The self-help book industry is in a way like the diet book industry. No one dieting system works for everyone and a lot of them plainly just don’t work. If there really was one that truly worked and worked for everyone, there wouldn’t be so many diet books. Right? Well, I wish it was that simple. It’s hard not be suspicious to the, “hey, read my book. Your life will get better” and you should be, but it’s not necessary all a scam. The same way that no one dieting system will work for everyone, no one self-help method will work for everybody.

Actually, I don’t like the term “self-help”. I think it has acquired a negative connotation and it brings up images of meta-physical themed books located at an isle in Walgreens. Also, it suggest that you can accomplish great things all by yourself. It brings about a smugness to people cause they think they learned the secret to success all by reading a book. It turns it to something as significant as those motivational framed photos you see in cubicle farms.

Those are the pitfalls I see a lot happening when people approach, what I prefer to call, personal development, but you can call it “personal productivity” or “lifehacking”. I like the “development” part because it suggests exactly that. An ongoing change to betterment or an ongoing learning. Another pitfall is approaching it passively. I learned this the hard way. It’s not enough to just think it won’t work; you have to actually try it. Make that list, write down your values, prioritize in your calendar. Until you start participating actively in what your reading, you will never know if it works.

So try things out. You can read about the GTD system, but find silly and unnecessary listing tasks like washing the dishes. You can read Covey’s 7 Habits, but get turned off by his finding-your-purpose-in-life approach. The idea is to find out what works for you. I haven’t found yet either the end all system, and honestly, I’m a big time procrastinator, but through time I found that every little thing helps. Some of these systems can complement each other also. I read this interesting article over a Tim Ferris Blog, the author of the 4 Hour Workweek. That’s one book I have in my wishlist.

The question is: How much time I need to dedicate to this? Remember when you were a child and was learning to tie your shoes? You practiced and practiced until you got it.