18 Minutes by Peter Bregman

The Big Idea: Instead of getting more done, focus on getting the right things done.

There are many time management books out there that try to teach you how to get it all done. But that’s a mistake. Because it’s impossible to get it all done. And it’s dangerous to try. You’ll lose focus on what’s important.

PART ONE Pause Hover Above Your World

1. Slowing the Spin – Reducing Your Forward Momentum

I have two strategies that help me pull back my own momentum: Slow Down and Start Over.

Reducing your forward momentum is the first step to freeing yourself from the beliefs, habits, feelings, and busyness that may be limiting you.

2. The Girl Who Stopped Alligator Man – The Incredible Power of a Brief Pause

A brief pause will help you make a smarter next move.

3. The Day Andy Left Work Early – Stopping in Order to Speed Up

Regular rest stops are useful interruptions. They will refuel your body and mind, naturally reorient your life toward what’s important to you, and create the time and space to aim your efforts more accurately.

4. Frostbite in the Spring – Seeing the World as It Is, Not as You Expect It to Be

The world changes — we change — faster than we tend to notice. To maximize your potential, you need to peer through the expectations that limit you and your choices. You need to see the world as it is — and yourself as you are.

5. Multiple Personalities Are Not a Disorder – Expanding Your View of Yourself

Stepping away from your work might just be the key to increasing your productivity.

Life isn’t just about some of you; it’s about all of you. Don’t negate, integrate.

6. Why We’re Fascinated with Susan Boyle – Recognizing Your Own Potential

Don’t settle for being less than you are. It won’t serve others and it won’t serve you.

7. You Don’t Have to Like Him – Where Do You Want to Land?

Someone yells at us, we yell back and create the outcome of a damaged relationship. It’s not that we want a damaged relationship; it’s just what happens when we yell back.

Focus on the outcome, then choose your reaction.

it, I ask her what she wants me to do. Listen? Solve? Coach? I am surprised, disappointed even, by the number of times she says, “Just listen.”

Knowing what outcome you want will enable you to focus on what matters and escape the whirlwind of activity that too often leads nowhere fast.

PART TWO What Is This Year About? Find Your Focus

8. What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do – Choosing Your Next Move at the Intersection of the Four Elements

I’ll address the importance of staying flexible and the dangers of sticking too closely to your plan.

The four behaviors around which you should shape your next year:

  1. Leverage your strengths. 2. Embrace your weaknesses. 3. Assert your differences. 4. Pursue your passions.

Start experimenting from who you are and choose your next move — your focus for the year — at the intersection of the four elements.

9. Reinvent the Game – Element One: Leverage Your Strengths

That’s the secret of the successful underdog. Play the game you know you can win, even if it means inventing it yourself.

Eg. Moneyball, “How David Beats Goliath”

What game are you playing? Is it the right game for your particular skills and talents? Is it a perfect setup for you or your company to win? If not, then, perhaps it’s time to play a different game or invent one of your own: one you can win.

The first element is your strengths. Over the coming year, play the game that is perfectly suited to your strengths.

10. I’ll Just Take the Shrimp – Element Two: Embrace Your Weaknesses

The most powerful ones don’t conquer their dysfunctions, quirks, and potentially embarrassing insecurities. They seamlessly integrate them to make an impact in the world.

The second element is your weaknesses. Rather than avoid them, embrace your weaknesses and spend your time this year where they’re an asset instead of a liability.

11. Heated Seats – Element Three: Assert Your Differences

In any highly competitive field — and these days every field is highly competitive — being different is the only way to win. Nobody wants to sell a commodity, and nobody wants to be a commodity.

Trying to distinguish ourselves by being the same as others, only better, is hard to do and even harder to sustain.

That’s why one pedicab driver with heated seats can stay busy all day while the others huddle around, fareless, trying to stay warm.

The third element is your differences. Assert them. Don’t waste your year, and your competitive advantage, trying to blend in.

12. The Pilot Who Saved 155 Passengers – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Desire)

Ask one question: What do you do in your spare time?

But people are often successful not despite their dysfunctions but because of them. Obsessions are one of the greatest telltale signs of success. Understand your obsessions and you will understand your natural motivation —

The fourth element is your passion, which is sometimes hard to find. One way to recover your passion is to pursue your desire. As you choose your focus for the year, pay less attention to “shoulds” and more attention to “wants.”

13. Anyone Can Learn to Do a Handstand – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Persistence)

Which has led me to believe that anyone can do anything. As long as three conditions exist: 1. You want to achieve it. 2. You believe you can achieve it. 3. You enjoy trying to achieve it.

