I first read How to be a Productivity Ninja around the time it was published, back in 2014. That first copy was a review copy, received through NetGalley. It’s been waiting for a review ever since. Why? Perfectionism syndrome and wanting to have a copy of my own — something that inexplicably never happened. This time, I borrowed a copy from the library, and it’s for the completely revised and updated version, published in 2019. The following review is for this new edition, read as an e-book.
First, I’m not the same person who read and fell in love with the first edition. At the time it was material presented in a mostly new way. Today, would I find it kitschy?
Second, it was rewritten and published before the pandemic. Would it read well in light of the extreme change to … everything?
TL; DR — Yes, for the most part.
Today, I tend to cringe at the mention of productivity … an overwrought, and overused, word. Thankfully Allcott and I agree on our definition, “the ability to achieve what you want to achieve, for the least effort”. That doesn’t mean poor work, that doesn’t mean setting yourself up for becoming burnt out; instead it means being human.
Rest assured, How to be a Productivity Ninja is a book that is still an enjoyable read and provides valuable lessons on crafting a life that matches your priorities. While I found the ninja motif tiring at times, it’s as useful today as it was years ago.
My biggest take away from this book — both on my first read and now — is a concept that is found in many different productivity books, but for some reason resonates differently as presented here: Trust your system. If you lose trust in your productivity system and how you go about doing things, you will quickly feel overwhelmed and probably turn to procrastination.
Over twelve chapters you learn Allcott’s method to create a system that you trust. You will learn how to choose, use, and refine productivity tools (not productivity pr0n). While some of the lessons may fall short in the new era of WFH, there are still many that are useful.
Each chapter begins with a summary of what is in store for that section. There are easy to skim subheadings that allow you to dip in to read more or skim passed based on your need. Bullet points, lists, charts, and diagrams help to break up the text as do the quirky office supply doodles of the productivity ninja. There are also exercises to help you learn the techniques. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, they are helpful, sometimes it’s nice to have someone else tell you what to do.
Many of the tips are available elsewhere — you’ll find references to David Allen, Cal Newport, and more. That’s great news. What makes this book different is how Allcott organizes and presents his approach. It may help you with your own productivity.
I recommend How to be a Productivity Ninja with the caveat to make sure you pick up the completely revised and updated version and recognize that it was published in 2019.
How to be a Productivity Ninja : worry less, achieve more, love what you do
by Graham Allcott
Icon Books | 2019 | 368 pages | ISBN: 9781785784613