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As I move into the new year, I want to focus my energies on what’s important. Yet, I often find myself pulled in many directions and sometimes feel like maintaining my focus is a challenge. I recently came across Peter Bregman’s book, 18 Minutes: Finding Your Focus, Mastering Your Distractions and Getting the Right Things Done, that I think may hold some insights for me in my quest.
18 Minutes offers “a comprehensive approach to managing a year, a day, and a moment so that our lives move forward in a way that keeps us focused on, and doing, the things we decide are most important” (Kindle Location: 53). At its essence, this approach to organizing our time and focusing our energies is based on making conscious choices on what’s most important and aligning our daily activities with our priorities.
4 Ways to “Get the Right Things Done”:
1. Begin by identifying your focus for the year. Starting with a key question: What is this year about? Bregman suggests brainstorming a list of possibilities that will have the greatest impact and then whittling the list down to five (too few may not be realistic; too many more gets overwhelming). Once the five (or so) areas have been identified, he proposes that you make a commitment to spend 95 percent of your time on these things (the other five percent is for “miscellaneous”).
2. Align your daily activities with your the areas of focus for the year. Each day, Bregman suggests beginning with a careful plan based on your annual focus:
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 (Kindle Location: 1799).
Spend five minutes each morning to plan your day: “Before turning on your computer, sit down with the to-do list…decide what will make this day highly successful. What can you realistically accomplish that will further your focus for the year and allow you to leave at the end of the day feeling that you’ve been productive and successful?” (Kindle Location: 1778)
3. Prioritize tasks by actually scheduling them. Have you ever started the day with the goal of making progress on a project only to find that other “more important” issues grab your attention and won’t let go? I know that I have fallen into this trap. To avoid the pitfall of procrastination, he advises putting the “hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day” (Kindle Location: 1553).
4. Don’t get off on the “wrong floor”. In our fast paced lives, we often fall into the trap of trying to “get things done.” We multi-task; we compulsively check our phones and e-mail; and on and on. We often get so driven by our to-do lists that we seldom stop to ask ourselves what we’re willing to let go of — what gets in our way? Bregman calls these distractions “The Wrong Floor.”
To counter this dynamic, Bregman offers the following advice: focus on what’s important and put aside those things that are not. He insists that: “To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus” (Kindle Location: 1517).
I plan to take inspiration from Bregman’s simple approach in the upcoming year. There is much to do and I want to make sure that I get the right things done.
How do you make sure you get the right things done?