Extreme Productivity

Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, by Robert C. Pozen (Harper Business, 2012, 297 pages)

Robert Pozen knows about being busy. He’s served in several executive roles in the financial sector for both government and private industry. He has also taught at Harvard and MIT, is on the non-governing board of several non-profit organizations, and has written a few books. Extreme Productivity is a collection of his lessons learned on being more productive in all aspects of life, with a big focus on results achieved, not on time spent on a task. 

What Makes This Book Different

Pozen defines personal productivity as “the quantity and quality of your results in achieving your objectives.” He focuses on personal and professional goals, and recommends aligning everything in the workday to further those goals. 

Pozen’s strategy is to start with the big picture, and then organize your entire workday accordingly. He encourages readers to list their long-term career goals (five plus years out) their medium-range objectives (3-24 months out,) and their short term targets (things to accomplish in the next week or so.) Then, he says, to prioritize the items in each category and allocate time based on those priorities. 

Next, Pozen shows how to leverage top-priority goals, targets, and objectives to focus efforts through the work-week. Throughout he writes about how to avoid procrastination, establish a daily routine, and communicate with bosses to ensure full alignment, thereby avoiding confusion or wasting time. 

Analysis

The early chapters are the most useful, helping readers to develop their targets and objectives, apply them to their daily life, and organize their calendar in support of the targets and objectives. The takeaways are straightforward and easy to apply. The next few chapters about meetings, reading, writing, speaking, and managing teams and bosses also have good advice, but are most applicable to readers who engage regularly in those activities. In fact, the book itself, as Pozen states, is most useful for “those who primarily use their brains at work.”  

The last few chapters concern career and work-life balance and have fewer actionable tips, and the advice given tends to be general in nature. To have a brighter future, the author recommends choosing a career in an expanding industry, and looking for an employer that is flexible about when and where employees work. Pozen also offers advice for busy executives and spouses to balance childrearing requirements.

Conclusion

Extreme Productivity is a comprehensive and useful collection of advice and lessons learned with nearly 140 takeaways. The advice and takeaways will not apply to everyone, but readers can pick and choose those that will best help them. Pozen focuses on results rather than busy work. His advice on integrating goals and targets into your daily calendar and meetings is intended to keep priorities in view. For those who spend most of their days managing their email inbox and attending meetings, Robert Pozen can help them become more productive.

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Stephen Lepper is a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps. He lives with his family in central Massachusetts and can be found on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephen-lepper.

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