By Roger C. Parker published June 13, 2012

7 Top Productivity Books for Content Marketing Success

top books for content marketing, CMIContent marketing success requires consistent individual and team productivity.

Content marketing productivity requires more than a knowledge of the latest best practices, tools, and techniques. On both individual and departmental levels, success involves acknowledging and accommodating the “human elements” that often undermine well-intentioned efforts by talented individuals.

If you are looking to become more productive, check out the seven books below. Each offers a different perspective on the overlap between the creative, writing, and project management competence needed for consistent high-level content marketing productivity.

1.    Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky

Belsky book, Making Ideas, CMIScott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality addresses a broad range of real-world productivity issues for a broad spectrum of content marketing writers and designers — plus managers who hire and manage them. It describes the challenges shared by creative individuals and outlines specific, actionable ways the challenges can be overcome.

Belsky identifies three types of creative individuals:

  • Dreamers: Always generating new ideas
  • Doers: Focused on the logistics of implementing ideas
  • Incrementalists: They shift between dreaming and doing, but often waste their energy by working on too many different projects at once.

Making Ideas Happen also introduces terms we often encounter every day, such as:

  • Idea intoxication: The “euphoria of new idea generation,” which is always more fun than testing and implementing tasks
  • Insecurity work: Tasks undertaken out of avoidance or fear, but work that has no intended consequence

Making Ideas Happen avoids a “one size fits all” solution. Instead, it outlines a variety of strategies for enhancing content marketing productivity, including the following:

  • Action method: This is based on immediately following up new ideas by identifying the specific tasks needed to bring an idea closer to reality. This involves prioritizing, delegating, and monitoring progress.
  • Creative’s compromise: In this approach, managers must encourage writers and designers to explore new restraints and best practices that may initially be uncomfortable. The structure that creative individuals often desire can work against project completion.

In researching the ways that leading firms enhance staff creativity, Belsky discovered the power of workgroups and visuals to move projects forward. Too many writers and designers are isolated from their peers, instead of being inspired and motivated by them. 

Often, the most creative firms have special work spaces with walls covered with impromptu sketches of current projects used to explore solutions and track progress.

In fact, in many firms he found done wallswalls covered with completed action steps from previous projects used as motivation tools to maintain team enthusiasm and morale.

 2. The Pomodoro Effect, by Francesco Cirillo

Cirillo book, Pomodore Effect, CMIFrancesco Cirillo’s The Pomodoro Effect is a proven and established writing, productivity, and time management system. Used since the 1980s, it continues to gain enthusiastic followers. It’s based on focused, short, “beat the clock” writing sessions, frequent breaks, and strategies to handle interruptions.

There are four valuable, free resources at the Pomodoro Technique website. You can download them without registration for use on your own or in a group environment. The free resources include:

  • Pomodoro Technique eBook: A 45-page, illustrated overview and implementation guide
  • Pomodoro Technique Cheat Sheet: An exquisitely formatted one-page introduction to the Pomodoro Technique
  • To Do Today Worksheet: One of the Pomodoro Technique’s most important tools, ready to download, print, and put to daily use
  • Activity Inventory Worksheet: If your content marketing productivity is frequently interrupted, the Activity Inventory will help you document the tasks you’re trying to accomplish and help you see how you actually spend your time.

3. Help! for Writers, by Roy Peter Clark

Roy Clark book, Help for writers, CMIRoy Peter Clark’s Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces brings a journalist’s pragmatic approach to content marketing productivity. On the faculty of the Poynter Institute for over 30 years, Clark’s newspaper background doesn’t allow for missed deadlines.

Unlike many authors, writing teachers, and coaches, Roy Peter Clark is equally at home writing about, teaching, and coaching both fiction and nonfiction. He’s particularly skilled in creative nonfiction — sharing tips for crafting stories with a strong lead that immediately engage the reader’s attention… a storytelling approach that is perfect for content marketing.

Help! For Writers is Roy Peter Clark’s third (and most useful) book in his current series. (See his Amazon Author’s Page for details about his earlier books.) It’s also his most organized book. He organized it around a seven-step writing process, with three chapters addressing the most common problems associated with each step.

In each chapter, he addresses the 10 most frequently heard challenges or obstacles that interfere with writing productivity.

Unlike most media-specific writing guides, (i.e., how to write a book, how to write for the web, etc.), the 210 solutions presented in Help! For Writers are appropriate for all experience levels and all types of writing — articles, blog posts, books, speeches, etc.

4. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg

Duhigg book, Power of Habits, CMICharles Duhigg’s recent bestselling book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, describes seven practical ideas and case studies showing content marketers how to improve their habits so they can become more efficient and get more done in less time.

It’s a jargon-free approach with proven approaches for harnessing existing talents and abilities from this day forward — without introspection.

The Power of Habit builds on previous books, like Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt’s The Power of Focus (which stresses that, “Your habits are you future”), but provides dozens of up-to-the-minute case studies, implementation ideas, and examples.

