Extreme Productivity: Secrets of a Very Busy Man

Justin Fox interviews Bob Pozen, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and author for HBR and HBR Blogs, who shares with us his tips and trips for being more productivity in and HBR IdeaCast. The following are the key points discussed:

  • Focus on results, not on time spent. For a long time, and perhaps still in many organizations, much value is placed on the employee who works long hours to complete a project. It is seen as a sign of dedication, devotion and commitment. The problem is that it’s completely inefficient. Pozen suggests that  finding efficient ways of getting results should be the focus and priority. He mentions that in the past, he has told clients that he worked work twice as fast but charge them double his time and they had no objections. In the organization that I work for, more often than not, we charge by deliverable and by results rather than by time, which is another way of tackling this issue.
  • Know your comparative advantage. Most of us are familiar with the notion of competitive advantage: what it is that we do better than our competitors. But in an organization, our peers are not our competitors, or at least, they should not be. When thinking of an organization as a system, being competitive within the system is inefficient. Rather, according to Pozen, you should be thinking about your comparative advantage, that is what does your organization needs most from you. Management-level individuals need to focus on the question: “What are the functions that I and only I can do” and delegate the rest. Even in work teams, individuals need to focus on their strengths and unique abilities.
  • Think first. Read or write second. This one really hit home. I’ve been applying this principle since as early as I can remember, instinctively. I always hid it, thinking it would be seen as taking shortcuts, which in turn could be perceived as laziness. Now I’m so thrilled to learn that this is simply efficiency! Pozen explains that when you think before you read and think about what it is that you are looking for, you know better what to focus and know what to skip over. Thinking before you write means developing an outline as soon as possible (which can be revised) to steer your research and what arguments you want to write.
  • Prepare your plan, but be ready to change it. What are the highest priorities you need to achieve today? Whether you plan these the night before or early in the day, identify what it is that you absolutely need to get done today. If you start the day with that approach and something comes along to disturb your schedule, which for extremely busy people is very likely to happen, you’ll know what are the key things you need to focus on getting done and you’ll be able to defer the less important things. An additional note on this last point: My professional coach Nancy gave me an extremely helpful tool designed by Stephen Covey:  The four-quadrant matrix for importance andurgency, which is an amazing tool for priority management.
  • Naps are also high on Pozen’s top tips for productivity. The benefits of reenergizing through sleep are well know, and it’s a wonder we aren’t better equipped in our modern offices to allow for this. According to Pozen, research shows that a 30 minute nap can let you refresh and be more productive. He does this by putting his feet up on his desk and dozing off.
  • Being boring, or perhaps what I like to call having a routine, such as having the same simple breakfasts and lunches, is a way to take away some of the non-necessary thinking out of your day. Again, this is something I instinctively do because he’s right, it is a huge time saver. I spend a lot of time thinking of what I should be eating in general, that is what kinds of foods I should be buying for nutritional and health reasons, but very little time being creative about breakfasts and lunches on weekdays. That said, I keep the creativity for supper when I’m relaxing.

You may want to listen to the podcast on the HBR site or download this podcast in mp3 format. For more blog posts by Prozen, check out a list of blogs on productivity which he co-wrote with Justin Fox on HBR Blogs.

Reference:

Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Tips for Staying Organized and Efficient When on the Go

Helpful article by Gina Trapani presenting techniques of how to stay organized when travelling for work. She calls on David Allen, author of Getting Things Done with whom she co-created a clever little Popplet* with some easy tips to implement.

*Note that since this blog post was made, the Popplet stopped working, even on Fast Company’s site. A PDF of the Popplet is however available for download.

I’d add that being on the plane is actually a very opportune time to get things done as you can’t receive any distracting email or phone calls. Take advantage of that time.

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Initially published on Brandon Hall’s Workplace Learning Today

Defining the Consultant 2.0

A recent post entitled Dream to Reality: How I Quit My Day Job by Tina Su made me reflect on the evolution of my career vocation as well as life after the graduation—my thesis defence is tomorrow at noon. I have no plans to quite my day job any time soon. But I do want to make certain changes in order to be able to better balance my life and feel I’m getting the most out of it.

Tina Su seems to have made a vocation of blogging. She writes:

Through my quest to finding my passion, I discovered blogging as a platform where I can share ideas and lessons learned that are closest to my heart, as a way to serve others. For the first time in my life, I feel that I am living my life purpose.

I “digged” Tina Su’s blog post and remarked the following:

There is something to this blog post. I’m sort of halfway there – I’m working from home and blogging, developing a network and pursuing my passions on the side, planning for a moment where I can generate revenue with my opinion/online resources — it’s a kind of consultant 2.0. I most certainly appreciate the advice and tips.

Then of course, I got to thinking about what does consultant 2.0 mean? Has anyone else used this term? And how did they define it?

Noah D. Roth wrote a blog post in April 2007 entitled Consultant 2.0 where he gives a definition of what a Consultant 2.0 might be:

Today’s consultant- let’s call him Consultant 2.0- isn’t just looking for 3 years of consulting as a gateway to a line role in industry. […] Consultant 2.0, working 80 hours per week at 80% travel, doesn’t have time for a second full time job looking for their next career move. And his next move is likely to be less-traditional. He may sacrifice cash for equity. Having been a generalist for most of his consulting career, Consultant 2.0 isn’t going to the first client who makes him an offer. He is choosing an industry and a role, and developing deep relationships with his own firms alumni network, and the recruiters who can get him in the door.

