October 19, 2012

Staff Picks: Extreme Productivity

By: Michael @ 5:32 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

There are few things worse than the feeling that you're getting very little done with the seemingly ample time you have. There are a handful of potential contributors to this feeling (including derangement), but most often we feel unproductive because we are in fact unproductive. In this case, what would help is a guide to increasing productivity, which is exactly what Robert Pozen has created with Extreme Productivity. Not only is the title catchy, the subtitle dangles an even more tantalizing promise: reduce your hours. This implies that your productivity is not contingent only upon the time you devote to your pursuits; productivity is contingent a range of factors. This is what Pozen focuses on in Extreme Productivity. He introduces the book with this:
Success depends in large part on a proper mind-set: focusing on the results you plan to achieve, rather than the number of hours you work. The results are what matter most to your employer, clients, and colleagues.

Pozen puts what he calls 'three big ideas' out at the front of the book: set and prioritize you goals, focus on the final product, and don't sweat the small stuff. These are the broad points, and if you only read some of this book, this is the part you'd want to read. A guy like Bob Pozen wouldn't put the best stuff anywhere but the front. He highlights the importance of keeping one's priorities at the forefront of all activities. Pozen notes that it's common for executives to be extremely busy, yet they often fail to reflect upon whether or not their activities are in fact working toward their goals or advocating for their priorities. The phrase "start at the end" captures the essence of Pozen's message in this first section, and he uses these very words in explaining the benefits of working with concrete goals in mind. You have to ask yourself: "what do I need to achieve? where is this project going?", and in doing so, you're much more likely to avoid time-wasting pitfalls and unessential activities.

Extreme Productivity covers what I'd call 'essentials', and even though my favorite bits are the 'big ideas', since they have broad and lasting application, Pozen doesn't leave us without detailed suggestions for improving specific tasks. Part 3 is all about personal skills. Reading is an invaluable activity, and I recommend it to everyone I meet. But it can take a lot of time to soak up all that valuable information that's printed daily. Pozen has a solution for this, though, and it involves reading selectively and with purpose. You may have noticed, but this essentially injects the 'focus on the final product' idea into the reading process. Here's a secret: I didn't read this entire book. I read it the way Robert Pozen would have read it. Fortunately, he probably expected (or hoped) I would do that, and he made it easy to read that way.

Whatever your reason for wanting to increase your efficiency, the fact remains that you're already busy. You likely can't afford to spend your limited time slogging through a book that doesn't offer immediate application or value. In that case, Extreme Productivity will be of use to you. If you can read and think moderately well, you will gain insight from this book in literally minutes. Now considering the time you spent reading this review, you can't really afford not to read this book. For the very time-conscious (i.e. if you don't read the book), watch the video below.


About Michael

Michael Jantz oversees “special projects,” a task that corrals any number of imaginable alterations and re-imaginings of the umpteen books 800-CEO-READ so gracefully sells day after day. But never content with the appellations of the common workplace, Michael also now enjoys exploring other avenues of 800-CEO-READ’s enterprise, including reading, writing, design, and lively conversations with those writers whose books the company sells. It is a happy time for Michael, whose love of books and good company has found 800-CEO-READ's office and philosophy to be like nutrient-rich compost to his hungry, burrowing roots.