18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get The Right Things Done (Book Review)

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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:

  1. Do it immediately
  2. Schedule it. Put it on your calendar and commit to doing it.
  3. Let it go if it is not enough of a priority.
  4. 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.

Mastering Distractions

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.

 

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About Author

Sharon has been investing in real estate since 1998. She owned and operated a successful home inspection company for 17 years. In January of 2008 she took the leap of closing her business to become a full time real estate investor.

12 Comments

  1. I can’t tell you how many productivity, focus and getting things done books I’ve read. The hardest part for me is that with my limited time it takes up most of my time just setting my goals and organizing everything.

    If I always have to look at my todo list, mark things off, update my do sometimes list and think about what I have to do eventually everything falls apart.

    Recently I’ve started a habit forming exercise using the app Lift.do. I set a habit up that I wanted to blog for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. It’s been a revelation so far. Keeping it to only 30 minutes once per day makes it easy and stress free. I started to not like blogging because it took so long to write an article. Now I just get done what I get done in 30 minutes and leave the rest for the next day.

    I find that I’m so much more focused in those 30 minutes. I think the reason is that if I have the urge to check email or a website or whatever I know i only have to put off that urge for a few more minutes. Does that makes sense?

    I think it works great for me because I have a very short attention span.

    Wow that was a long comment…LOL

  2. Scott –

    The truth is that you have a very limited amount of time. You have a full time job and a baby. I think you are putting too much stress on yourself trying to blog every day. I don’t think you have to blog that often. And, good content doesn’t have to be long content. Give yourself a break and enjoy your son. You will look up one day and he will be 13.

    Sharon

  3. Frank –

    It’s a small book that’s easy to read. You should pick it up for your team.

    Another great book that I wrote about here is “Eat that Frog” by Brian Tracy. It talks about doing the one thing that you dread most the first thing in the morning or in other words ” eat that frog” and get it over with. It’s another short, easy to read book. I really loved that book.

    Sharon

    Sharon

  4. Your articles show good valid points that a lot of us would like to ignore. But as you get busier or your business expands your time becomes more critical. Having focused tasks becomes essential. Thank you for making us think!

    • Sharon Vornholt

      Roy –

      Every day is a challenge isn’t it. I like to say putting all of these habits into place is a “work in progress” for me.

      One of the best books I read last year was Darren Hardy’s book called the “Compound Effect”. This book talks about how making these small changes adds up to a huge change in your business over time. I did a couple of blog posts on the book here and on my blog. You should pick that book up. It’s really a great little book.

      Sharon

  5. I will definitely check this one out. Sounds a little bit like David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (which I highly recommend) but a bit different.
    At this point I’d read anything you recommend since I love every other one I’ve seen you reviewed.
    BTW “The Compound Effect” is one of my favorites now.
    It has been very actionable and I’d say I’ve pretty much established 7 small new good habits and eliminated 2 not great ones in about a month (so past that 3 week mark).

    • Shaun –

      Way to go! The Compound Effect is one of my all time favorites. Like you, I am implementing small changes. It takes a while to make them habits for sure.

      Darren Hardy says to take 3-5 tips – no more- from anything you read and implement those. Don’t get overwhelmed trying to implement this big long list of things.

      I think we are so busy, that we can use all of the tips and tools we can get our hands on. I just got Frank Kern’s book on building a six figure coaching business. Now that is an fascinating title. It’s always good to get your input.

      Sharon

  6. Sharon, loved this article. I have saved the link and reread it several times. Now I only need to implement! Us entrepreneurs can be the worst at that part!! :-) Really loved it thanks for writing.

    Glenn

    • Hey Glenn –

      You should really pick up the book. I love this one, and I also really love the Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. They are small books that have a ton of good information. But like you, I need to implement more of it.

      Sharon

  7. I really liked this, especially the 4 categories of lists. I am a big fan of to-do lists but I admit that I let the lower priority ones linger on there for some time to the point where it eats up valuable brain energy. I also tell myself to get certain things done within the hour and set that deadline for myself but I didn’t think to do it for every hour. It makes sense and it was a good confirmation that I’m doing some things right. I like to get into habits that I’d like to believe will be sustainable and one thing I’ve gotten into the habit of doing is using a few minutes in the evening to think about all the positive things I’ve done that day. We are conditioned to focus on our mistakes but it’s important to focus on what we want more of and for me, that’s being productive, patient, clear-headed and balanced. I like to point out the things I did well that day and congratulate myself on it. That also helps rejuvenate me to do better the next day, instead of constantly pushing myself to frustration.

    • Stephanie –

      This is a great little book.

      I have another book for you called “Eat That Frog”. This one is an easy read too. Eat that frog refers to doing the one thing you need to do most- the one thing you keep putting off – the first thing in the day (just getting it off your list. . “Eat that Frog” and move on so it doesn’t mess up your day. You can find that one here on the site too. Have a great weekend.

      Sharon

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