The Best Book on Productivity You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

This 110 year-old book taught me more in 90 pages than many of the newest big books on the market

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Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash
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Arnold Bennett c/o Wikimedia Commons

Don’t Underestimate the Big Effects of Small Things

At the end of his introduction to the book, Bennett essentially introduces the idea of the lifehack, a hundred years before its modern incarnation. You know, those little things you can do to make it easier to do more difficult and valuable things? For him, it was the suggestion of getting an earlier start, in order to get more done.

The 7 1/2 Hour Miracle

We all struggle with “finding time” to get things done. Not just to get the “have-to” stuff done, but also to make progress on our big goals. At times, it can seem like there just isn’t enough time in the day for all of it.

  1. If you could fully focus your efforts in just that 7 1/2 hours per week, you could do some pretty amazing things.

Hone Your Most Valuable Skill: Concentration

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the ability to concentrate is a multiplier. As in, if you and another person have 30 minutes in which to work, but you can concentrate better than they can, you can get double the work done.

Reflect Regularly

Bennett was a prolific journaler. It’s estimated that at the time of his death, he had amassed more than a million words in his daily journals. And that’s in addition to the many books, articles, and plays he wrote during his lifetime.


It’s hard to believe that a book written before movies, TV, the internet, or mass telephone usage could be so on-the-nose about personal productivity. But How To Live on 24 Hours A Day showed me that we humans have always faced the same types of problems. They’ve simply changed the way they manifest in our daily lives.

  • Set aside 7 1/2 hours each week to work on your most important stuff — and YES, you do have that kind of time
  • Learn to strengthen your concentration by exercising it
  • Practice regular and honest self-reflection, to get yourself properly motivated

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Author of “The Wabi-Sabi Way” and “Be, Think, Do”. Subscribe to my newsletter “Woolgathering”:

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