Did You Resolve to be More Productive in 2013?

After a distinguished career in financial services and public service, Robert Pozen, is now a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. In his new book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, Pozen shares insights on a range topics, from how to sleep on an overnight business flight to how to effectively deal with employees’ mistakes.

However, at the heart of this businessperson’s handbook is Pozen’s belief that it “takes a lot more than organizing your schedule to be productive.” Explained Pozen in a Harvard Business School interview, “I wanted to discuss skills that have been critical in my own career. Communication is one—reading, writing, and speaking. Another is how you operate within your organization and deal with both those above you and those who report to you. I also wanted people to think about how they are managing their careers in the evolving context of their own professional and personal lives.”

The book offers a number of practical takeaways. Pozen suggests improving business meetings by allocating adequate time in advance for everyone to prepare for a thoughtful discussion and limiting the meeting to an hour, or 90 minutes at the most. He notes, “There are tremendous diminishing returns in lengthier meetings. When you only have an hour, you don’t waste time on nonproductive tangents.” He also advises that all meetings should have an effective close, summing up the to-dos, and who’s going to do them. He notes, “Senior executives tend to think that they can accomplish this by just telling people what to do. But there’s a big difference between assigning a task to be completed by next Tuesday vs. introducing a challenge, getting buy-in on addressing that challenge, and having everyone come together on a way it can get done by a mutually agreed deadline.”

Pozen also offers his advice on how to manage work obligations when they pose conflicts with family life. “Many managers insist that their jobs routinely require them to stay late at the office, but when you press them, they admit that isn’t true,” he observed in the Harvard Business School interview. “Some occasional emergencies need to take precedence over everything else, but unless you work in a hospital, those situations are rare. Even if you have to catch up with work after dinner, take a couple of hours every day to connect with the people in your life who should matter most.”

Now, that’s food for thought.

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