A DAY IN THE LIFE: Secrets of the Most Productive People

Featuring: Yannis C. Yortsos, dean, USC Viterbi School of Engineering


Wake-Up Time: Early enough to make my first meeting, and late enough for a good night’s sleep.

Morning Rituals: Definitely a double espresso at Starbucks.

How I Handle Email: Reading it very regularly, responding fast, and making sure that important to-dos are followed up promptly.

Most Productive Space: Biking.

Indispensable Apps, Tools or Websites: Anything I have downloaded on my iPhone: FlightAware, Football-UK, TuneIn Radio, OpenTable, Starbucks, Twitter, Health, NYTimes, ESPN, Το Βημα, Η Καθημερινη, Uber, The Weather, WeChat.

How I Organize My Daily Tasks: By (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to fool my EA (executive assistant), who controls my calendar.

Current Reading List/Books of Note: “The Second Machine Age” (read a few years ago). “The Beginning of Infinity” (read three years ago). On my reading list now: “The Seventh Sense” and “Platform Revolution.” 

Lunch Routine: Alas, there is nothing routine about my lunch. If there is no lunch scheduled, I usually skip it.

Best Advice I’ve Received: Learn from but don’t second-guess your decisions. All problems are solvable.

Motivational Object: Not in the sense of the question asked, but I do cherish a simple golden cross given to me by my mother when I was 16, and which I have carried since then.

I Wish I’d Invented: The device that allows you to take a “photograph” of the objects in front of the device as they would have appeared at a previous time of your choosing. Sort of 4-D photography. Of course, such a device would be violating physical principles, but one can dream. … It must have been in one of the Mickey Mouse classics I devoured as a child.   

Best Daily Habit: Stationary bike late in the evening, watching preferably a Tottenham Hotspur pre-recorded game that day (preferably one in which they win!), or the Lakers (hoping that this year we will be better!). My best weekly habit, however, if you can call it that, is playing every Sunday in an over-50, uber-competitive soccer league in Palos Verdes — 90-minute games, yellow and red cards. The goal is to remain in the starting lineup among many talented, mostly Latin American players. So far, so good, although the competition is getting tougher every year. My Spanish is getting better, though!    

Worst Daily Habit: Stealing candy from Christina at the front desk (Olin Hall 200).

Music to Engineer To: World music: Brazilian, Italian, French, Greek, Cuban and Spanish. Occasionally classical or jazz. Any kind of music that is not simply a cacophony of incessant beat.

Time I Go to Bed: Early enough to make my first appointment the next day and to have a good night’s sleep — in theory, eight hours; in practice, very variable!

— As told to Adam Smith