I read a great book a while back called “18 Minutes” by Peter Bregman. As the tile says, this book is about how to find your focus, master distraction and get the right things done. I believe that this is a daily challenge for almost all entrepreneurs. By nature, we are thinkers and creators.
The author Peter Bregman is a consultant, a national speaker and he writes business columns for the Harvard Business Review, Forbes magazine and other publications. He has put together some simple yet powerful suggestions for mastering this process ourselves.
How to Find Your Focus
Peter has nailed it down to just a couple of sentences. He says, “You need to slow down your momentum; to hover above your world. Look around. See things as they really are, beyond what you expect things to be”. Now that can be hard to do especially for an entrepreneur.
He goes on to say that we should focus on our outcome and be open to extraordinary potential. He believes this will help each one of us to tap into resources and talents that we may have forgotten were there all along.
Another point that he made was be honest about exactly where we are and where we want to go.
- What is this year about?
- What is it that we want to create?
- Are there things that are no longer working; things that we need to let go of?
Holding onto things that are no longer working or are no longer a fit for our businesses and our lives, tends to weigh us down. Those hold us back and make it hard for us to move forward and grow. So let them go.
The Three Day Rule; Getting the Right Things Done
We all have long “to do” lists. In fact most of those to do lists have taken on a life of their own. When that happens, that list of “incompletes” also tends to weigh us down and hold us back.
Peter has a “three day rule” for getting things off your to do list. His rule is that nothing stays on the list more than three days. Peter says that they will just get in the way of what you really need to get done if you leave everything on your list. So everything falls into one of these 4 categories after three days:
- Do it immediately
- Schedule it. Put it on your calendar and commit to doing it.
- Let it go if it is not enough of a priority.
- If you simply cannot let it go, then he has a “someday/maybe/later list” that he looks at monthly.
I really hate to admit it, but I have one of these lists.
Like Peter, I feel better knowing that these things are actually on a list somewhere even if I may never do a lot of them. In time, the ones that are no longer relevant will get deleted. Some of the more important projects may ultimately go on your priority list next year. The point he was making is that once you have everything on a list, you don’t get weighed down by things that are not your priority now. They aren’t forgotten, they are simply out of sight.
Creating a Daily Ritual in 18 Minutes
Here are the steps for the 18 minute ritual:
Step 1. Your Morning Minutes. (5 Minutes)
Decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish? Begin your day with this exercise.
Step 2. Refocus. (1 Minute For Every Hour – 8 minutes)
Set your phone, watch or computer to ring every hour and start the work that is listed on your calendar. Manage your day hour by hour.
Step 3. Your Evening Minutes. (5 Minutes)
This step is really important. Take 5 minutes at the end of each day and review how your day went. Is there anyone you need to update with a call or an email before you finish this day? And finally, ask yourself how did I do? How can I make tomorrow better?
Peter says that by taking these 18 minutes a day you can save yourself hours of inefficiency, and it will help you to maintain your focus and minimize distractions throughout the day.
This book has some great tips for mastering distraction, holding on to your boundaries and saying no convincingly when we need to. As he points out, “Sometimes we get in our own way. Those times when we procrastinate are one example. We let other things take the place of that important job we have avoided tackling”. Peter is the first to admit that he is messes up from time to time, and he also shares some of his “slip-ups” in his own life.
Choosing Your “One Thing”
After reading this book, you will come away with some good ideas about what you should do differently in your business. It might be structuring your to-do list around your annual focus, or simply stopping every hour to take a breath and refocus. Whatever it is, choose the “one thing” that you think will make the biggest difference in your life; choose it and do it. Then after you have mastered your one thing, choose another one. Then rinse and repeat as some folks say.
Just remember that small incremental changes add up to massive change and growth over time.