I don’t know exactly how the world’s best-known business professor and the dean of Harvard Business School spend their days. I do know Michael Porter is busy, and productive, because when I met him, the doyen of competitiveness studies crammed 90 minutes of talk into 55 minutes before heading to the airport. Nitin Nohria, the HBS dean, also juggles a full calendar of meetings and events. Both men were busy elsewhere when I tried to contact them last week. I wasn’t surprised, though, to discover that these time-poor, high-profile academics have devoted at least part of recent years to working out how other managers spend their time, because managers are increasingly obsessed with personal productivity. Twenty-seven chief executives categorised and monitored their activities over three months. Or rather, their executive assistants did. (A great EA — no surprise here — turns out to be indispensable.) From this data, Prof Porter and Prof Nohria developed some alluring averages. My conce...

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