Extreme Productivity by Robert Pozen

This one was quite useful. I can see it being paradigm-shattering for anyone that doesn’t regularly procrastinate by reading about productivity on the web.
If you already read people like Sebastian Marshall, you’ll most likely recognize snippets here and there, like the Touch It Once principle. However,
even being the productivity-researching procrastinator I can be, I still got a lot out of this book, and would recommend it to students and working
professionals alike.


What It’s About

It’s exactly what its title indicates: a book about increasing productivity, with a flamboyant and attention-grabbing title.

The information it contains, however, is valuable and helpful, especially for students and working professionals.

It contains tips and the author’s musings on things from dealing with multiple goals, speaking effectively, writing and reading effectively, managing time, and more (I only took notes on a few chapters that I felt were more new to me).

Why I Picked It

I was recommended it by Sebastian Marshall, who writes the newsletter The Strategic Review, a weekly long-form essay that combines history, philosophy, and strategy to pull useful and thought-provoking ideas out of history. I highly, highly recommend it to everyone.

Any book recommendation by somebody who writes such amazing stuff is immediately on my list, for sure.

What I got out of it

I got reminders of basics I already have seen but foolishly hadn’t implemented (important stuff, not just basic stuff like “have working tools!” Okay, yes, duh).

This seems to be written towards a wide audience with generally applicable tips; if you’re looking for “how to write an extra 5 pages of your thesis on the use of calculators in post-graduate education,” then this definitely isn’t it.

I got more fundamentals of increasing your output, and guidance on choosing what to aim that output towards (if you don’t already know).

Who I’d recommend it to

I’d recommend it to students ages 16+ (especially college students) and working professionals. It’s straightforwardly and immediately applicable, and written engagingly.


Italics are personal notes.

3 Big Ideas:

  • Specify goals and rank in order of priority.
  • Focus on the end goal.
  • Deal with low-priority items in a way that minimizes the time they take up.

1: Knowing your values and priorities really helps here, because then you know what to spend time or allocate resources to, in cases of conflicting priorities

#3 Low-priority usually correlates with low-impact, and therefore high opportunity cost. Like laundry. Get these “above the bar,” and then on autopilot ASAP. E.g. take 1–10 hours (depending on importance) to develop/refine a process, automate it as much as possible/streamline it; above the bar means either constant returns or small percent improvements over time. Basically non-decaying.

Chapter 1: Set/Prioritize Goals

Think carefully about why you’re engaging in an activity and what you expect to get from it.

“Do things for reasons.”

–Sebastian Marshall

Chapter 3

TIO – touch it once; decide immediately, either answer a request/do a small todo, or explicitly and concretely schedule a time and date, and note relevant info.

Remember, only high-impact stuff deserves perfectionism.

Get the B+ in a day and forgo the A that takes an extra 3 days.

Part 2: Productivity Every Day

Chapter 7

Reading nonfiction: read intro, conclusion, if intriguing, skim body for relevant parts.

Write in a way that encourages comprehension and retention, and emphasizes flow, so that it’s easier to read.
Good topic sentences for paragraphs, good intro, conclusion takes it a step further and doesn’t just restate.

Writers who write regularly produce 100% the output of “binge” writers, in 1/3 the time.

Know your audience. Who are they? Why are they there? What do they want from this, what do they care about?


  1. Introduction
    • introduce self – effective intros thank others, tell a joke to relax audience, or both
    • tell why topic is relevant to audience
    • roadmap of speech
  2. Don’t repeat in conclusion, look forward, inspire
  3. Emotion is key
  4. Give takeaways
  5. Thank relevant people

Don’t use full text to practice when speaking; speak from memory or outline. This way you’re not dependent on exact practice or phrasing and therefore vulnerable to brain farts.

2 thoughts on “Extreme Productivity by Robert Pozen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *