Jory MacKay
Jory is a writer, content strategist and award-winning editor of the Unsplash Book. He contributes to Inc., Fast Company, Quartz, and more.
July 23, 2020 · 23 min read

The 23 Best Project Management Books For Upgrading Your Career in 2020

23 Best Project Management Books

The number one thing every project manager needs to level up their skills is experience. And number two? A good project management book.

There’s nothing “new” about running a project. Sure, the goals and specific issues will be different in each case. But you can bet that every single type of project has already been run by someone else. And luckily for us all, most of them have been written about.

While there are tons of fantastic resources online for learning how to be a better project manager (such as this blog!) the truth is that project management books are a more in-depth way to get inside the minds of the best managers out there.

We combed through best-seller lists, spoke with veteran PMs, and read a ton to put together this list of the best project management books for upgrading your career in 2020.

Jump to a section:

These aren’t just how-to guides and step-by-step instructions. Project management is as much about people as it is about processes. So along with the best project management books for upgrading your hard skills, we included the best resources on building better habits, mastering your time and focus, communicating with and motivating your team to get more done.

Upgrade your project management career with these free resources from Planio!

The best books for mastering the fundamentals of project management

Running a project is always going to be a little bit overwhelming. But one of the best things you can do to feel more under control is to master the fundamentals.

These books range from technical guides to quick catch-ups on the core principles of project management, from how to gather requirements and plan your timeline to communicating and inspiring your team.

1. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (6th edition)

Author: The Project Management Institute (PMI)

Published date: 2017 (6th edition)

Who is this project management book for? A beginner looking to master the fundamental theories and language of project management.

Key lessons inside:

If you think of your project management career as a university course then A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) is your textbook. In fact, if you’re taking the PMP certification it will be your textbook.

First published in 1996 and now on its 6th edition, PMBOK is an in-depth collection of standards, best practices, and procedures for successful project management. To make a complex practice like project management simpler, the most recent version of the PMBOK breaks the core project management processes down into five sections:

You’ll also learn the entire A-Z vocabulary of common project management terminology and areas of knowledge.

However, the one major downside of this book is that it takes a theory-heavy approach to project management. The PMBOK might not be the best option if you’re not looking to get a certification or want something more specific to your niche.

Why you should read this:

Once you master the materials inside the PMBOK you’ll have a process for initiating and successfully running any project. While many of the other project management books we’ll suggest later dig into certain industries or niche examples, PMBOK is both broad and deep.

If you’re also interested in Agile project management, pair the PMBOK with the PMI’s new Agile Practice Guide or our own Guide on How to Pick the Software Development Process that’s Right For you.

2. Project Management for Humans: Helping People Get Things Done

Author: Brett Harned

Published date: 2017

Who is this project management book for? Digital project managers early in their careers who want a more personalized introduction to the big concepts and ideas.

Key lessons inside:

If the heavy theory and broad strokes of the PMBOK turn you off, then this might be the project management book for you.

Project Management for Humans blends together personal stories, quick and practical tips, and tactical information for digital project managers. The author uses his own experience working with teams of PMs at companies like Zappos and MTV to walk through the key concepts of project management.

However, while this book covers basics like estimating and planning projects, where it shines is in covering the soft skills of project management. Project management is ultimately about communication and this book covers how to collaborate with people on your own and other teams to ensure your project’s success.

Why you should read this:

It’s almost always easier to remember a story than a theory. Project Management for Humans does a great job of not only explaining the tricky nature of communicating properly but does so in a way that’s personal and memorable.

Use it as a quick guide to getting started with digital project management or as an easy-to-read refresher on the core concepts.

3. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Author: Jeff Sutherland

Published date: 2015

Who is this project management book for? Project managers adopting the Scrum methodology or who want to upgrade their team-leading abilities.