Next, Leslie Bradshaw has a consultant 2.0 category for her blog, and though she never uses the term specifically, in one post entitled The rise of the “influential 2.0″ and the “strategist 2.0″ and the … ok, you get the point she writes:

The “strategist 2.0″ – Strategists and consultants — such as those from the political, PR and advertising phyla — who make their money leveraging the influence, relationships, fundraising potential, Word-of-Mouth marketing, etc. from “the blogs” (and other online media, groups, networks, outlets, and so on).

Next, I found a slideshare presentation created a month ago by Pat Kitano on How Web 2.0 and Internet Transparency is Changing Management Consulting:

Last Monday, Dion Hinchcliffe wrote in his Web 2.0 Blog that Web 2.0 remains the top word used to describe Internet trends. He discusses offspring terms such as Advertising 2.0, Law 2.0, Library 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and even Government 2.0 and remarks that:

At this point there are some that like to invoke Buzzword Bingo at such seemingly gratuitously coining of new terms, but I personally find this a crucially important point: The global network of the Web itself, which is shaped continually by the endless participation of hundreds of millions of users around the clock, is no more than a reflection of those that shape it (which are then shaped themselves by it.)  That the principles of Web 2.0 cross all disciplines, types of business, types of government, languages, as well as types of people and culture has fostered an interesting phenomenon.  Namely, each of these topical areas are in the various stages of translating how Web 2.0 transforms and improves what they do, from architectures of participation and harnessing collective intelligence to radical decentralization (with cloud computing being the most interesting new example) and open service ecosystems. (links in quote provided by Dion Hinchcliffe)

Google returned 7,540 results for “consultant 2.0”. There’s a machining calculator called Consultant 2.0. I don’t know why the author named it that way. Random.

I’m still not sure exactly what Consultant 2.0 really means yet, at least not for me. But if I try to define some common points, it involves:

  • using blogs and other social media tools to build a reputation as well as a network
  • sharing with others what I know, what I read, what I think, how I feel… by extension who I am
  • being transparent and accessible
  • having an opinion, recognizing other’s opinion, being able to compare and contrast them
  • a lot of reading and writing
  • being able to effectively evaluate information I find on the Web
  • being confident, yet humble
  • developing a balanced scorecard approach to evaluating the return on investment of the practices listed above that involves more then an immediate cash return

Anything else?

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Getting All Things Done Means Getting the Balance Right

In one of her recent blog posts, Janet Clarey poses the question How hard is it for you to balance innovation and execution? She compares and contrasts taking time to think and innovate with working in “execution” mode. She explains that when returning from vacation, she was in execution mode, which was good because, according to Janet: “too much time spent on innovation means nothing gets done”.

Also, I’m sure Janet’s to-do list was overflowing, like would be most professionals when they come back from vacation, so execution mode is inevitable! But then Janet adds the flip side: “Of course too much time executing means lack of vision.”

And she poses the grand the question: “How do you balance all the innovative discoveries that present themselves with the need to execute?”

This got me thinking about my own time management strategies. I look on my bookshelf at the copy of David Allen’s Getting Things Done which I purchased a year ago (I ordered it on online at chapters.indigo.ca, which makes me both efficient and Canadian!). I haven’t had time to read it yet. Blame it on the thesis once again? Actually, it’s because I don’t think I really need it. I’m naturally a good time manager. Ok, certain things slip through the cracks now and then, but I tend to amaze people in how I do everything that I do and still can sit on a terrace at happy hour on Thursdays and enjoy a martini, looking relaxed, the sun beaming on my face.

But then, there are the things I have a really hard time getting done. The big things that require more then just power over time. They require a whole other type of power: willpower. Enter thesis.

Then I notice Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles which actually was quite helpful. Here is the opening section of his book entitled “What I Do

I get up, take a shower, have breakfast. I read the paper, brush my teeth. If I have phone calls to make, I make them. I’ve got my coffee now. I put on my lucky work boots and stitch up the lucky laces that my niece Meredith gave me. I head back to my office, crank up the computer. My lucky hooded sweatshirt is draped over the chair, with the lucky charm I got from a gypsy in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for only eight bucks in francs, and my lucky LARGO name tag that came from a dream I once had. I put it on. On my thesaurus is my lucky cannon that my friend Bob Versandi gave me from Morro Castle, Cuba. I point it toward my chair, so it can fire inspiration into me. I say my prayer, which is the Invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, that my dear mate Paul Rink gave me and which sits near my shelf with the cuff links that belonged to my father and my lucky acorn from the battlefield at Thermopylae. It’s about ten-thirty now. I sit down and plunge in. When I start making typos, I know I’m getting tired. That’s four hours or so. I’ve hit the point of diminishing returns. I wrap for the day. Copy whatever I’ve done to disk and stash the disk in the glove compartment of my truck in case there’s a fire and I have to run for it. I power down. It’s three, three-thirty. The office is closed. How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.

And he goes on about overcoming resistance in this inspiring gem of a book. I read this book about three years ago. It was a gift from a friend who saw me struggling with multiple levels of resistance. I decided to do much like Steven Pressfield and analyze how my average day happens. But because I’m more adept with graphs then words, I made a visual representation of how I try to achieve the balance Janet was referring too. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge it.

Mapping my Brain Cycles to Maximize my Efficiency Potential
Mapping my Brain Cycles to Maximize my Efficiency Potential

How does your average day look?

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