Jack Covert Selects

Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style by Carson Tate

January 15, 2015


Carson Tate’s mission in life is also to help us get out from underneath it all, backed by the latest cognitive science.

Work Simply: Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style by Carson Tate, Portfolio, 304 pages, $26.95, Hardcover, January 2015, ISBN 9781591847304

2014 was a great year for big picture personal development books; our annual awards shortlist included Greg McKeown’s Essentialism, and Michael Harris’ The End of Absence could have won the category most other years. Both books discuss how our current lives, lived under a state of constant connectivity and increasing professional demands, are untenable, and how we might get out from under it all.

Like McKeown and Harris, Carson Tate’s mission in life is also to help us get out from underneath it all, but Tate’s methods are more “micro” and systematic. Think of Work Simply as a companion to the aforementioned 2014 titles, but one that employs the latest cognitive science to help us better understand ourselves and those around us, a necessary ingredient to living the life we want to live.

Like a lot of books designed to help us change, Tate starts with stories of burnout, first revealing how she herself arrived at not only a moment of debilitating exhaustion, but exhaustion paired with the realization the she had almost no memory of her daughter’s first year of life. After revealing her own struggles, Tate then shares stories of overburdened and overwhelmed clients, many of whom tried but failed to get life under control by employing various popular time management strategies. One of those clients was a managing partner at one of the top four consulting firms who recently had her first child:

[T]he problem with time management is that it is inherently limited in its effectiveness. … Andi’s time management seminar did not support her in considering the broader context of her work and the need for a comprehensive overall productivity strategy. She needed a productivity strategy that addressed how she prioritized her work responsibilities, how she planned ways to meet her work objectives, and how she allocated time and effort to enhance her work performance. 


In short, Carson Tate doesn't believe in time management strategies.

You cannot outwork your busyness using one-size-fits-all time management solutions. The latest app, prioritization tip, or e-mail management strategy will not work if it is not personalized for you, aligned with the way you think and process information. Instead it will only create even more frustration, inefficiency, and ineffectiveness.


In chapter 3, Tate discusses right brain versus left brain thinking. Thankfully, she does so only to debunk this old science to introduce more modern cognitive advances

Most scientists now agree that particular brain functions involve both hemispheres to varying degrees and that cognitive style is a complex combination of multiple variables. There is no doubt that people differ enormously in their ways of dealing with information, but the differences cannot be categorized simply according to a single two-part dichotomy …



After a short 28-question assessment determines if the reader is a Prioritizer, Planner, Arranger, or Visualizer—the four productivity styles Tate has identified through rigorous doctoral research as most common—the rest of the book is the nitty gritty where each style is then exhaustively explained and each chapter tackles a different aspect of productivity (prioritization, teamwork, meetings, putting it all together) based on your cognitive behavior and productivity style.

One oft-referenced criticism of business books is that they do not offer enough specific, practical application. It’s a bogus critique, but it’s at least understandable. In no way shape or form can that allegation be levied at Work Simply. If you want help being more productive via some soul-searching and self-examination, this is the book for you.

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