How to Improve Your Personal Productivity?

Here are some lessons from a seven-part series on personal productivity by Bob Pozen in HBR. He is chairman emeritus of MFS Investment Management and a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

 

Planning

 
Every night, look over a schedule of exactly what you are going to do the next day. For each event on your schedule, write down a few words about what you want to get accomplished. Then, on the same page as the schedule, compose a list of tasks that you want to get done that day, in order of priority.
 
Revise your schedule during the course of the day when needed. Sit down and redo the schedule in light of what's come up.
 
 

Reading

 
You have to ask: "Why am I reading this book or newspaper?"Know what you're reading for. Are you reading for certain facts? Are you reading for new analysis? Are you reading for the author's general themes or the specific support for these themes?
 
 

Writing

 
In order to write quickly, you need to see the line of argument very clearly. In order to spell out the logic of the argument, you need to compose an outline before writing.
 
 

Ownership principle

 
Every employee is viewed as the owner of a small business — his or her division, or subdivision or working group; the performance of this unit is his or her responsibility.
 
Leaders ask: "What are the metrics by which I should judge your success?"
 
 

Meetings

 
Almost every meeting can be completed in one hour or at most 90 minutes.
 
You should have meeting materials delivered the day before or the night before by email, including a one-page executive summary.
 
Avoiding lengthy PowerPoint presentations:
 
"Look, you've already given us this material, which we've all read. And there's some really excellent analysis in this material. So let's see if you can focus us on the key points we need to discuss and decide upon."
 
Leading meetings:
 
"Here is the area where we really need to do something. But it is a difficult area and there are several ways to address the problems. Now this is my tentative view of the path we should take, but I could be wrong. I want you to feel free to disagree and offer alternatives."
 
Closing meetings:
 
"Where are we going to go from here? What are the to-do's and who's going to do them and when will they be delivered?"
 
 
 
Click here to find the Personal Productivity blog posts from Pozen on HBR.