Find Your Focus, Master Distraction,
and Get the Right Things Done
By Peter Bregman
Published by Business Plus
ebook ISBN: 9781455500468
Copyright © 2011 by Peter Bregman
FROM THE BOOK JACKET:
When Molly arrived on the first day of her new job as the head of learning and development at a midsize investment bank, she turned on her computer, logged in, opened up her email…and gasped.
She had been on the job less than a minute and there were already 385 messages in her inbox. It would take days to work through them all, and by that time there would be hundreds more…
Think about your own daily battles with work tasks and obligations. Have you ever felt exhausted at the end of a day only to realize that you still didn’t move forward with the most important priorities in your work and in your life?
Based on his extremely popular Harvard Business Review columns, Peter Bregman’s 18 Minutes gently shows how busy people can cut through all the daily clutter and distractions and finally find a way to focus on those key items that are truly the top priorities in our lives.
Bregman works from the premise that the best way to combat constant and distracting interruptions is to create productive distractions of one’s own. Shared in a series of bite-size chapters, his approach allows us to safely navigate through the constant chatter of emails, text messages, phone calls, and endless meetings, so we can focus our time and energy on what we truly care about.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Peter Bregman is a blogger for Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Forbes magazines. He provides commentary for CNN, is a frequent guest on public radio, and speaks worldwide on how people can live, work, and lead more powerfully. As the CEO of Bregman Partners, he works with senior executives in organizations ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups to nonprofits. He lives in New York City.
When Molly arrived at work on the first day of her new job as the head of learning and development at a midsize investment bank, she turned on her computer, logged in with the password they had given her, opened up her email program, and gasped.
She had been on the job less than a minute and there were already 385 messages in her inbox. It would take days to work through them, and by that time there would be hundreds more.
We start every day knowing we’re not going to get it all done. And we look back on the years and wonder where they went and why we haven’t accomplished what we had hoped.
Time is the only element in the world that is irretrievable when it’s lost. Lose money and you can make more. Lose a friend and you can patch up the relationship. Lose a job and you can find another. But lose time and it’s gone forever.
I have a friend, a rabbi named Hayyim Angel, who carries reading material with him whenever he goes to a meeting. Why? “Because,” he told me, “according to the Talmud [the Jewish book of law], if someone comes late to a meeting they are committing the sin of stealing—stealing the time of the person who had to wait for them. And it’s the worst kind of stealing because what was taken can never be returned. I don’t want to cause anyone to sin. So I always make sure, if I have to wait for someone, they’re never in a position of stealing my time.”
And yet we steal time from ourselves constantly. Consider the following three stories…
Bill hadn’t questioned the meeting his secretary had placed on his calendar. But now that he was in it—and bored—he wished he had. Bill pulled out his BlackBerry and began to read through his email. He was completely absorbed in his handheld when suddenly he heard Leticia, his boss, say his name. He looked up as Leticia continued, “What do you think we should do?” Bill had no idea what Leticia was referring to. “Where did that moment go?”
Rajit sat down with his laptop at nine o’clock on Wednesday morning knowing he had one thing he needed to do: write the proposal for a new client he was pitching in two days. But three phone calls, fifteen emails, two trips to the bathroom, thirty minutes buying plane tickets for a family vacation, and four impromptu conversations with employees later, he hadn’t yet started it. And now his assistant just IM’d to remind him he had a lunch appointment in fifteen minutes. “Where did the day go?”
Marie walked into our twenty-fifth high school reunion and I was instantly reminded of her seventeen-year-old self. We sat down to talk, and she was all the things I remembered—beautiful, smart, talented, courageous, honest—with one exception. Her spark was gone. “I’m not unhappy,” she told me. “I love my husband and children; my work is fine. In fact, my whole life is fine. But that’s all it is: fine. I haven’t really done anything. Every year I have plans but, well, stuff gets in the way.” She feels the unexpressed potential inside her. She has things she wants to do. But somehow she doesn’t make them happen. “Where did those years go?”
According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object will continue moving at a constant velocity until an outside force acts upon it. What’s true for objects is also true for people.
Either we keep moving along a path that isn’t quite right but we fail to knock ourselves off it, or we intentionally choose the right path but keep getting knocked off it.
If we are to look back and feel good about what we’ve done—over a year, a day, or a moment—we need to break these patterns. To interrupt our inertia, everyday distractions, and gut responses. We need to intervene in our own lives.
Yet even if we know that, it’s hard to do. It’s not that Marie doesn’t want a family. She does. And she wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s just that her role in her family has overwhelmed everything else in her life, so she looks back at the end of the year and asks herself where it went and why she’s not thrilled. Still, she’s not sure what to do differently next year.
Rajit had planned to write his proposal. But a number of forces lured him off his trajectory. Perhaps they were important distractions. But at the end of the day his proposal remained unwritten.
And Bill certainly hadn’t intended to lose himself in his handheld; the email wasn’t even that important. But his distraction became his focus and in the moment when his opinion was critical, all he could do was look up—at his boss—blankly
18 Minutes provides a solution to these struggles and frustrations. It’s 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. An important first step in reclaiming our lives.
part two of ’18 minutes’ will appear here tomorrow