The best books to singletask what matters most

Devora Zack Author Of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time
By Devora Zack

Who am I?

“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.” - Goethe. As Singletasking notes, we’ve become relentlessly disrespectful of the people and experiences right in front of us. Reversing this is a mission of mine. Nothing seems more important than redirecting our lifelong attention to what matters most. As an international author and speaker about both Singletasking and personality styles, I’m convinced paying attention to and honoring each other is the key to a meaningful life and deep relationships.

I wrote...

Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

By Devora Zack,

Book cover of Singletasking: Get More Done one Thing at a Time

What is my book about?

Too many of us have become addicted to the popular, enticing, dangerously misleading drug of multitasking. But you can beat it, while improving your life in the process.

Singletasking marshals convincing neuroscientific evidence to prove that you really can’t do more by trying to tackle several things at once—it’s an illusion. There is a better way to deal with all the information and interruptions that bombard us today. Singletasking explains exactly how to clear and calm your mind, arrange your schedule and environment, and gently yet firmly manage the expectations of people around you so that you can accomplish a succession of tasks, one by one—and be infinitely more productive. Singletasking is the secret to success and sanity.

The books I picked & why

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Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

By Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,

Book cover of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Why this book?

Flow is a groundbreaking book, embodying the ideal combination of depth and simplicity. A trendsetter from 2008, it offers readers a compelling case for the value of entering a ‘flow’ state—which can also be described as immersion or singletasking. Beautifully presented, memorable, and—yes—a life-changer. I learned from Mihaly that the impact of immersing in tasks is immeasurably profound.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

By Anne Lamott,

Book cover of Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Why this book?

Lamott recalls when her ten-year-old brother put off a three-month project on birds until the night before it was due. She describes him as immobilized. Their father sagely advised, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

Although these soothing words were indisputably not directed towards me, I cannot overstate how regularly they calm me in moments of thinly disguised hysteria. The metaphor is brilliant, plus I adore birds. Lamott frequently reminds the reader how quality writing requires—demands—full attention. So does deep reading. So does deep living. While this book is primarily about writing, it is equally about life—nestled atop a solid foundation of singletasking.

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

By Daniel Goleman,

Book cover of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence

Why this book?

The subtitle of Focus is The Hidden Driver of Excellence, yet this driver is arguably hidden no more upon the book’s release. As a journalist, psychologist, and top-notch researcher, Goleman is uniquely qualified to delve into the ‘science of attention.’ Plus, he has accumulated plenty of street cred from the various iterations of his Emotional Intelligence canon. 

Goleman compares attention to a muscle; requiring regular use to build it up. I couldn’t agree more. This premise is supported by myriad examples, accompanied by useful techniques for application in all aspects of life.

First Things First

By Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, Rebecca R. Merrill

Book cover of First Things First

Why this book?

Covey is internationally acclaimed for The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. However, I have a penchant for his also famous First Things First, a gem with visceral concepts that stick like honey in the brain. 

For example, the brilliance behind “Quad Two”—shorthand for items and to-dos that are important yet not urgent. Because they are not pressing, the things (and people) that matter most often get waylaid—propelling us into a life missing our passions and aspirations. Only cropping back up when they do become urgent—such as neglecting health until we can’t fully function.

And who can proceed in life unchanged following his introduction of the “Big Rocks” concept. I won’t do a spoiler alert. Let’s just say it merges prioritization with a singletasked focus.

Finally, I’m a sucker for the thoughtful worksheets nestled throughout First Things First.

The Little Prince

By Antoine de Saint-Exupery, Richard Howard (translator),

Book cover of The Little Prince

Why this book?

Georgia O’Keefe sagely noted, "No one can see a flower really, we haven’t the time. And to see a flower takes time, like to have a friend takes time." 

What better application of the singletasking concept than in friendship? The Little Prince concept of taming—‘to establish ties’—is the lynchpin of this universally beloved fable.

The need has never been greater to remind ourselves of the import of crucial relationships. After all, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

5 book lists we think you will like!

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