When Time is of the Essence, Try “Extreme Productivity"

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For most workers, time is their most valuable asset. For those looking to make the most of their working hours, there’s a new book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, by Robert Pozen. In snappy prose, Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, explains how everyone can use his techniques to work efficiently and have more time for their priorities, whatever they may be—whether it’s coaching a child’s soccer team or training for a marathon. Each of the book’s 14 chapters provides practical tips on reorganizing a different aspect of a person’s work life to maximize productivity. The topics range from big-picture strategies such as setting and prioritizing goals, to managing the minutiae of daily life.

I’ve seen Pozen’s incredible productivity firsthand. He and I once collaborated on a book about the mutual-fund industry. I finished a first draft of the opening chapter, which I emailed to him for review. He had warned me that he’d be on a trip to China, suggesting that there was no rush in getting anything to him. Within 12 hours, his extensive comments on both the content and organization of the chapter were in my inbox. Though he was traveling, he had read the 40-page chapter and typed up his thoughts—on his BlackBerry. What I came to realize is that he had figured out how to maximize his output per unit of time and energy. In other words, he was just much more productive than most people.

Robert Pozen Extreme Productivity ‘Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours’ by Robert C. Pozen. 304 p. HarperBusiness. $13.89.

Pozen’s fast review of my draft chapter was an example of his productivity strategies. These are the techniques that he brought to bear in just this one instance: first, he utilized a technique called OHIO, for Only Handle It Once. Pozen knew that he had to respond to my email eventually, so why put off until later what you can do immediately? Second, he knew his purpose in reading. This was only a first draft of the chapter, so it didn’t need a line-by-line edit. Instead, Pozen read through it quickly, focusing on its overall approach. Third, he made his travel time productive. Pozen was prepared to take advantage of downtime by using his smartphone. And finally, he delegated effectively—in this case to me. In our division of labor, I had agreed to write the chapter. Pozen kept my work moving forward by getting me comments quickly.

I believe that everyone will find at least one section of the book that will resonate with them. Extreme Productivity is the essential guide to investing our time wisely.