Key lessons inside:

Jeff Sutherland is one of the masters of Agile project management. Not only did he co-create the Scrum methodology, but he also helped to write the original Agile manifesto in 2001. This book is Jeff’s own in-depth explainer on how but more importantly, why to run teams the Agile way.

However, this isn’t a “nuts and bolts” guide to Scrum (which you can find all over the internet including right here!)

Instead, Jeff uses real-life examples and research to nail the benefits and realities of using Scrum. The easiest way to describe what this book is about is to use the author’s own words:

“Fail fast so you can fix early. Corporate culture often puts more weight on forms, procedures, and meetings than on visible value creation that can be inspected at short intervals by users. Work that doesn’t produce real value is madness.”

If you’re looking for some basics of Scrum, there’s an included appendix that can help teach you.

Why you should read this:

If you work on an Agile team, you need to understand not only how to work together quickly but why it’s so important. Scrum is not only the clearest description of how to implement the Scrum methodology but also why it matters. (Jeff claims that some teams see upwards of 1200% increases in their productivity when using Scrum properly!)

More importantly, Scrum offers a counterpoint to busy workplace cultures that focus on blindly following plans instead of constantly reacting to what users actually want. As Jeff writes:

“Blame is stupid. Don’t look for bad people; look for bad systems — ones that incentivize bad behavior and reward poor performance.”

4. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management

Author: Scott Berkun

Published date: 2008 (revised edition)

Who is this project management book for? Intermediate project managers looking to move on from the basics and master more nuanced project management skills.

Key lessons inside:

Pulling on his nine years of experience at Microsoft, Scott Berkun explains the realities of working through tough projects, making complex ideas simple, and leading teams. Rather than dig into the frameworks and how-tos like some of the other books, Scott writes personal essays on some of the most important, yet harder to define project management skills.

The book is split up into three sections. Part one covers the planning process as well as the importance of vision (and what constitutes “good” vision). Part two digs into what Scott calls “skills” including how to make good decisions, communication, and “how not to annoy people.” Lastly is a section on management, workplace dynamics, and how to get and use power.

Overall, you get a more nuanced approach to the realities of project management at a large company (however the lessons can be applied to most workplaces).

Why you should read this:

This isn’t a book for an absolute beginner project manager. Instead, it takes difficult subject matter (interpersonal relationships, dealing with uncertainty, etc…) and presents it in a way that’s engaging and easy to read. If you can look past some of the dated examples (it did come out over a decade ago), you’ll leave with practical lessons that will upgrade your career.

At a minimum, every project manager should read the chapter entitled “What to do when things go wrong.”

5. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

Author: Kory Kogon

Published date: 2015

Who is this project management book for? New project managers on small teams or anyone who’s been thrust into the position of managing people and projects.

Key lessons inside:

Not every project manager goes through training. And not everyone who manages projects is a project manager (at least in title). That’s the premise of this concise book.

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager follows the same structure as the PMBOK: Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor and Control, Close. However, instead of leaning heavily on theory, it uses real-world examples to illustrate how these scenarios play out. Each chapter ends with quick reviews making this a useful “PMBOK for Dummies”.

Where it differentiates itself from other basic project management books, however, is in focusing on people who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves a project manager. For people who aren’t in a position to lead projects based on their job title, it also gives a powerful framework for growing informal authority that consists of four steps:

  1. Demonstrate respect
  2. Listen first
  3. Clarify expectations
  4. Practice accountability

Why you should read this:

If you’re looking for a starting place for leading projects and don’t want to go deep into theory, this is a great book for you. While some of the examples and key points might seem overly simplistic, that’s the point! It’s meant as an entry point from absolute beginner project managers or those who manage teams on their own.

6. The Lazy Project Manager: How to be Twice as Productive and Still Leave the Office Early

Author: Peter Taylor

Published date: 2015 (2nd edition)

Who is this project management book for? Novice project managers looking to become more efficient with their time and energy.

