I read a few articles by Robert Pozen, and the seven-part series on personal productivity by Pozen and Justin Fox, all published by Harvard Business Review. A wealth of great advice is worthy of sharing here. Pozen wrote a book called Extreme Productivity that I have not read. It is better to put great advice into practice first rather than reading without action.
To me, these pieces of advice stand out:
Success is about performance, not time.
“The notion of hours grew up because, if you’re in a commoditized factory, if you’re in the assembly line, hours is a good proxy of what you’re producing. But at knowledge-based companies, it’s not the hours. It’s what you accomplish,” Focus on results, not how much time spent.
Lifestyle moderation: at least seven hours of sleep every night and two hours of screen-free time with family each day.
Know your comparative advantage
Ask the question what function only I can perform for the organisation. Focus on doing what I and only I can do.
“Don’t focus just on what you do best. You’re more likely to succeed if you look around and gauge how you can be most useful.”
Know what to not spend time on.
Think first, read or write second.
On reading, ask why am I reading, what are the objectives. With that in mind, read selectively and purposefully.
On writing, think and figure out my arguments first. “After composing an outline, write the concluding paragraph. That will tell you whether you really know where your article or memo is going.”
Plan ahead, and be ready and flexible to change the plan. Leave some room for handling unanticipated developments.
Let others own their space
Solicit input from people and encourage them to express their opinions.
“Here is the area where we really need to do something. It is a difficult area, and there are several ways to address the problems. Now, this is my tentative view of the path we should take, but I could be wrong. I want you to feel free to disagree and offer alternatives.”
At the end of the meeting, ask “what are the to-dos, who’s going to take care of them, and when will they be delivered?”
Keep things short and simple
This applies to both personal aspects of life and work.
To have a productive meeting, the presenter should circulate the material with a one-page executive summary in advance, spend the first block of time to set the stage and raise the key questions, then the majority of the meeting focused on discussing issues and formulating an action plan.
Prepare for a workday
Check the calendar the night before. “For each event on my schedule, I’ll write down a few words about what I want to get accomplished. Then, on the same page as the schedule, I’ll compose a list of tasks that I want to get done that day, in order of priority. As the day goes by, I check off the tasks that are completed. At the end of the day, I review the ones not done and decide when I should do them in the future — or to delete them if circumstances have changed.”
“Have monthly calendars on a summary basis for the next 12 months so I know what I am planning to do. “
Re-prioritize the to-do list as the day progresses along.
Most of the advice in these articles seems to be common sense. The challenge is to move forward consistently in the cycle of practice, review, adjustment and better practice.