We hosted Dr. Paul Harris, mastermind of REDCap and ResearchMatch and local guru of efficiency lifehacks, for a seminar on honing your professional edge. He shared these choices as an eclectic mix currently engaging his thoughts. 

Habit 3 audiobook

by Steven Covey

“E.M. Gray once observed, ‘The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.’ This is the essence of Habit 3. You’ll learn a new mindset of examining how you spend your time, and you’ll learn how to focus your efforts in ways that create greater success both professionally and personally.” (excerpt from Amazon.com)

The Power of Habit

by Charles Duhigg

“Charles Duhigg, an investigative reporter for The New York Times…has read hundreds of scientific papers and interviewed many of the scientists who wrote them, and relays interesting findings on habit formation and change from the fields of social psychology, clinical psychology and neuroscience. This is not a self-help book conveying one author’s homespun remedies, but a serious look at the science of habit formation and change.”

Getting Things Done

by David Allen

GTD is best known for the Two-Minute Rule: if a task crosses your desk that can be completed in two minutes – do it immediately. If not, file it according to context, and priority level. The idea is simple: dealing with it right away clears the decks quickly. Setting it aside demands looking at it again, reviewing, re-thinking, assigning a time to get it done; all of a sudden a short task takes on far more time and importance than it’s worth.”

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen R. Covey

“The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is a self-improvement book. It is written on Covey’s belief that the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change a given situation, we must change ourselves, and in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions.”

First Things First

by Stephen R. Covey

“What are ‘first things?’ First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth. If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time and events according to the personal priorities you established…”

How to Write A Lot

by Paul J. Silvia

“…Silvia is an academic himself (one with an intimidating list of publications too!) and knows academics very well. This means he understands how they (we?) like to build group solidarity around shared hardships and goes to unveil the barriers we construct on the way to becoming productive writers. He proceeds to deconstruct this pen/keyboard martyrdom, one barrier at the time. This guide also includes advice on starting a writing group and helpful chapters on the technicalities of academic writing and style.”


by Greg McKeown

“Our whole society has become consumed by the undisciplined pursuit of more. The only way to overcome this problem is to change the way we think—adopt the mindset of only doing the things that are essential—and do it now.”


by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

“If work is our national religion, Pang is the philosopher reintegrating our bifurcated selves. As he adeptly shows, not only are work and rest not in opposition, they’re inextricably bound, each enhancing the other. ‘Work and rest aren’t opposites like black and white or good and evil,’ Pang writes. ‘They’re more like different points on life’s wave.’ “

Drop the Ball

by Tiffany Dufu

“The book is packed with relatable, too-close-to-home lessons for overachievers of any ilk — whether at home, or at work. At work, it’s called delegating, and it’s not a remotely new concept. If you’re overseeing a team, you trust others to do what they do best, and you don’t do every little thing yourself. That’s why you have a team! Ever since finishing ‘Drop the Ball,’ I can’t stop thinking of its takeaways at work.”

My Year of Yes

by Shonda Rhimes

“Fueled by anxiety and self-doubt, Rhimes walled herself off however she could to the point that her eldest sister told her during a 2013 Thanksgiving conversation, ‘You never say yes to anything.’ That revelation slowly ate away at Rhimes, and she decided to make 2014 the year she said yes to doing all of the things that scared her, such as agreeing to deliver the commencement address at Dartmouth College, her alma mater. In the process, she became a much happier, more enlightened person.”

BONUS Reading Hack:

  • Check out apps like this one which give you an in-depth synopsis of the book, basically cutting to the good stuff (free trial then subscription fees will apply).

This Reading Roundup selection was introduced (and informed through group discussion) during a seminar led by Dr. Paul Harris titled “Being Productive.”

Paul Harris, PhD, is a Professor of Biomedical Informatics in the School of Medicine and a Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the School of Engineering at Vanderbilt University. He serves as Director of the Vanderbilt Office of Research Informatics and specializes in the development of innovative software platforms to support the research enterprise. He is creator and faculty lead for REDCap – a flexible web-based data management software platform, and the REDCap consortium – a network of 2700 academic and non-profit partner sites from 117 countries using the REDCap software platform. He has extensive experience teaching short-courses in data management and translational research within the United States, Japan, China and India.

Read a book that inspired you? Drop a link in the comments, or be bold and write a book review.

More Edgy book reviews to add to your reading list:

Brene Brown Offers Academics A Thoughtful Way to Do A Holiday Reboot

Why You Should Read The Creative Habit

Radical Candor: Can It Work for Academics?

The Power of Pause: How to be More Effective in a Demanding, 24/7 World

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