Key lessons inside:

Provocative (and far-fetched) title aside, this short book is a project management classic. In it, author Peter Taylor advocates for a golden rule of project management: get the maximum level of output with the minimum level of input.

The “lazy” project manager, as he explains it, is one that understands it’s more important to discover and focus on the 20% of tasks that bring the most return rather than working longer hours and stressing out over non-critical activities.

As such, Peter places the majority of his attention on the planning phase of a project, showcasing how spending more time on up-front planning will lead to less confusion and overwork later on.

Why you should read this:

The essence of this project management book can be captured in a quote from Dwight D. Eisenhower: “Plans are useless, but planning is everything.”

As a project manager, your team is your greatest resource. But if you don’t know how to leverage and utilize them properly, you’ll end up running around putting out fires. The Lazy Project Manager gives great insights and anecdotes into how to get more out of the people you work with.

7. 20 Minute Manager: Managing Projects

Author: Harvard Business Review

Published date: 2014

Who is this project management book for? Absolute beginner managers or PMs who need a lightning-quick breakdown of the essentials of managing a project.

Key lessons inside:

As part of the Harvard Business Review’s 20-minute manager series, this book covers the bare minimum of terms, strategies, and techniques you need to smoothly run a project. It’s a concise read that doesn’t try to do more than it promises, which can leave some people wanting more.

However, as the title says, its goal is to quickly get you up to speed on the basics of project management, such as:

If you’re an absolute beginner or looking for something more business-focused than Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, then this should be on your list.

Why you should read this:

Sometimes you just need to keep it simple. This short book does a good job at distilling the core ideas of project management into a formula that anyone can follow. However, if you’re experienced at all or are looking for more in-depth examples, you’re going to be disappointed.

The best books for upgrading your people skills

Project management is as much about people as it is about projects. As we wrote in our guide to the top project management skills, technical training doesn’t set you up for all the nuanced situations you’ll experience throughout your career.

Books for Upgrading your People Skills

These books are designed to help you build the soft skills of project management from managing and leading a team to learning how to communicate effectively.

8. Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Author: Kim Scott

Published date: 2019 (Updated edition)

Who is this project management book for? Managers and leaders who are looking to build authentic, meaningful, and productive relationships with their team.

Key lessons inside:

If you want to be a project leader, you need to be able to build authentic relationships with your team. In this book, former Google and Apple manager Kim Scott describes her process for connecting and leading teams, which she calls Radical Candor.

In a nutshell, Radical Candor comes down to two elements:

  1. Caring personally. Instead of “keeping it professional,” Kim advocates for being wholly invested in your team and taking the time to build real, authentic relationships with them.
  2. Challenging directly. When someone knows that you’re invested in them, it makes them more open to honest conversations. This goes both ways. The more you and your team listen openly to feedback and criticism and respond in kind, the better you’ll work together.

Throughout the book, Kim gives examples of how some of the most high-performing product teams have broken down their communication barriers with Radical Candor. As a project manager, this is a superpower for bringing your team together and building a strong culture.

Why you should read this:

Project management (and especially project leadership) is more about people than processes. Radical Candor is a fantastic tool for upgrading your communication and relationship-building skills and getting more from the people you work with.

Best of all, this book offers real-world examples not just of successes but also failures. Nothing is black-and-white when it comes to workplace relationships. And hearing stories of Kim’s own failures as a manager will help prepare you for the challenges ahead.

9. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups

Author: Daniel Coyle

Published date: 2018

Who is this project management book for? Ambitious project managers looking to create a strong team culture based on trust and growth.

Key lessons inside:

Teamwork makes the dreamwork. But what brings teams together?

The Culture Code is a toolkit for building cohesive teams based on the practices of everyone from IDEO to Zappos to the San Antonio Spurs. At the core of author Daniel Coyle’s research are 3 skills:

  1. Build psychological safety (i.e. make everyone feel safe collaborating and contributing)
  2. Show vulnerability and create a culture of experimentation
  3. Establish a clear purpose through sharing a common goal and vision

As a project manager, it’s easy to focus on just the last step. Your technical skills are what help keep your team focused and on track.

