There are few executives today who don't wish they could be more productive. Even the most successful individuals are looking for new and better ways to get more accomplished while maintaining or increasing their quality of life.
"Regardless of location, industry, or occupation, productivity is a challenge faced by every professional," says Bob Pozen, Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan and author of the bestselling book, Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. Pozen was Executive Chairman of MFS Investment Management and previously President of Fidelity Management & Research Company (while a full-time lecturer at Harvard Business School and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review). In other words, he knows a thing or two about time management.
Nonetheless, Pozen still finds himself working to improve his own skills, both at work and at home, to get the most out of each day. He also believes that staying tuned into the perspectives of other productivity experts is critical to a well-rounded outlook.
With that in mind, here are some tips from Pozen and other highly successful people who do their best to keep time on their side.
Get your priorities straight
"Most professionals have not taken the time to write down their goals and prioritize them," says Pozen. "Without a specific set of goals to pursue, many ambitious people devote insufficient time to activities that actually support their highest professional priorities." This discrepancy between top priorities and time allocations can happen to anyone, in any field, at any level of an organization.
His MIT Sloan Executive Education course, Maximizing Your Personal Productivity: How to Become an Efficient and Effective Executive, begins with an important session on goal setting that forces participants to reflect on their core values and professional priorities. "No matter what your career aspirations are, you should begin by thinking carefully about why you are engaging in any activity and what you expect to get out of it." Pozen takes participants though a six-step exercise to establish their highest-ranking goals and to better match their time allocations with these top goals. Learn more about these steps in a previous post.
Pozen also reminds us that time, in and of itself, is not the best measure of your productivity or of your employees' commitment. "“The key metric is what you get accomplished, not how many hours you’re in [the office].” Read more in this recent Talent Economy article, "Is Time Still the Best Measure of Work in the Knowledge Economy?"
Manage your energy level--and get more sleep
Kat Cole, the president of Cinnabon, has figured out how to monitor her energy in order to get things done. "I'm pretty religious about my sleep," she says, in this Oprah.com article. "I don't give it up easily. I just am so much less effective at time management if I haven't managed the sleep part."
According to MIT Sloan Lecturer and neuroscientist Tara Swart, many people claim they only "need" a handful of hours of sleep each night to be productive, but science proves them wrong: 98-99% of people do physically require the seven to nine hours of sleep that doctors recommend. In fact, testing has proven that most people will lose five to eight IQ points after just one bad night's sleep. While we assume we're not being productive during sleep, our brains are actually going through an important cleansing process that shouldn't be skipped.