Extreme Productivity by Robert Pozen: Summary and Notes

extreme productivity summary

“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.”

Rating: 8/10

Related: Getting Things Done, Eat That Frog, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management, How To Have a Good Day, The Productivity Project

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Extreme Productivity Short Summary

Extreme Productivity is an outstanding book on making the most of what little time you have. Do you want to be extremely productive at everything you do? It will teach you how. In the book, Pozen shares tips and tricks on doubling your productivity. Whether it is reading, writing, office work, or traveling, there is something for you.

What Is Personal Productivity?

Personal productivity is the quantity and quality of your results in achieving your goals. To be productive, you have to focus on the results that you want to achieve and not on the time that is spent doing the work. 

Part 1: The Three Big Ideas

To maximize your productivity, apply these three ideas:

  1. Articulate your goals and rank them in order of priority
  2. Focus on the final product
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff 

Set and Prioritize Your Goals

The first step in setting your goals should be to think carefully about the activity you are engaging in and what you expect to get at the end. 

To establish your highest-ranking goals:

  1. Write everything that you are doing or planning to do
  2. Organize the items by time horizons ie: yearly goals, career goals, etc
  3. Rank your objectives by their relative importance. When doing this, take into account what the world needs and what you want
  4. Rank your targets by their relative importance. 
  5. Estimate how you use your time and see if that aligns with your targets and objectives

After you have written down your goals, divide the least into three main categories:

  • Career Aims. Long terms goals that will take at least 5 years to achieve
  • Objectives. Objectives are goals that will take anywhere from three months to 2 years to achieve
  • Targets. These are the action steps that will guide your work every week

To rank your objectives ask yourself the following questions:

  • What you want to do. Rank your personal desires and preferences higher
  • What you’re good at. If you have a comparative advantage over others in a specific area, rank that area higher
  • What the world needs from you. Determine what others want from you and incorporate their needs with those of yours

Focus on The Final Product

When working on a project, focus on the most actionable parts or the final result. It is very easy to get lost in the information-gathering phase. 

To prevent yourself from being caught up in this phase, write a tentative conclusion of a complex problem. Also, formulate your conclusion in the form of a hypothesis and change it depending on the results.

Stop and revise your earlier conclusions if needed depending on the findings that you get.

When working on a project, your goal should be to achieve the best result and not to spend as much time on it as possible.

Set mini-deadlines to beat procrastination. 

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff 

Only Handle It Once (OHIO principle): Handle low priority items immediately once you receive them. 

For example:

When you receive an email relevant to your work, reply as soon as possible. You will waste time looking it up later.

Discard 80% of the emails that you receive. Most of them are not relevant to your work. 

Use multitasking to complete low-priority tasks and reserve your focus for more complex goals.

Avoid multitasking in front of your clients as that can be seen as a sign of disrespect.

If you are a manager, avoid the tendency to micromanage your employees. Give them enough time and independence to complete their tasks.

Reduce the bureaucracy that requires your employees to fill needless forms or to get approval for small matters.

If you are an employee, learn how to go around bureaucratic tendencies that make you spend too much time doing low-level work.

Part 2: Productivity Every Day

To make your daily routine as productive as possible, use the following general rules:

  1. Create a daily calendar to proactively manage your time and set targets
  2. Follow standard routines so that you can minimize the mundane aspects of your life
  3. Get eight hours of sleep every day and exercise regularly

Your daily calendar must record all of your daily commitments in one place. That way, you will be able to see the purpose of each commitment and the importance of assigned tasks.

Take a nap in the afternoon to revitalize your energy. If you are an executive, allow your employees time to rest in the afternoon. 

Traveling Lightly

“The key to a productive trip lies in good advance planning.”

To make traveling easier, make a to-do list that includes all the steps that you need when making the trip.

Create a schedule for the trip that has clear goals and make sure that the schedule reflects those goals.

As soon as you land at your destination, exercise so that you can stay awake during the day.

Efficient Meetings 

Elements of effective meetings:

  • A clear agenda based on a well-developed set of goals
  • A short presentation to put the meeting in context
  • A debate on the key issues
  • A summary of the group’s observations

Meetings should focus on debates and decision making and not just to share information.

Meetings need to be as short as possible. 90 minutes at maximum.

Give handouts before the meeting so that everyone can be on board with what is expected

Part 3: Developing Personal Skills

The three personal skills that you need to develop are writing, reading, and public speaking. 

Reading Effectively

To be an effective reader, you need to know the purpose of your reading and stick with that.

Reasons for reading include:

  1. Understanding key ideas
  2. Finding specific facts
  3. Discovering new sources of information
  4. Evaluating an analysis
  5. Supporting the job description

Effective reading strategies:

  1. Grasp the structure of the reading. Focus your eyes on key structural elements of the text to save time while reading
  2.  Read the introduction and the conclusion. By reading the introduction and the conclusion first, you will get a general idea faster. Only when you need details should you read the body
  3. Skim the top paragraphs. Skimming the first paragraphs allows you to narrow down your focus to what’s important

When you finish reading important work, write down the key takeaways. It is easier to remember that way.