However, The Culture Code teaches what you need to know to maximize your team’s performance, create clear and open lines of communication, and challenge your team to be creative and innovative.

No matter the size of your team or your company, you’ll live or die by your culture.

Why you should read this:

No matter the size of your team or your company, you’ll live or die by your culture. The Culture Code is a guidebook for working with the people on your team that doesn’t rely on cheesy exercises, motivators, or team-building events.

10. Back to Human: How Great Leaders Create Connection in the Age of Isolation

Author: Dan Schawbel

Published date: 2018

Who is this project management book for? Overwhelmed managers who want to help fully engage their team.

Key lessons inside:

Dan Schawbel’s latest book digs into one of the most overlooked issues that are holding your team back: workplace isolation.

In Back to Human, Dan explains how teams are less engaged than ever thanks to improper communication and a lack of authentic connection. In research of more than 2,000 workplaces, Dan found that more socially engaged workplaces have higher retention, increased productivity, and happier employees.

Unfortunately, too much online communication makes teams feel isolated and can even lead to burnout. But with the trend moving away from offices and towards working remotely, what are you supposed to do?

While Radical Candor is a guidebook for how to communicate with your team, Back to Human covers the technical aspect, showing you how to use technology to build better connections with your team.

Why you should read this:

With more and more teams working remotely, building a strong sense of connection is paramount for staying motivated and hitting your goals. If you’re finding it hard to manage a remote team, Back to Human is a powerful guide for helping you bring your team together.

11. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

Author: Robert B. Cialdini

Published date: 2006 (Revised edition)

Who is this project management book for? Project managers who need to get project stakeholders (and stubborn teammates) to say “yes”

Key lessons inside:

Negotiation is one of the most powerful project management skills. But how do you get more people to say yes to your needs?

In this now-classic book, Dr. Robert Cialdini explains the 6 “weapons of influence” that you can use to change people’s minds. While some of these might seem more targeted towards marketing or product development, they’re invaluable for learning to “sell” your ideas to stakeholders and teammates:

  1. Reciprocation: If you do something for someone, they’ll be more likely to do something for you in the future.
  2. Commitment and Consistency: Publicly committing to projects leads to more consistency and collaboration.
  3. Social Proof: The more you see people doing something, the more likely you are to do it as well.
  4. Liking: We’re more easily persuaded by people we like.
  5. Authority: We’re more likely to obey authority figures.
  6. Scarcity: People react more quickly when they think they’re going to lose out.

On the surface, these sound like simple concepts. However, the book gives great examples and details of how to apply them to any situation.

Why you should read this:

We all need to sell our ideas and plans. And while “influence” makes it sound like a nefarious action, what you’re really learning is how to communicate and advocate for yourself. Pick up this book if you feel like your ideas are being overshadowed or ignored.

The best books for upgrading your project management career

What do the most successful project managers know that I don’t? If you want to upgrade your project management career, you need to answer that question. Luckily, most successful people love to talk about themselves!

These books are designed to give you insights into what project managers at companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft and more have done differently to get where they are.

12. Swipe to Unlock: The Primer on Technology and Business Strategy

Authors: Parth Detroja, Neel Mehta, Aditya Agashe

Published date: 2019 (Updated edition)

Who is this project management book for? Project (and product) managers looking to fill any missing business strategy knowledge gaps.

Key lessons inside:

Authored by product managers at Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, Swipe to Unlock is a comprehensive guide on understanding why the most successful business models work and how to break into major tech companies.

While not directly about project management, it answers and clarifies some of the key questions that will help you understand your company’s positioning, vision, and long-term goals.

