3 motivating books for your professional life

Daily motivation is hard to come by

I’m switching things up for this topic. There won’t be any code in this edition. Instead, I’m writing about an equally important topic: motivation. Productivity isn’t always hot keys and macros. Productivity comes when you manage your time well, prioritize the right tasks, track your progress, and refuse to quit.

As developers we are expected to, and often want to, learn new technologies. This takes effort over long periods of time. However, learning takes motivation. We share resources like tutorials, courses, and conference talks. But it’s not as often that we share content to build motivation and grit. I wanted to help change that. Here’s 3 books that I’ve found to be extremely helpful in my career.

Deep Work - Cal Newport

Motivation is hard to come by every day. Waking up motivated is one thing. Keeping that feeling all day is another. Deep Work is a book that motivates you just from reading it.

Deep Work cover

The author, Cal Newport, lays out two types of tasks: deep and shallow. Deep tasks produce valuable work and shallow tasks produce work of less value. A deep task would be something of core importance to your position, like creating a new landing page for your product. A shallow task would be checking your email. Both types of work are necessary but Newport argues that you need to prioritize deep work.

A deep work session is usually an uninterrupted session between an hour and a half to three hours. The value of deep work isn’t in this advice. The book’s value comes from the strategies provided for achieving deep work. Deep Work teaches different methodologies for approaching deep work tasks, and provides systems for tracking your progress.

Grit - Angela Duckworth

This is quite possibly the best book I have ever read. There’s a brilliant summary quote from this book: “Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.”

Grit by Angela Duckworth

How many times have you started a project just to see it flame out? Have you ever started to shift your career in a new path just to turn back because it felt uncomfortable or difficult? Grit explores what it means to be a “gritty” person. This book is based on the science of what it means to be someone who doesn’t quit when it gets hard.

One of the best takeaways from Grit is the difference between talent and achievement. Grit provides a simple formula: Skill = Talent x Effort. Achievement = Skill x Effort. In this formula effort counts twice. Grit preaches that we shouldn’t praise people for “being smart”, but for being hard workers.

This book has helped me evaluate my choices over the long term and reduced the amount of quitting going on in my life.

Willpower - Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney

Roy Baumeister is one of the foremost experts on the subject of willpower. What is most fascinating about this book is one simple principle: willpower is a muscle.

Grit by Angela Duckworth

Willpower being a muscle is a double-edge sword. The bad news is that willpower is finite, you can’t always just “will” your way through something. The good news is that we can work out this muscle and make our willpower stronger.

This book dives into the science behind willpower and then gives tips and strategies for building and retaining willpower. If you have a hard time finishing things, this book will help strengthen your willpower muscle.

What are your favorite motivating books?

These are just three of my favorites. Send me a tweet and let me know what books have helped you progress in your career.