Why is one person wildly successful and others of us are not? Lots of theories abound, including ones provided by Malcolm Gladwell in his wildly successful book, Outliers.
But notwithstanding the Beatles’ and others’ phenomenal successes as chronicled in Outliers, how important is routine to accomplishing our goals in everyday life?
That question quickly came to mind while reading Justin Fox’s interview with Robert C. Pozen, in the Harvard Business Review. And although you may have never heard of him, Pozen has alot of useful advice to offer the rest of us when it comes to being more productive, to getting things done. (To read the interview in its entirety, check out http://s.hbr.org/ded4S.)
Pozen used to have two full time jobs, one as chairman of an investment management company and as a senior lecturer teaching a full class load at Harvard Business School. Now he’s become the chairman emeritus of the company, but still teaches at HBS, takes on alot of writing and speaking assignments, serves on corporate boards and provides support to a variety of non-profit groups. (For argument’s sake, let’s call Pozen wildly successful.)
What I found so fascinating about the interview is how Pozen, clearly a very intelligent and professionally accomplished person, relies so heavily on preparation. It’s as if he’s decided that intelligence and competence can take you only so far if you don’t plot out your path and make it routine. He behaves like someone who views preparation and routine like a driver who’s chosen to put his car on cruise control or a pilot who chooses to put her plane on autopilot to ensure that he or she gets the desired outcome. No leaving things to chance.
And it’s nothing complicated. “Every night I look over a schedule of exactly what I’m going to do the next day…I’ll write down a few words about what I want to get accomplished,” says Pozen. “Then, on the same page as the schedule, I’ll compose a list of tasks that I want to get done that day, in order of priority. As the day goes by, I check off the tasks that are completed. At the end of the day, I review the ones not done and decide when I should do them in the future — or to delete them if circumstances have changed.”
Those are the basics. Pozen also describes how he adapts when his schedule changes unexpectedly and how including a 30 minute nap in his daily regimen improves his performance. (To hear another advocate of napping at work, check out the Tony Schwartz interview from the Money Matters & More radio show. Click on the media player on the right side of this page.)
What do you think? Is Robert Pozen’s approach too simple to work for you? If so, let us know what’s missing in his plan of action?