Now's the time to usher in the new year—and perhaps a new approach to your career. If you've resolved in 2009 to work smarter, be more productive, follow your dreams or find more fun in the daily 9-to-5, this quartet of books will come in handy.

Back to basics
Is your life overscheduled and overrun by clutter, whether piles of paper on your desk or way too many commitments on your calendar? Leo Babauta has the solution. In The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential. . . in Business and in Life he has created "a how-to manual on how to simplify and focus on the essential. How to do less while accomplishing more." Babauta isn't just paying lip service to the importance of learning to focus on what's important. Over the last few years, he's accomplished quite a list of goals (running two marathons, doubling his income, eliminating his debt, writing this book) while parenting six children. His secret lies in his ability to focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to juggle too many things at once. In the book, Babauta offers targeted suggestions for slowly but surely finding focus (and thus, greater efficiency). A 30-day challenge provides a kick-start, and simplification strategies and tips abound.

Control is key
David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, published in 2001, sold a million copies and significantly increased demand for Allen's Getting Things Done, or GTD, seminars, delivered at companies and government agencies worldwide. Not surprisingly, he found time to write another book: Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life. This time around, he offers "new and deeper perspectives about why [the GTD] information works as well as it does and how universally it can be applied." The first few chapters explain the GTD concept and set up Allen's plan for Making It All Work. Perspective is important to this process, and the author skillfully frames the various levels of perspective as distances, which range from 50,000 feet (career, purpose, lifestyle) to 10,000 feet (current projects) to "runway" (daily actions, like managing email). The author says adhering to his principles will enable you to "quickly gain coherence and reorient yourself for the next round when you're faced with disruption"—a useful skill to have in a recession, for sure.

Entrepreneurial excitement
Donny Deutsch's CNBC television show "The Big Idea" profiled entrepreneurs who've achieved the American Dream of having, well, a big idea, and working hard to make it a reality. In the show's companion book, The Big Idea: How to Make Your Entrepreneurial Dreams Come True, from the "Aha Moment" to Your First Million, written with Catherine Whitney, Deutsch's energy and enthusiasm are infectious. The Big Idea is a fine mix of advice gleaned from his own experiences running an ad agency, plus stories of successful idea-implementers who have appeared on his TV show. Those profiled include the founders of Subway, Spanx and Sam Adams, plus proprietors of lesser-known companies like the Ugly Talent Agency, which fills the need for regular-looking folks on movie sets and in magazines. This book will serve as a useful how-to manual for would-be entrepreneurs, and provide "If they can do it, so can I!" inspiration.

Cubicle-bound creativity
Unlike most career-related books, Who Took All the Paperclips? Fun Things to Do with Office Supplies When the Boss Isn't Looking supports—nay, encourages—pilfering office supplies. Author Rachel Rifat advocates using those Post-its and paperclips to make crafts that will perk up a boring cubicle. Rifat opens her compendium of crafts with "Matchstick Incense: When nature calls and the whole office doesn't need to know!" and includes step-by-step instructions for a beaded privacy curtain and a pillow made from bubble-wrap, among other projects. Quirky illustrations and funny captions add to the book's appeal, as does the author's explanation of why she left her own corporate job: "she decided she could not stand to see another manager wearing a Hawaiian shirt and shorts at a beer bust." It's hard to argue with that.

Linda M. Castellitto makes Post-it origami in North Carolina. 

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