Usually in this space we focus on reviewing books in the realms of marketing or marketing research but as the pandemic and its stresses have endured, experts have repeatedly told us it’s therapeutic to learn new skills or enhance existing ones and also take a little time for ourselves.

Now, that’s easier said than done, given that our daily lives have been disrupted in countless ways by the virus. Work is different (if you are lucky enough to still have your job), grocery shopping is different, school is different, leisure time is different. And not just different but often way more complicated. So finding time for personal and professional growth often seems like another item that gets pushed down our to-do lists.

But two recent books offer the promise of making the effort worthwhile. They aren’t specifically geared to your lives as marketing researchers but in their own ways, each has the potential to make you a happier, more effective one.

The Power of Ritual - Book CoverCasper ter Kuile’s The Power of Ritual (HarperOne) is largely about the act of adding intention and mindfulness to everyday tasks. (You may recognize his name from his work as co-host of the popular Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast.) He’s a Harvard Divinity School Fellow and while the book touches on religion frequently, it’s more interested in the social and emotional aspects of religions or any other regular, habitual practices (like CrossFit!) that can deliver that nurturing sense of belonging to something that’s larger than yourself. Reading, eating and walking the dog are just a few of the daily actions that he urges readers to be intentional about and while the act of doing so does take extra effort (the very thought of which can be mentally exhausting on certain days), the work pays off by grounding our actions in a wider context that at once affirms the self while also making us feel part of a larger whole.

Being intentional is also a large part of the advice offered in Give Yourself a Nudge (Cambridge University Press), in which author Ralph Keeney argues that careful consideration of the desired outcomes can be a forceful driver of better decision-making. Specifically, Keeney makes a case for values-based decision-making and how it can lead to better outcomes for our personal and business decisions. We’re not talking minor decisions like what to have for lunch but rather decisions around searching for a new job or buying a new car, for example. Keeney helpfully includes comprehensive chapters on identifying your values in relation to decisions and also explores the merits of creating alternatives – possible courses of action that you have the authority to choose – as a way to add breadth and agency to your decision process. This book can feel at times a dense read (all this analysis of something that we are often told should be made in a snap!) and it’s generally more suited to personal decisions than on-the-job ones but if you are looking for guidance for how to approach making important life choices, it’s well worth picking up.