To home in on your passion, think about what you love doing — what’s important enough to you that you’re willing to persist over the year, even when it feels like you’re not succeeding at it.

14. A Recipe for Finding the Right Work – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Ease)

Just stop trying so hard.

Spend 90 percent of your time — either at work or, if you can’t yet, then outside of work — doing things you love (or have always wanted to try) with other people who also love doing those things.

Woody Allen once said that 80 percent of success is just showing up.

People want to hire energized people who are passionate and excited about what they’re doing. Jobs come from being engaged in the world and building human connections.

Your year will be best spent doing work that you enjoy so much, it feels effortless. You’ll always work tirelessly at your passions — hard work will feel easier.

15. What Matters to You? – Element Four: Pursue Your Passion (Meaning)

It’s a useful and interesting exercise to examine how we spend each minute of the day. To know where we’re devoting our wisdom, our action, our life’s energy.

“Top Five Regrets of the Dying”

So the question is: What matters to you?

Focus your year on the things that matter to you. On things that have specific meaning to you.

16. I’m the Parent I Have to Be – Avoiding Tunnel Vision

But a dangerous thing happens when we follow a trail: We stop paying attention to the environment. Since the trail is so easy to follow, we allow our minds to wander and neglect to observe where we are.

Only sometimes we get so absorbed in the trail — in how we’re going to achieve the goal, in our method or process — that we lose sight of the destination, of where we were going in the first place.

Monitor and adjust. That’s the key to effective leadership, indoors or out.

Staying connected to your guideposts will help you avoid tunnel vision and keep you moving in the right direction.

17. I’ve Missed More Than Nine Thousand Shots – Avoiding Surrender After Failure

People with a fixed mind-set like to solve the same problems over and over again.

If you have a growth mind-set, then you use your failures to improve. If you have a fixed mind – set, you may never fail, but neither do you learn or grow.

A growth mind-set is the secret to maximizing potential. Want to grow your staff? Give them tasks above their abilities.

Set high goals where you have a 50 to 70 percent chance of success. According to the late David McClelland, psychologist and Harvard researcher, that’s the sweet spot for high achievers.

Failure is inevitable, useful, and educational. Just don’t give up — stay focused over the year — and it will pay off.

18. When the Future Is Uncertain – Avoiding Paralysis

Eg. The book Human Motivation.

  1. Achievement
  2. Affiliation
  3. Power

If people have the opportunity to achieve, affiliate, and influence, they’ll be motivated and engaged.

19. Maybe – Avoiding the Rush to Judgment

There is a Buddhist story about a poor farmer whose one horse ran away.

All the research points to how poor we are at predicting how we’ll feel about something once it happens to us. Lottery winners are no happier than before. Paraplegics are no less happy.

Her research shows that if someone believes his talent is inborn he’ll give up quickly, because any obstacle is a sign of his limitation.

But if someone believes his talent grows with persistence and effort, he’ll work to master the challenge. He’ll view adversity as an opportunity to get better.

20. What Is This Year About? – Creating Your Annual Focus

The problem with most time management systems is that they don’t help solve the problem: They’re focused on how to get it all done in less time.

And the secret to thriving in your life is the same: Do fewer things.

I’ve decided to focus my year on five things. Three work-related, two personal.

Focus your year on the five areas that will make the most difference in your life.

PART THREE What Is This Day About? Get the Right Things Done

I looked at all sorts of time management systems but they were either too complicated, too time consuming to implement, or too focused on getting everything done.

21. Dude, What Happened? – Planning Ahead

I’m a huge proponent of living in the present. If you pay attention to what’s happening now, the future will take care of itself.

Effectively navigating a day is the same as effectively navigating down a rocky precipice on a mountain bike. We need to look ahead. Plan the route. And then follow through.

22. Bird by Bird – Deciding What to Do

“There’s so much to do,” she said, “that it’s hard to get anything done.”

So we need another level of organization, not to make sure that everything gets done but to make sure the right things get done.

That’s where a structured to-do list can be helpful.

Reduce your overwhelm by putting your tasks in an organized list, focused on what you want to achieve for the year.

23. Wrong Floor – Deciding What Not to Do

Now is a good time to pause, prioritize, and focus.

There’s another list that’s useful to create: your ignore list.

What are you willing not to achieve? What doesn’t make you happy? What’s not important to you? What gets in the way?

To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.

24. When Tomorrow? – Using Your Calendar

A to-do list is useful as a collection tool. It’s there to help us make sure we know the pool of things that need to get done.

Our calendars, on the other hand, make the perfect tool to guide our daily accomplishments. Because our calendars are finite; there are only a certain number of hours in a day.