Starting with some basic technology fundamentals and concepts, the book builds on its own knowledge and highlights the intersection of business, technology, and innovation through simple metaphors and examples. If you’re ever sat scratching your head at a strategic decision from your CEO, this book might illuminate why they made that choice (or why you should push back against it).

Why you should read this:

One of the things that differentiatesdifferentiates a good project manager from a great one is vision. This book is all about teaching you how to understand modern technology trends and see the next big wave coming.

13. Risk Up Front: Managing Projects in a Complex World

Authors: Adam Josephs and Brad Rubenstein

Published date: 2018

Who is this project management book for? Project managers working on large and complex projects who want to learn how to minimize risk.

Key lessons inside:

There’s no such thing as a risk-free project. However, with the right processes, workflows, and tools you can continuously identify and mitigate the risks that threaten to derail your project. The authors of Risk Up Front believe this is the secret of every high-performing team.

In this book, they define a few core principles of what they call the Risk Up Front (RUF) methodology:

Why you should read this:

Risk is a part of every project. But the risk you can manage the most is in the people and processes you work with. This book offers a framework for setting up your project and your team for success from the start. It’s a great resource if you’re looking to become a project leader and help motivate your team.

14. The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You

Author: Julie Zhuo

Published date: 2019

Who is this project management book for? Project managers new to leadership positions who need help running meetings, creating a team culture, and hiring top talent.

Key lessons inside:

Julie Zhuo became a manager at Facebook at the age of 25, eventually working her way up to VP of Product Design. Over that time, she experienced most of the situations every project manager goes through. From building a team from the ground up (what she calls the “Pioneer” route) to moving to an already established team (the “New Boss” route).

If you’re looking to grow your career, this book covers the many routes to management you can take (and how to deal with them) as well as some of the key skills of great project managers, including:

While many of these topics have been covered before, this is a modern (and more humble) take on them that’s worth a read.

Why you should read this:

Management books are often filled with platitudes and self-congratulatory stories by stuffy CEOs. The Making of a Manager is a much more down-to-earth and practical guide for your path towards senior management.

The best books for crafting your leadership qualities

Great project managers are great project leaders. Your ability to lead people, not just through the steps of a project but through the unavoidable messiness of human interaction, will ultimately determine how far you go in your career.

Books for Upgrading your Leadership Skills

These project management books are all about the ways that great leaders differentiate themselves, learn from their mistakes, and keep moving forward.

15. Principles: Life and Work

Author: Ray Dalio

Published date: 2017

Who is this project management book for? Anyone who wants to change the way they think about work (and life) and be more in control of their own path.

Key lessons inside:

Ray Dalio has been called “the Steve Jobs of investing”. Over 40 years he turned his investment firm, Bridgewater Associates, into the 5th most important private company in the US. This book is his guide to how to constantly measure, reflect, and grow your career in the same way.

At its core, this book is about the idea that almost anything you want to improve–from a project process to a relationship–can be systematized into rules and treated like a machine. Or, as Ray explains:

“Think for yourself to decide: 1) What you want 2) What is true and 3) What you should do to achieve #1 in light of #2”

Throughout the book, Ray gives a number of examples of how you can apply this idea and also avoid some of the common pitfalls that get in the way (such as focusing too much on what you want to be true instead of what the data and evidence tell you).

Why you should read this:

Being a great project manager means being a great decision-maker. Your team looks to you to lead them and make hard choices. This book, and Ray’s principles, will teach you how to do that confidently in all aspects of your life. (If you don’t have time to read all 550 pages, start with this summary on the Bridgewater site.)

16. The Obstacle Is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph

Author: Ryan Holiday

Published date: 2014

Who is this project management book for? Anyone who wants to quiet the voice in their head telling them they’re not good enough or are making the wrong choices.

Key lessons inside:

Every great leader feels uncertainty and doubt from time to time. Especially when projects fail. However, what differentiates them isn’t in avoiding struggle but in how they deal with it.

