One of the simplest ways you can improve yourself is to read a good book. Reading gives us an insight in to how other people have overcome challenges, and what they've learnt from their endeavours. There's a huge array of personal development books available, and through the years I've read several that have had a real impact on my life.
1. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Steven Covey's book was the first real self improvement book I ever read. It's fair to say that it was one of the most important things I ever did, as every page is packed full of information. The seven habits aren't particularly complex, and are more useful when treated as foundations to greater habits.
It takes time and effort to truly internalise them, but it's worth the effort once you start feeling the difference. You'll learn how to become more efficient in your work, how to improve your relationships with other people and how to maintain your habits once learnt.
2. The Power of Focus
Focus is a vital ingredient for any kind of productive work, as without it you can end up moving from project to project without ever completing anything. This book is a little heavy on the emotional side of things, and there are a few too many stories in it, but the core lessons are extremely useful.
There's everything in here from creating a balanced life, to learning how to ask for things (which has always been a barrier for me). Even if you find it a little sappy, it's worth reading just for the "pick me up" effect it has.
3. Getting Things Done
The GTD method of time management has become quite popular, and once you've tried the system it's easy to see why. It's very easy to get started with, and you don't need lots of tools or software to do anything. A few sheets of paper and some folders are all you really need to start becoming more productive.
The core idea of the system is to stop your brain from having to remember everything you need to do. Once you have your ideas and tasks on paper, you can use your brain power to actually work on things instead of remembering them (or forgetting them if you're anything like me ;))
4. The NOW Habit
This is another great book for managing your time, but it also takes recreation into account. Knowing that you have to sit at your desk for 12+ hours to finish a project can make you less productive, so scheduling in some fun time gives you something to look forward to and can make you more efficient.
I've used a lot of this book to create my own effective schedules, and knowing that I'll be able to take a break does work. When you work for yourself you can fall into two traps: working too much and not taking time to relax, or relaxing too much and not actually working. Creating a schedule can help with both problems, so it's definitely worth finding out how to make them.
5. The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success
It might have a particularly long title, but this book is packed with useful tips for becoming more successful. The laws are split into different categories, including business laws and personal laws, and each law also has tips at the end for applying it to your own life.
There's a little repetition as you get further in, but you're bound to find something you can use to become more successful.
There are more recommendations in the personal development books section of the site, so take a look if you're after some reading material.
I'd love to hear about books that have made a difference to you, so please feel free to leave them in the comments section!