Out of Office

Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Location Independence, by Paul Truant

Location independence is the idea – becoming more and more common – that you can live and work from anywhere, without being confined to a fixed office. This book is an overview of what it takes to set up such a lifestyle.

Location independence has two parts: physical freedom (which is now possible because of the Internet) and mental freedom. Truant starts by tackling the mental aspect – including the mindset you need. The book is broadly based on the idea of “geoarbitrage”, which put simply just means that you can live in countries with a lower cost of living, while earning money from customers outside that country. In other words, your money goes further. This can be a very effective lifestyle, provided you’re open to the idea of living elsewhere and embracing other cultures.

Because of this central idea of travel, most of the book describes what it takes to plan for moving to another country, but from the viewpoint of a location independent worker rather than a holidaymaker.

If you’re interested in pursuing this sort of lifestyle, this book would be an excellent starting point.

Buy the book from Amazon.com.

Remote – by Jason Fried

RemoteThe first chapter of this book is titled “The Time is Right for Remote Work”, and that’s a neat summary. In the book, Fried lays out the argument for greater acceptance and adoption of remote work.

I co-authored the book Out of Office on the same topic, so it won’t come as a surprise that I like this book as well! I particularly like the way it’s laid out, with short bite-sized chunks for each point. It’s almost like a collection of blog posts, but organised well rather than just randomly strung together.

Be warned that if you’re already doing remote work and are looking for practical ideas, this book is a bit light on the practical stuff. But if you’re thinking about the possibility of remote work in your organisation, teams or career, this is the perfect book to motivate you.

Buy the book from Amazon.com.

The Power of Habit – by Charles Duhigg

The Power Of HabitThis fascinating book combines three of my favourite elements: Practical ideas, backed by strong research, relayed by powerful stories.

Duhigg’s one big idea in the book is that our habits can be broken down into three factors: A cue that triggers the habit, a routine that we subconsciously follow, and a reward that motivates us. He contends that we can’t eliminate a bad habit, but we can change it by inserting a new routine between the cue and the reward. That’s a deceptively simple, but very powerful, idea.

Duhigg also describes the power of “keystone habits”, which can trigger many other habit changes. For example, for many people, getting fitter is a keystone habit, which leads to them adopting other unrelated positive habits as well.

If you’re looking for practical steps to change your habits, jump straight to the Appendix, which is a “how to” of the entire process.

I love that the book is backed by strong scientific research (the references take up a full third of the book). But Duhigg is a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, so his writing is compelling and entertaining rather than dry and academic.

Buy the book from Amazon.com.

Book Review: Bit Literacy, by Mark Hurst

This is just one of the many books that tries to tackle the growing problem of information overload, but it stands apart from others because it couches the problem in strategic terms, and then proposes very specific tactics and techniques to implement the strategy.

For example, Hurst suggests that we should only focus on the specific things we need to do today, and that anything else is a distraction. So he proposes that any future items should be assigned to a future date and then forgotten until that date arrives. This seems like common sense, and yet it’s rarely done in practice (as anybody with a bulging e-mail in-box knows).

I particularly liked the first half of the book, where he tackles e-mail overload. Despite the plethora of technical tools available for managing, sorting, filtering and filing, e-mail is still probably the biggest information overload problem for most business people. So it makes sense for this to be a large part of the book, and Hurst gives it the attention it deserves.

From a practical viewpoint, he not only proposes specific tips and techniques for managing e-mail, he has also created software, available at GoodToDo.com, that supports his system. It’s a Web-based “To Do” list, with associated smart phone apps, so you can keep your entire action list in one place, and access it from any device.

I tried GoodToDo myself, and found this slightly too cumbersome for my liking. But I already have an effective way of handling e-mail, so perhaps the benefits of GoodToDo weren’t as great for me. I do know others who say it completely transformed their life! As an aside, I do still use GoodToDo, but for a slightly different purpose: for my PA (personal assistant) and I to keep track of actions that involve her.

If you read this book, be aware that it was written in 2007, so it was five years old when I read it (which is a lifetime for a technology book!). So, although the principles and strategies are sound, some of the techniques are obsolete. For example, there is a chapter about how to name the files on your computer, and that is less relevant nowadays (because of smarter operating systems, better tagging systems, and faster searching). That’s why I found the first half of the book (about e-mail) more useful than the second.

Buy the book from Amazon.com.

Book Review: Writing at Work – A Quick and Easy Guide to Grammar and Effective Business Writing, by Ellis Morgan

This is a handy reference guide for writers, covering aspects of grammar and writing style. It’s short and to the point, with the material organised in alphabetical order for easy reference.

This is not a formal style guide, but it does provide helpful hints and tips on improving your style. It includes help for some of the most common errors in grammar (such as “more vs fewer”, “I vs me”, and “may, might and can”) with clear examples and guidelines.

Buy the book from Amazon.com.