In The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday explains the ancient idea of Stoicism. In a nutshell, Stoicism revolves around accepting that while you don’t have total control over outside factors, you can always control how you react to them.

Through a number of examples and anecdotes–from ancient history to modern-day leaders like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama–Ryan illustrates just how Stoicism can help you work through adversity and excel.

Why you should read this:

For your team to be confident in you, you can’t be drowning in self-doubt or yelling at the clouds for raining. This book will help you understand how to quiet your annoying inner voice and take action even when faced with risks, project failures, and adversity.

17. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

Author: Peter Drucker

Published date: 2006 (Revised edition)

Who is this project management book for? Leaders who want to build their habits and laser-focus on their most important work.

Key lessons inside:

If you’ve read any business, management, or leadership books, then you’ve no doubt heard of Peter Drucker. The Effective Executive was first published in 1967 and outlined the most effective habits of great business leaders:

  1. Know where your time goes (and relentlessly get rid of unproductive activities by asking “If we didn’t already do this, would we start now?”)
  2. Focus on outward contribution
  3. Build on your strengths and don’t focus on trying to get rid of your weaknesses
  4. Concentrate on the few major areas where superior performance will produce outstanding results
  5. Make effective decisions and create processes, rules, and policies to shape them in the future

While some of the examples might feel dated (they were from the 60s!) this book is a relevant guide that anyone can follow to become a more effective leader.

Why you should read this:

Blogs and modern business books have been quoting and re-writing Drucker’s ideas for decades. Go to the source and understand what it takes to succeed.

18. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership

Authors: Bill George and Peter Sims

Published date: 2007

Who is this project management book for? Project managers who want to create a more meaningful career and be recognized for their integrity and vision.

Key lessons inside:

You should approach every leadership book with a healthy dose of skepticism. Everyone loves to think that they rose to the top thanks to hard work and creativity alone (psychologists call this Survivorship Bias!)

However, in True North, the authors try to pull the curtain back on this style of book. After interviewing over 100 successful business leaders, they found that one of the main characteristics they all share is an ability to be authentic and stick to their personal values.

What this comes down to, according to the authors, is developing a narrative that answers three major questions:

  1. Who are you?
  2. Why do you do what you do?
  3. What do you want to achieve with your life?

Small questions, I know. But the result of taking the time to think through them is a personal value statement that can help you live and lead people more authentically.

Why you should read this:

As you move up in your career, you’re bound to face situations that push the boundaries of your personal values. This book will help you understand how to push back and why it’s so important to stay true to yourself even as you lead other people.

You are what you repeatedly do. The fastest way to upgrade your skills and project management career is to put good habits on autopilot.

19. People-First Culture: Build a Lasting Company By Shifting Your Focus From Profits to People

Author: Michael Falcon

Published date: 2018

Who is this project management book for? Anyone who wants to build a strong employee-first culture.

Key lessons inside:

If you want your team to come into each day motivated, energized, and focused, you need to show that you care about them. People-First Culture is a book and a philosophy that trains you to rethink the focus of your business from profits and processes to the people.

But why? As Michael explains, the companies and teams that are most successful get that way because both the teammates and the users admire them. They have a culture that you want to be a part of.

In order to build that culture, Michael says you need to focus on the 3Ps:

Why you should read this:

We’ve written before about the importance of building a sustainable business. But one of the hardest things to get right is focusing on the long-term needs of your team and not just chasing short-term goals. This book offers examples and frameworks for switching the way you deal with your team and inspiring them for the long-term.

20. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Author: Patrick Lencioni

Published date: 2002

Who is this project management book for? Anyone looking for a lighter (yet inspiring) read about the struggles of turning a team around.

Key lessons inside:

It doesn’t matter if your bedside table is stacked with the best project management books out there if you don’t read them and absorb their knowledge. However, not everyone connects with non-fiction books in the same way.

