How to Be a Supremely Productive Person: A Chat With John Halamka

John Halamka has two CIO titles, a family, passionate rock-climbing and wine-making interests and a major-league blog habit. We discuss his celebrity turn in a BlackBerry ad, his tips for e-mail triage, how he sleeps three hours a night and why he now understands Britney Spears.

By Thomas Wailgum
Wed, January 09, 2008

CIOJohn Halamka is one busy man. He's not only the CIO of Harvard Medical School and the CareGroup system of four hospitals. He's also a doctor, a husband with a 14-year-old daughter, a rock climber, a wine maker and a passionate blogger.

And thanks to his BlackBerry ad running online and in magazines such as Time and The Economist, he's now a celebrity. Halamka's spot is part of Research In Motion's "Ask someone why they love their BlackBerry" campaign, which features a wide range of people (a fashion director of Elle magazine, a chocolatier, a consultant to the Native American community) professing their undying affection. CIO.com Senior Editor Thomas Wailgum talked with Halamka about why RIM chose him, and his newfound fame and (lack of) fortune.

John Halamka rock climbing with his RIM BlackBerry
John Halamka, CIO and rock climber.
CIO.com: Are you on your BlackBerry right now?

John Halamka: I am indeed. I'm speaking to you on the very device that was pictured on those ads.

What was the photo and video shoot like?

In a funny sort of way, I now know why Britney Spears is so screwed up. I'd never been to this kind of a photo shoot before. So I flew down to La Guardia and was driven to Soho Studios, which has this cool post-industrial look, which is very good for this kind of thing. I went into this studio and immediately had a makeup person, a wardrobe person and a person who was offering me vegetarian smoothies.

And I thought, if you lived in a world where people were doing your hair, your face, dressing you and bringing you smoothies, you might really believe that you are somebody more than an average human.

How did RIM approach you?

They just contacted me via e-mail and asked: Would you like to be one of the BlackBerry advocates? And I think that was reflective of the fact that I had written quite a lot about how I used mobile communications in my job. So it truly began with an unsolicited e-mail.

You know, the more I read about you, the more I feel like I'm not doing enough with my life. In the ad, you mention your five full-time jobs. You have a wife, a daughter, and you're a rock climber and a wine maker. You're also a blogger. How do you have time to do all those things?

I sleep three and a half hours a night.

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