If you really want to get something done, decide when and where you are going to do it.

25. The Three-Day Rule – Getting Things Off Your To-Do List

That’s where the three-day rule comes in. This rule ensures that no item on your list ever stays on it, haunting you, for more than three days.

But for everything else — anything that’s been on my calendar for three days — I do one of four things:

  1. Do it immediately.
  2. Schedule it.
  3. Let it go.
  4. Someday/maybe.

Never leave things on your to-do list for more than three days. They’ll just get in the way of what you really need to get done.

26. Who Are You? – The Power of a Beep

We need a discipline — a ritual — that can help us stay centered and grounded throughout the day.

Each morning, I set my watch — you can also use a phone, computer, or timer — to beep every hour. At the sound of the chime, I take one minute to ask myself if the last hour has been productive.

The right kind of interruption can help you master your time and yourself. Keep yourself focused and steady by interrupting yourself hourly.

27. It’s Amazing What You Find When You Look – Evening Minutes — Reviewing and Learning

We rarely take the time to pause, breathe, and think about what’s working and what’s not.

Teach people how to learn.

Spend a few minutes at the end of each day thinking about what you learned

and with whom you should connect. These minutes are the key to making tomorrow even better than today.

28. An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day – Creating a Daily Ritual

That means we start every day knowing we’re not going to get it all done. So how we spend our time is a key strategic decision.

Plan ahead.

Create a to-do list and an ignore list, and use our calendars.

Right up until his death at the age of ninety-six, he spent the first two hours of every day exercising. Ninety minutes lifting weights and thirty minutes swimming or walking.

STEP 1 (5 Minutes): Your Morning Minutes.

Before turning on your computer, sit down with the to-do list

Then take those things off your to-do list and schedule them into your calendar ,

STEP 2 (1 Minute Every Hour): Refocus

Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour

STEP 3 (5 Minutes): Your Evening Minutes.

At the end of your day, shut off your computer and review how the day went ,

Carefully plan each day ahead. Build each day’s plan based on your annual focus. Choose to selectively and strategically ignore the things that get in the way. Use your calendar as your guide and move things off your to – do list. Look back and learn at the end of each day. And, finally, bring it all together by carving out a little time at predictable intervals throughout the day to get and keep yourself on track.

PART FOUR What Is This Moment About? Mastering Distraction

29. Move the Table – Avoiding the Need for Motivation

Because, to a larger extent than you probably realize, your environment dictates your actions.

For example, if you use a big spoon, you’ll eat more.

If you want to help (or even, dare I say it, manipulate) other people, think about what you want them to do and whether the environment around them supports the behavior

Your goal is to make it easier to do something you want done and harder not to.

Create an environment that naturally compels you to do the things you want to do.

30. Never Quit a Diet While Reading the Dessert Menu – We Need Less Motivation Than We Think

Getting started was the hard part. Like getting into a cold pool: Once you’re in, it’s fine. It’s getting in that takes motivation.

In fact, when you think about it, we need to be motivated for only a few short moments.

You need to be motivated for only a few seconds. Know when you’re vulnerable and you’ll know when you need to turn it on.

31. The Nintendo Wii Solution – Having Fun

Research published recently in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine showed that the harder people exercise, the less pleasure they feel during the exercise and the less likely they’ll be to exercise

Efficiency, it turns out, is the enemy of fun. And yet in the end, fun is so much more efficient than efficiency.

Fun competitions that solve real problems are a great way to boost morale and keep people engaged ,

You can’t fake fun. Which means you have to go into your workday with a sense of amusement.

Fun reduces our need to motivate ourselves because fun is motivating.

32. The One-Two Punch – Getting Started and Keeping It Going

If you want to change behavior, start with fear, then experience the reward. It’s the one-two punch.

Fear is a great catalyst.

Because fear is unsustainable. It’s exhausting and stressful and destructive over time. Its purpose is short-term change. For long-term change, the experience of fear needs to be followed by the experience of a better life.

Fear can be a useful catalyst to change — then pleasure sustains it. If you need help getting yourself going, don’t choose one or the other. Choose one before the other.

33. Am I the Kind of Person Who … – Telling the Right Story About Yourself

When you want something from someone, ask yourself what story that person is trying to tell about herself or himself, and then make sure your role and actions are enhancing that story in the right way.

A good story — one you feel deeply about and in which you see yourself — is tremendously motivating. Make sure the story you tell about yourself (sometimes only to yourself) inspires you to move in the direction you want to move.

34. The Hornets Stung My Mind – Getting Out of Your Own Way

Your mind can help you move forward or can get in the way. Choose the fantasy world that supports you.

