recommended on this blog, put this one on your list.

2. Scheduling Every Minute of My Workday

Okay, I’m bending some GTD rules here.

I’ve used a productivity system called Getting Things Done since 2011, and it’s helped me transform from a frazzled grad student into an unusually productive person. GTD is all about working from Next Action lists (a kind of to-do list), with your calendar reserved only for events that must take place at a specific time (meetings, doctor appointments, etc.). When you have open time, you look at the appropriate Next Action list, pick an item that matches your energy level and the amount of time you have available, and get to work.

Only problem is, it’s super easy to put off the unpleasant/scary/hard stuff (since you never have to commit to doing it at a certain time).

A few weeks ago, after reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, I started experimenting with putting specific tasks on my calendar at specific times:

1:00-3:00 PM: Project planning for scary new project that I’ve been avoiding for two weeks.

I’ve found that seeing scary tasks as an event on my calendar makes me far more likely to follow through. In fact, I’ve started scheduling every minute of my workday, and instead of wearing me out, it’s reducing my decision-making and increasing my productivity.

More on this in a future post!

3. Letting Small Bad Things Happen

Develop the habit of letting small bad things happen. If you don’t, you’ll never find time for the life-changing big things. — Tim Ferriss

I’m about to enter one of the busiest periods of my life, and I’m keeping the above quote in mind.

Insisting on perfection keeps us focused on the things we can do perfectly: the little and the unimportant.

The big stuff is messy.