You want to improve yourself, but who has time to read all of those self-help books? Never fear, the staff at New York Magazine did the work for you and summarized the key advice contained in some of the best.
• How to Make People Like You in 90 Seconds or Less, by Nicholas Boothman. When you’re talking to someone, find places in the conversation to say “me too.” Try spending 30 seconds of a conversation synchronizing your body language to the other person’s body language.
• The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. Pick a cue and set a clear reward for yourself. Get started by making your bed each morning and other good habits may follow.
• Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, by Robert B. Cialdini. Do someone a small favor before you ask him for something. Always ask for more than what you want, and when you get turned down ask for what you want.
• The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, by Oliver Burkeman. Focus on the worst-case scenario because what happens will inevitably be a pleasant surprise. Take action: Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity.
• Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, by Sian Beilock. Write out your worries before an important event that’s making you nervous. Sing a song or count backwards by threes.
• Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long, by David Rock. Practice lowering your expectations. When you feel anxious remind yourself “That’s just my brain.” If you must multitask, toggle between repetitive tasks and those that require you to think actively.
• The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living, by Dr. Russ Harris. Practice accepting tough times and thoughts by saying to yourself, “It’s unpleasant, but I can accept it.” Help yourself lighten up by using a funny voice to express negative thoughts in your head.
• How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon. Never cave to the temptation to violate your moral code—even once. Make an investment in your family early on before tensions arise from neglect and apathy.
— Adapted from “How to Read 31 Books in Four Minutes,” New York Magazine.