Writing Effectively

The first step to effective writing is creating an outline. 

To create an outline:

  1. Brainstorm. Write down as many ideas as possible
  2. Categorize. Put the ideas into various categories and subcategories
  3. Outline. Arrange the ideas into various arrangements until you get the perfect sequence 

When it comes to the actual writing, start with an introduction. The introduction provides the reader with context, theme, and explains the organization of the text.

Remember to use a summary or a conclusion. A summary is a condensed reputation of the main points.

To make it easier for the reader to skim through your work, write in short sentences. Include headings and subheadings and limit the number of sentences in a paragraph to a maximum of five.

Your sentences need to be connected in a seamless way. 

Write in active voice. Active voice tells the reader who is doing what.

Make sure that your spelling and grammar are okay by proofreading your work.

Speaking Effectively

Public speaking is an important skill for most professionals. 

But beware:

It is important to know your audience first before giving a speech. That way you will know the kind of things that are likely to interest them.

Structure your speech by identifying the most important parts.

For example:

If you are giving a speech that acknowledges the contribution of others, you could start by saying why everyone is gathered together and following that with identifying the group receiving the recognition.

Rehearse your speech so that when it comes to delivering it, you will be prepared. 

After presenting your speech, prepare for a Q & A session. Some Q & A ground rules that you could use include:

  • Making sure that every question is heard loud and clear
  • Encouraging more questions from the audience
  • When asked a tough question repeat it so that you have enough time to think about it
  • Give a thoughtful answer to each question

Part 4: Managing Up and Down

Managing relationships with others should factor in your productivity plans. 

Managing your Team

People are happier and more fulfilled when they complete meaningful work. Thus, managers can get the most from their employees when they help them achieve meaningful progress.

“To be an effective boss, you don’t have to give rousing speeches like a football coach at halftime; you just have to set up a system that enables both you and your employees to get meaningful work done.”

Owning your own space:  A management principle in which employees view themselves as owning a small business within an organization.

“If you allow your workers to own their own spaces, they can adapt quickly to changing conditions rather than waiting for your approval.”

Managers need to hire the right people as they are easier to trust. This can be done at the hiring stage through background checks and engaging the prospects in intellectual debates. 

As a manager, set project goals for teams by communicating clearly and setting the right constraints. Also, make available all the resources needed to complete the project. 

Managing Your Boss 

Managing up: Establishing a mutually beneficial relationship with your boss. 

“Communications with your boss—both content and style—are critical to developing a productive relationship. Start by agreeing with your boss on what you should be doing.”

Understand the management style of your boss and make sure that your actions and style match those of your boss.

Take initiative around your boss and highlight your accomplishments.

When a project runs into trouble, give plenty of warning. Bosses hate surprises.

Cultivate loyalty to your own boss. Make them look good in front of their superiors. Being loyal also means not jumping the chain of command without notifying your boss.

When it is time to leave your job, give some notice and don’t burn bridges along the way.

Part 5: Pursuing A Productive Life 

Maximizing Your Career Options Over A Lifetime

Examine your current career by figuring out what characteristics of a job appeal to you. Some of the questions that you could ask yourself include:

  • What topics you enjoy
  • Whether you prefer reading or writing
  • Whether you like to work with colleagues or by yourself
  • What public or social purposes you want to pursue
  • Your jobs salary compared to your personal goals and values

Next, determine your aptitudes and skills. Think of your competencies and what skills you can offer to the world.

Consider the external demand for the kind of career that you choose. Ask yourself “does the world need professionals in this area?”

At the early stages of your career, don’t overspecialize. Try as much as possible to choose jobs that have transferable skills.

Revise your career goals at every step of your career. That way, you will more easily find the right move.

Embrace Change But Stay the Same

Change is the rule, not the exception. If you want to be productive and maintain your productivity in a changing economy, you need to embrace change.

Employees fear change because it requires time and effort. With change also comes the unknown. 

Fearing change can be detrimental to your career. Having the same job for life is the exception, not the rule. Bosses will change and so will your colleagues. 

Don’t rely too much on the past to predict the future. Challenges and new problems will surface whether you like them or not.

Be ethical in your job. There is much to be gained over the long run if you care about your reputation.

Balancing Home and Work

The point of becoming productive is not just building a rewarding career. It is also about enjoying a more rewarding life.

Seek out employers who value family life. Who offer paid leave, for instance. To gain more flexibility in your work life, be more assertive. Assure your employer that taking time off does not mean that you will not get things done.

Leave your workplace early so that you can have time with friends and family. Also, delegate family duties. Find someone who will take care of that part of your life.

Separate your work life and family time as much as possible. Be a family person while at home and not the professional from work.