How to Produce like a (Really Productive) Professor

Reshan and I recently interviewed Aswath Damodaran.  He’s both a giant in the field of finance and valuation and a standing-room only level professor at NYU Stern.  Our published piece revolved around his passion for teaching — and offered an incredibly refreshing perspective from a professor of his stature.  

During the interview, Aswath was kind enough to digress at one point and share some of the secrets of his productivity and his subsequent reach.  We couldn’t include these thoughts (or, really, tactics) in our published interview, but we wanted to share them nonetheless.

In short, he encouraged us to avoid unnecessary compartmentalization.  Instead of turning from thing to thing to thing, he suggested that, perhaps, much of what we do is really just one thing — turned, considered, and altered slowly. In his own words . . . 

If your work needs to be compartmentalized, you need a lot more time everyday, right? 

Right now, I’m writing a blog post for a company I value every year. It’ll take me about six hours to do the entire post with the valuation. I will put it up probably late this evening, and then make a 15 minute YouTube video right after I finish the post, because that’s not a big deal. I’ve already written the post; I know what I’m going to say. It’s just an extension of it. 

I’ll put it up, and it will then get watched probably by a couple hundred thousand people over the weekend; it will then get picked up in 15 different places; it will take off somewhere. That valuation will then go into my material that I will use to update my valuation notes for next semester. It will become part of the next edition of one of my 12 books. It’s going to serve multiple purposes. 

My first Uber evaluation, June of 2014, gave birth not just to a part of my class, it gave rise to a book called Narrative and Numbers. You never know where a post is going to go.

So you see that I can be more productive with a lot less time than if I compartmentalized everything. 

Later in the interview he added what we have begun to call the “Two Minute Rule.”

When you’re done with something, you just want to move on. I say, look, take the extra two or five minutes to make it usable on another front.  

For example, when I write an email which is a long email that answers a question that I’ve been asked before, I copy and paste it into a document, which then helps me create something that I can put on my website as a “frequently asked question.” 

It takes an extra two minutes, and I don’t want to do it. I’d rather move on, because I have other things to do, but that extra two minutes saves me god only knows how many questions I’ll get in the future on that particular issue.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s