35. The Time Suck of Collaboration – Saying Yes Appropriately

three things that wasted their time the most: unnecessary meetings, unimportant emails, and protracted PowerPoints.

  1. Am I the right person? 2. Is this the right time? 3. Do I have enough information?

Ideally, it’s best not to be interrupted.

We try to be so available because we want to be helpful.

Resist the temptation to say yes too often.

36. But Daddy … – Saying No Convincingly

Because setting a rule and then letting people

break it doesn’t make them like you — it just makes them ignore you.

Ultimately, people feel safer knowing what the boundaries are.

When you say no, mean it, and you won’t needlessly lose your time.

37. The Third Time – Knowing When to Say Something

But everyone slips once or twice. Just don’t let it go more than three times without having a conversation. Three is a good rule of thumb because it allows you to act with confidence that it’s not all in your head.

Don’t wait too long to bring something up. People can only respect boundaries they know are there.

38. We’re Not Late Yet – Increasing Transition Time

How can I make this shorter, faster, and more productive? Even five or ten minutes of that kind of planning can shave thirty minutes off a task.

To make this work, we need to schedule it — literally put the transition time on our calendars.

A few moments of transition time can help make your next task shorter, faster, and more productive for you and others.

39. I Don’t Want to Go to Ski Class – Decreasing Transition Time

But in some situations, transition time isn’t the solution. It’s the problem.

So if there’s something you need to do that you find difficult — writing a proposal, having an unpleasant conversation with someone, or doing any work you consider unpleasant — try doing it first thing in the morning so you minimize the time you have to think about it.

When you shorten transition time, you create a boundary that helps you and others adjust to a new reality.

40. We’ll Regress. We’ll Forget You. We’ll Replace You. – Managing the Tension of Relaxation

It turns out that unplugging created an opportunity for my team to grow, develop, and exercise their own judgment.

When you take vacation — or any other time you want to be undisturbed — schedule a specific time to take care of the things that would otherwise creep into each and every available moment.

41. Does Obama Wear a Pearl Necklace? – Creating Productive Distractions

When you want to do something, focus. When you don’t want to do something, distract.

Distraction is, in fact, the same thing as focus. To distract yourself from X you need to focus on Y.

Distraction, used intentionally, can be an asset.

42. Would You Smoke Pot While You’re Working? – Avoiding Task-Switching

In reality, our productivity goes down by as much as 40 percent, because we don’t — and can’t — multitask. We switch-task.

The research shows that heavy multitaskers are less competent at it than light multitaskers.

We don’t actually multitask. We switch-task. And it’s inefficient, unproductive, and sometimes even dangerous. Resist the temptation.

43. It’s Not the Skills We Actually Have That Matter – Getting Over Perfectionism

Icelanders aren’t afraid to fail.

Perfectionists have a hard time starting things and an even harder time finishing them.

But the world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards productivity.

And productivity can be achieved only through imperfection.

Don’t try to get it right in one big step. Just get it going.

Be the good-enough parent. The good-enough employee. The good-enough writer. That’ll keep you going. Because ultimately, the key to perfection isn’t getting it right. It’s getting it often. If you do that, eventually, you’ll get it right.

Catch someone doing seven things right before you point out one thing they’re doing wrong. Keep up that seven-to-one ratio, and you’ll keep your employees moving in the right direction.

The world doesn’t reward perfection. It rewards productivity.

44. Why Won’t This Work for You? – The Value of Getting Things Half Right

Delegating work to someone? Give him the task and then ask: Why won’t this work for you? When he answers, you respond: That’s a good point. So how can you change it to make it work?

The drive, motivation, and accountability that person will gain from running with her own idea will be well worth it.

45. Don’t Use a Basketball on a Football Field – Staying Flexible

Change doesn’t mean doing more of the same: selling harder, working longer hours, being more aggressive.

  1. What’s the situation?
  2. Who else is involved?
  3. How can I help?

A poor economy is an opportunity to forge relationships that will last for decades. A failure is the opportunity to rectify the mistake and develop deep, committed, loyal employees, customers, and partners.

Stay alert and adapt to changing situations. Keep your eye on the ball, whichever ball that may be.
Conclusion: Now What?


46. You Don’t Have Ten Gold Behaviors – Choosing Your One Thing

Typically, people overwhelm themselves with tasks in their eagerness to make a change successfully. But that’s a mistake. Instead, they should take the time up front to figure out the one and only thing that will have the highest impact and then focus 100 percent of their effort on that one thing.

Choose the one thing that you think — given your particular situation — will make the biggest difference in your life. Choose it and do it.

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