Book Review - June 2018

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done

Book by Peter Bregman

Review by Dana Peters, CEO, Mondo Learning Solutions

I stumbled upon the book, “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done” by Perter Bregman while consulting on an instructional design project. The client had a large global team of mid-level managers that were struggling to prioritize their work and manage their time. The goal of the learning program we were developing was to better equip these busy people with tools to cut through the daily distractions in order to improve their focus on the business results they were charged with accomplishing.

One of the resources the client felt strongly about leveraging was Bregman’s book. As you can imagine my first order of business was to read it. My intention was to simply understand the approach in order to oversee the design project effectively. As I read the book, I was convinced that my own process for managing my time was lacking. I immediately began using what I learned from the book in my daily life (both work and personal) to prioritize tasks and manage my calendar. It was much more than a content resource for our instructional design project; it was my new Kool-Aid.

Here are the highlights of the book:

In 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, Peter Bregman doesn’t offer a slew of strategies to teach you how to get it all done. Why? Because it is impossible to get it all done. The book even argues that it is dangerous to try because you lose focus on what’s really important. Instead the book helps you to make smart, thoughtful decisions about what is really worth doing and what is not. From there, the book offers simple tools and skills to follow through on those decisions in order to spend time doing the things that truly matter while avoiding those that do not.

18 Minutes is divided into four parts.

Part 1: “Pause”, focuses on pulling back, evaluating, and gaining an accurate perspective of your life, your talents, and your potential. This part of the book is about the importance of stopping, taking a breath, and considering what you truly want. After all, how can you really focus on what matters if you don’t know what matters. Simple, right?

Part 2: “What Is This Year About?”, helps readers determine their priorities for the year. Bregman recommends limiting this to five priorities but four or six works too. He outlines four elements in which to shape these priorities. They should:

• Leverage your strengths

• Embrace your weaknesses

• Assert your differences

• Pursue your passions

The intersection of these four elements is where your power lies.

In Part 3: “What Is This Day About?”, readers learn how to distill their annual priorities into a daily plan. The premise is to spend 95% of your time on activities that align with your priorities for the year and the remaining 5% is for those miscellaneous tasks like taking the car in for an oil change or paying your bills. It helps to categorize your “to do” list by one of those 5 (or so) priorities identified for the year in order to confirm alignment.

It’s in this part of the book were Bregman lays out the 18 minute ritual for managing your day in 3 steps:

Step 1 (5 minutes). In the morning, before diving into your day, spend five minutes with your categorized “to-do” list and ask yourself: What can I realistically accomplish that will further my focus for the year and allow me to arrive at the end of the day feeling that I’ve been productive and successful? Pull those items from your to do list and slot them on your calendar for the day.

Step 2 (1 minute every hour = 8 minutes). Set your watch or device of choice to beep or chime every hour. Get started on the work you slotted on your calendar. When you hear that hourly beep or chime, take a moment to pause and ask yourself if you spent the last hour productively. If you are on track, forge ahead. If not, recommit to how you are going to use the next hour.

Step 3 (5 minutes). In the evening, review how your day went. Ask yourself: How did the day go? What did I learn about myself? Is there anyone I need to update?

Part 4: “What Is This Moment About?”, covers mastering distraction by mastering your initiative, boundaries, and yourself. Bregman teaches readers how to use distractions to their advantage, overcome perfectionism, and determine when to say “yes” or “no” to someone.

Does all this work?

It does for me. I have been following this approach for about 8 months. While it takes some discipline and I fall off “the wagon” some days, overall I more focused. I am getting the right things done and I have a greater sense of accomplishment with my work and in my personal life. Plus, I am less stressed about “getting it all done”.

If you feel you only have time to read one book this year, this is the one.

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