8 Books I Want You to Read

Do you ever make goals to exercise more, cook healthier food, and get less takeout… only to find that your old routines catch up with you? But it’s not your relationship with food that’s the problem… it’s life. Instead of working out, you have to work late and then you sleep in the next morning. Instead of cooking a healthy meal, you have to respond to a family crisis. Instead of taking a weekend for self-care, you catch up on a time-sensitive work project. Fitness, time management, stress, weight loss, and self-care are all interconnected. If you feel like you don’t have time to work out or cook healthy meals for yourself… maybe you don’t! And that’s a problem.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Change is possible.

And change is important, too, because of the negative health effects of this kind of chronic stress. Constantly putting out fires (or feeling behind) prevents you from…

  • Having a clear head to plan your nutrition and execute effective meal preparation
  • Being energetic enough (or having the time) to exercise enough each week

… Not to mention the hormonal and heart health effects of living in a busy, high-stress soup.

In this blog post, I want to share eight books that have been transformative for me. Some are easy, pleasurable reads that help you re-think your approach to things. Others are deep-dive workbooks that require you to put time aside for serious self-inquiry. A few of them are more business (or entrepreneurship) related, while others deal more with relationships or with inner stress management.

These are books that I either use regularly as part of my weekly schedule management, or I return to them again and again when I need a re-boot.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I highly recommend buying the one or two books on this list that speak to you the most, and getting started right away – even if you need to do an audiobook because you don’t have time to read!

Book #1: The Weekend Effect

The Weekend Effect, by Katrina Onstad, is applicable to practically anyone, but I think it speaks beautifully to busy people with families. This book helped me personally to create high-quality “off time” with fewer fixed obligations.

Book #2: Thrive

Thrive, by Arianna Huffington, is geared specifically toward people who value success in the workplace or in business. As an entrepreneur, it helped me to build balance into my life so that I could enjoy my work, instead of being burned out by it.

Book #3: Deep Work

Deep Work, by Cal Newport, really changed the way I relate to social media, distractions, and productivity. This book is mainly about focus and cultivating effective work habits when you are on the clock. For people who are getting bogged down by their workload (and missing workouts as a result), this is a wonderful book.

Book #4: The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, is full of curiosity, wonder, and sage advice. I particularly like the “Secrets of Adulthood” that she formulates. This book is a lovely and approachable read, as is her follow-up book about habits, Better Than Before.

Book #5: The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety

The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety, by William J. Knaus, is not a light read, but is 100% worth it. It puts the tools of CBT therapy right into your hands, and I’m not exaggerating that it will literally change the way you think (and act). You may not think of your work or life problems as being related to anxiety, but I can almost guarantee that you will benefit from CBT therapy if you find yourself saying things like, “I can’t do _____________ because then _______________ will happen,” or, “I have to do _______________, or else _________________ will happen.”

Book #6: Essentialism

Essentialism, by Greg McKeown, is another book that can change the lives of small business owners, entrepreneurs, or business leaders. With the tagline “It isn’t about getting more done in less time… it’s about getting only the right things done,” you can see how it will help you rethink your priorities (and thus have more time, freedom, and clarity).

Book #7: Free to Focus

I have to be honest that Free to Focus, by Michael Hyatt, is the main reason that I am often asked about my lifestyle routines or my productivity. I get a lot done. But my working habits (and life habits as well) have been distinctly shaped by this book – I still do the “Weekly Preview” worksheet literally every single week on Fridays, and I have for years. This book has totally changed the way that I organize my time, and it was incredibly helpful when I made the transition to motherhood, as well.

Book #8: Set Boundaries, Find Peace

Set Boundaries, Find Peace, by Nedra Glover Tawwab, is an extremely practical book on how to be assertive without being a jerk, so that you can take better care of yourself. And (spoiler!) sometimes you even need to have boundaries with yourself. Boundaries are important, even in healthy relationships, and Nedra makes the topic easy to understand (even with example conversations and scripts). And her very new book (I think it literally just came out this week) is called Drama Free – if you get to it before I do, let me know how it is!

If you feel like you don’t have time to exercise, cook healthy meals, or have balance in your life, it might seem tough to take on reading a new book (especially if you’re not an avid reader). This is why I recommend limiting yourself to the 1-2 books that feel like the best fit, and I also encourage you to explore Kindle or Audible options that allow you to read more easily on-the-go. But the bottom line is that chronic life stress / busyness won’t fix itself – it may be a pattern that YOU have to deliberately change. Keep an open mind, and be willing to experiment with the seemingly radical strategies that these books suggest. You never know – something that feels like “I can’t do that” may just become your new normal! And part of your new normal may be having a MUCH easier time sticking with healthy habits.

Rachel Trotta

I am a Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Physique and Bodybuilding Specialist, and Women's Fitness Specialist. I live in New Jersey in the NYC metro area, and I coach clients online all over the world. As a trainer and health writer, my mission is to make healthy living sustainable for the average person. I’m also a wife, mom, nature lover, runner, avid cook, weightlifting aficionado, history nerd, travel addict, and obsessive podcast listener. Get in touch!

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