The Power of Habit begins by describing the Habit Loop the building blocks of repeated behaviors that put our brain on auto-pilot:

  1. Cue: Habitual behavior begins when you encounter a stimulus. The cue can be a sensation (i.e., I’m hungry), a stimulus (i.e., a sound or image), or an emotion (i.e., I’m lonesome).
  2. Routine: The cue is followed by a routine, behaviors that occur without consciously thinking about them. When you put on your shoes in the morning, for example, you don’t think about how you’re going to tie the laces.
  3. Reward: The reward is the benefit you enjoy after you’ve performed the routine — a feeling of accomplishment, a burst of energy, an emotional connection with others, or renewed sense of purpose.

By consciously manipulating routines and the rewards, it’s possible to develop new routines and rewards to replace inappropriate behaviors that can be interfering with your content marketing productivity — or the productivity of those you work with. Often, relatively subtle changes can lead to major benefits.

Hint: A great recipe for creating sustained content marketing productivity enhancement would be to read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit along with Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen!

5. Accidental Genius, by Mark Levy

Levy book, Accidental Genius, CMIAll writers are blocked at one time or another. When the words fail to appear, it’s nice to know that there are books like Mark Levy’s Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content.

Mark’s idea is very simple: When the words don’t appear, write anything. Write a letter to your mother explaining why you can’t write what you’re trying to write. Write a letter to your client or your boss explaining why you can’t write what you’re trying to write (but, of course, don’t send it!), etc.

Mark Levy is a corporate writing coach who encourages stuck business professionals to set a timer and write for 7 minutes. Then, stop — but don’t review what you’ve written. Then write for another 7 minutes. Soon, quality ideas and appropriate words and sentences will begin to appear. And, you’ll be on your way to success!

That’s an oversimplification, of course, but it’s the essence of Mark Levy’s book. Nothing happens unless you write something! When you write, even if your writing begins as nonsense, useful ideas will soon begin to appear… ideas you can later go back and harvest, to be used in your final drafts.

Accidental Genius is a great book for any freelance content marketer’s library or marketing department-shared bookshelf.

6. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

Pressfield book, War of Art, CMIIn the Introduction to his 2010 bestselling Lynchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin referred to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles as “The most important book you’ve never heard of.” With an introduction like that, I couldn’t resist reading it… and, I’m thankful for the referral.

Although The War of Art describes many of Steven Pressfield’s decades of experience as a best-selling author, it’s not just a “writer’s book.” It documents the self-imposed trials that anyone — including job hunters and entrepreneurs — face when making major changes in their lives.

Inside all of us is a Resistance, an inbred predisposition to avoid change — even positive change. As mankind evolved, changes in the environment typically signaled danger — an approaching dinosaur, a warring tribe, fire, or threatening weather. As a result, we experience distress even if it’s submitting the final draft of an article or white paper.

Our resistance to change is often proportional to the importance of the project. Worse, resistance often increases as project completion nears.

The War of Art is not always a pretty book. Hopefully, no one reading these words will ever experience the angst that even most accomplished authors suffer from. But, we should all thank Seth Godin for bringing The War of Art to new audiences that can recognize its dangers and take appropriate action.

7. The Disorganized Mind, by Nancy Ratey

Ratey book, Disorganized Mind, CMIHave you ever noticed how some of the most brilliant, creative, people you know experience difficulties completing even routine tasks? Nancy Ratey’s The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Mind To Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents offers a possible explanation: They may be suffering from ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

When ADHD is present, the mind travels too quickly, responding so quickly to new ideas and opportunities that the original tasks are overlooked and forgotten. Think of ADHD as multi-tasking on steroids. Someone may start to write an article, answer a phone call, pick up on a new idea, go online to explore it in Wikipedia, and order a book on the topic from Amazon — all without making further progress on the article.

The Disorganized Mind is not a “medicine” book, but rather it’s a self-coaching book. It describes the author’s struggles with her own ADHD and the experiences she’s had over the years helping her clients. It’s a book about acknowledging the way your brain operates and developing self-monitoring strategies to assign priorities, resist distractions, and focus on what needs to be done right now in order to achieve long-term goals.

Like The Power of Habits, The Disorganized Mind is a positive book that reinforces an individual’s ability to make positive changes in their work habits at any age. Behavior is not “set in stone,” but it can be purposefully and positively improved.

Section 4, Living or Working with Someone with ADHD, may be of particular interest to content marketers managing, or working, in departmental settings.

What do you think? 

Have you read any of the above productivity books for content marketing? What were they, and what did you like best, or like least, about them? Can you suggest other productivity books that you’ve found helpful? Share your comments or suggestions, below.      

Want more content marketing inspiration? Download our ultimate eBook with 100 content marketing examples.

