Business book review: Extreme Productivity

19 Sep 2012 by BusinessTraveller
In this book Robert Pozen shares his secrets on being highly productive and successful. A professor who teaches a full load at Harvard Business School while serving as the full-time chairman of a financial services firm, he details his many successes and then aims to distil his method down in a way that may be useful to the reader. He clearly isn’t a man who suffers from false modesty, the opening of the book sets the tone “People often ask me how I get so much done”, but largely manages to avoid alienating the reader while giving tips largely based on personal experience rather than any empirical research. The book is divided into five main parts. Part 1 sets out the three ideas underpinning the book: setting goals with explicit priorities, focusing on the final results and not sweating the small stuff. Part 2 helps implement short-term priorities in a disciplined manner and includes organizing a daily routine, managing a travel schedule and running efficient meetings. Part 3 focusses on developing three skills: reading, writing and public speaking. Part 4 is personal productivity, while part 5 is about establishing a framework for making long-term decisions about your career and achieving a satisfying work-life balance. All of these parts are worth reading, but which you find most useful will depend on how effective you already are, and which skills you have already developed. I found the early chapters the best, since they help you prioritise the overload of work, much of it repetitive, that many of us deal with on a weekly basis. Posen’s method might be termed “sorting the wheat from the chaff”. Concentrate on the big things that are important, and then work out how much of your week is spent on activities which actually further those goals. It sounds obvious, but writing it down with different headings and with marks attached is a good way of clarifying matters, and worth a couple of hours, though Posen advises going through the process more regularly, and ensuring your daily diary reflects your ultimate objectives by helping to bring you closer to them. The problem I found with this was, strangely, there wasn’t quite enough detail on these methods, and for later chapters, which I found of less interest, I think probably suffer from the same fault. For instance there is a chapter on speaking more effectively, and if that is something you worry about, although there is some useful advice, I have a feeling you would want a whole book on it (and there are plenty). The same would go for the chapter of travelling effectively, which is fine, but if you travel regularly already, there isn’t anything in it you won’t know yourself. And finally when Posen talks about health and fitness, advising eight hours sleep each night, a nap of 30 minutes after lunch and regular exercise, while still getting home for 7pm in the evening to spend time with family, we may lose patience. Nevertheless, worth reading for the chapters on issues that most concern you. Extreme Productivity is published by Harper Business; harpercollins.com Tom Otley
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