Productivity: A General Response

Before discussing specific topics in the great quest for productivity, let’s begin with one general response that I received from an interviewee who is on the faculty of a great law school, a prolific publisher of academic books and popular articles, and a parent to young children:

Reading your questions, I realize I have none of the however-many-there-are habits of effective people.

With the help of excellent childcare, I take primary responsibility for my kids. But apart from setting aside time to be with the kids – every morning from wakeup, every evening until they fall asleep, one extended weekday morning, and on weekends – I basically don’t spend any time planning out my schedule.

Instead I try to do what crosses my desk when it crosses it. I’m not very good at replying to emails promptly (or, I fear, ever, in some much-regretted cases). I have a phone that intermittently tells me when I have appointments to keep, and often I actually remember to put them in there first.

I prepare for class the night before class and the morning of class. I read the New York Times. I write essays when an idea hits me.

At one time I tried to follow the Graham Greene method of writing a fixed number of words a day, and had mixed success with it. I read novels before bed, and since I was denied tv as a child, I treat it as a guilty pleasure. I play basketball in the gym near my office (pickup and on an intramural team) twice a week when I’m lucky, usually in the middle of the day.

And the truth is I never read the blogs.

I am getting better at saying no to things I won’t be able to accomplish. I try to remind myself that (like all of us), I got into this line of work because I love to read and reflect. And I thank my lucky stars for the summers!

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