Author: Roger C. Parker

A lifelong content marketer, copywriter, and author, Roger enjoys helping clients write books and simplify their content marketing. Follow @RogercParker on LinkedIn at ContentMarketingHelp. Download a free copy of his 4-page 8 Commitments of Content Marketing Success.

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  • peepsrdr

    Good stuff. Thanks for the compilation.

    • Roger C. Parker

       Thank you! I appreciate your taking the time to comment.

  • Andrei

    I’ve read Making Ideas Happen and The Power Habit. I would highly recommend those books as well. Haven’t really looked into the other 5. You should also check out ‘Imagine: How Creativity Works.’ It would greatly compliment this list.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Andre:
      Thank you for your comment, and congratulations on already reading Making Ideas Happen and The Power of Habit.

      Thank you, also, for your recommendation, How Creativity Works, which I’ve just “wish listed” at Amazon.

      Best wishes, Roger

  • Courtney Ramirez

    Excellent list! A few of these I haven’t heard of so I look forward to adding them to my Kindle. The Pomodoro Technique has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion. 

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Courtney:
      Thank you for your comment, and endorsement of the Pomodoro Technique.

      Best wishes on your continued content marketing success.

  • Frank Dale


    Love the list.  I am a big believer in the Pomodoro technique.  It has been a game changer for me.  Thanks for putting this together.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Thank you, Frank.

      I appreciate your comment and enthusiasm for the Pomodoro Technique.

  • Ahava

    Cool list! Thanks.  Not the typical, which is always helpful.

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Ahava:
      Thank you for writing and your kind comment.

      Best wishes, Roger

  • Jay Oza

    If you can read only one, which one do you recommend? 

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Jay:
      Great question! Thank you.

      For general, all-around purposes, I’d recommend Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen because it is applicable to such a wide variety of situations.

      Remember though, by visiting most of author’s websites, you can usually download a table of contents plus a sample chapter.

  • ryaspy

    Roger – Thanks for the work on this. Just yesterday I put together a list of the business books I want to read next. Most of these weren’t on there, so this gives me more to consider.  

    • Roger C. Parker

      Thank you for your comment–best wishes on your reading program.

      Consider sharing your favorites with others!


  • Suneeta

    Thank you for the effort you have put to bring us this amazing and helpful list of books for content marketing success. Could you please suggest me one single book that would be of great help for a budding or a new content marketer?

    • Roger C. Parker

      Hi, Suneeta:
      Thank you for your kind words and an interesting question.

      Unless you’re experiencing difficulty in a specific area, I recommend Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen as starting point because it addresses challenges (or inefficiencies) that content marketers may be facing in either individual (i.e., freelance) or group (i.e., departmental) situations.

      It’s broad enough to be useful, but deep enough to offer ideas for a variety of working environments.

      Best wishes on your career as a content marketer!

  • NenadSenic

    Hi Roger. I’ve always been wondering whether reading a book about how to be more productive can really help you be more productive or more organized. I’m thinking out loud here. Personally, I am very organized, tidy. But at my age, coudl a book really help me (make me) become as such if I wasn’t? What’s your take on this? Thank you, N. 

    • Roger C. Parker

      Dear Nenad:
      Thank you for your provocative question.

      As Car Talk’s “Click & Clack, the Tappet Brothers,” always say, “Your mileage may vary.”

      I can only speak for myself, but I can honestly say that each of the books each of the books had something of value for me.

      Sometimes, like it may be in your case, reading an idea or tip may only remind you of something you’ve forgotten. Or, the reading may reinforce something you’re already doing, but rereading strengthens your existing habit.

      But, in many cases, some of the books introduced new ways to address situations I recognized, but never realized could be dealt with more efficiently. I wish I had read some of the books decades earlier.

      I agree that, in some cases, reading “yet another” book can be a escape from dealing with a problem or, actually, doing some hard work. But, I do feel personal productivity is an area where constant improvement is warranted.

      Great question!

      • NenadSenic

         Hi Roger. Thank you for your answer. You make sense. It never hurts to be reminded of a trick one might have forgotten about or to try new things. Cheers, N.

  • MaAnna

    Thanks for the supernlist of books, Roger. I’m putting several of them on my reading list.

    • rogercparker

      Dear MaAnna:
      Please update us on the books you choose, and your opinions of them after you’ve spent time with them.

      And, let us know if you discover any other books I’ve overlooked.

      Best wishes,

  • Kent

    Great list, but so many books to read, so many blogs to follow. Information really overloaded.

    • rogercparker

      Dear Kent:
      Thanks for sharing your comment.

      I agree with you, and share your concern about time resources and information overload.

      What I’m finding that’s helping is to identify a few key resources (blogs and books) that stand above the others, and make time each day to devote to a few key resources that consistently provide full value…and close my mind to what I can’t follow.

      Even a consistent half hour in the morning for new blog posts and a half hour in the evening for reading is making a difference.

      If you discover any other solutions, please share them!
      Best wishes.