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni takes a storytelling approach to highlight the struggles and successes of a leader. The story follows Kathryn Petersen, the CEO of a failing startup as she tries to bring her team together and save her company.

It’s an easy read that ultimately reveals a model for bringing your team together and leading through adversity.

Why you should read this:

If you love fiction and storytelling but feel guilty not reading a traditional “business” book then this is a happy medium.

The best books for building better habits (for yourself and your team)

You are what you repeatedly do. The fastest way to upgrade your skills and project management career is to put good habits on autopilot. Luckily, hundreds (probably thousands, actually) of books have been filled with the daily habits and routines of successful people.

These books dig into the science and practice of building better habits and routines for yourself and your team.

21. Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good habits & Break Bad Ones

Author: James Clear

Published date: 2018

Who is this project management book for? Any project manager looking to maximize their time and build better, stronger habits for life.

Key lessons inside:

It’s hard to oversell the impact Atomic Habits will have on you and your team. James Clear has been writing about the power of habits for years and this book is his practical guide to reshaping how you spend your days.

Through examples, research, exercises, and personal anecdotes, James teaches you how to:

As James writes:

“Bad habits repeat themselves again and again not because you don't want to change, but because you have the wrong system for change. You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

Why you should read this:

As a project manager, your habits will help you have more time to think deeply and prioritize work. And the more you can instill and support the right habits in your team, the easier it will be to make progress, hit your deadlines, and feel accomplished.

22. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Author: Cal Newport

Published date: 2016

Who is this project management book for? Anyone who feels like they’re constantly busy and aren’t making progress on meaningful work each day.

Key lessons inside:

At its core, Deep Work is about focus and the importance of maximizing the time you do have

The book is divided into two sections. The first makes the argument for why focus is a superpower in every profession. Simply put, constantly being busy and context switching kills your ability to make progress and be productive.

Even switching between just one or two tasks (like writing a planning document and checking email) can kill 20–80% of your productive time. While on the other hand, a single hyper-focused hour can be 200-500% more productive.

The next half covers Cal’s training program for how to make space for “Deep Work” time. This is broken down into four rules for changing your habits and approach to each day:

  1. Work deeply: Commit to deep work when you’re doing it. This means optimizing your environment to be as distraction-free as possible.
  2. Embrace boredom: Intense focus is a skill that needs to be trained. And as part of that, you need proper downtime. Boredom also helps train your mind away from constantly checking email and other distractions.
  3. Quit social media: To do deep work you have to decide what matters most to you and gives you the most return. In many cases, social media isn’t on that list.
  4. Drain the shallows: Minimize your time on “shallow work” like answering emails, going to meetings, and other inevitable but ultimately low-value work.

Why you should read this:

Project management is a messy business. You might go into a day with a plan to knock out an important strategy document and then end up running around putting out fires. But to make real progress you have to make time for deep work. This book teaches you how.

23. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Author: David Allen

Published date: 2015 (Revised edition)

Who is this project management book for? Anyone who feels like they’re drowning in “priorities” and need help focusing and getting things done.

Key lessons inside:

Getting Things Done is one of the original productivity guides. As a best-selling book and workflow (commonly referred to as GTD), Allen promises that:

“Implementing GTD alleviates the feeling of overwhelm, instills confidence, and releases a flood of creative energy. It provides structure without constraint, managing details with maximum flexibility.”

To do this, the GTD system follows a basic methodology:

It’s a deceptively simple process. Yet it results in more work being done and less stress. (If you want to learn how to implement GTD yourself check out our own Guide to Getting Things Done.)

Why you should read this:

Project management is organization. GTD is one of the original and most well-respected systems for managing your time and your tasks so you can get more done without feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Even if you don’t have the experience, you can read a project management book written by someone who does

Even if you’re brand new to the game without a project under your belt, you can learn from those who’ve come before you. Project management books are one of the best resources at your disposal for mastering your craft and upgrading your career.