Careers, Marketing Musings
TIME, sweet, precious, glorious time. I would argue that time is the highest sought commodity on Earth. We are each given 24 hours a day regardless of our age, race, or profession. Between Facebook, the latest TV show, and catching up with friends, we all wish we could have more of it.
A couple of months ago, while browsing the airport bookstore, I came across Peter Bregman’s book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done. Like most people, I often yearn for more hours in the day, so the title alone immediately pulled me to select it for my long flight. By leveraging his engaging and thought-provoking talent for storytelling (as exhibited regularly in his HBR blog posts), Bregman provides a variety of tools, tips, and techniques intended to help us enhance our productivity and maximize our potential.
Reading this book is like having a personal and professional life coach standing right beside you—providing success tips, keeping you focused, and cheering you on along the way. Here are four of my favorite tips from his book that address how we can achieve our goals and use our time more efficiently:
To accomplish the right things, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus. There is an endless supply of information at the touch of our smartphones and computers. The world is moving very fast and will only continue to move faster. How do you keep up with the pace of the action around us? If you are like most of us, you stay awake until 4:00am responding to the 400 email messages in your inbox. “Trying to catch it all is counterproductive. The faster the waves come, the more deliberately we need to navigate,” Bregman describes. Arguably, there hasn’t been a time when it has been more important to choose how to spend your time wisely. For instance, consider declining a meeting if it isn’t aligned with your goals and focus. The other tip Bregman suggests is to create an ignore list. We have to-do lists, but how many of us take the time to decide what should be ignored?
Limit your focus to five areas that will make the most difference in your life. Bregman describes his usual experience with buffets: “A few hours later, I was completely stuffed and couldn’t possibly have fit another thing in me.” Since there are so many choices in life, the secret to surviving is to be strategic about how to spend your time. In his instructions, he directs readers to “focus your year on the five areas that will make the most difference in your life. One way to medicate is to decrease your scope and focus on five areas that you deem the most vital.” What are your five?
Plan ahead so that you can fly through your days, successfully maneuvering and moving toward your intended destination. There are times when we have huge obstacles in our way. They may seem daunting, even insurmountable. Bregman describes a time when he was mountain biking and was attempting to ride over a large rock. His approach to riding over this large obstacle was to focus on the hill itself. After many attempts, he kept hitting the launch and falling off his bike. Then finally, “I decided to focus ahead of me—10 feet in front of where I was at any point of time,” Bregman says. He was able to make it over the rock by planning ahead. What could you accomplish if you were to determine your goals, plan the route, and then follow through?
Spend a few minutes at the end of each day thinking about what you learned and with whom you should connect. These minutes are key to making tomorrow even better than today. The “18 Minutes” in the title refers to Bregman’s suggestion of planning out your day, analyzing throughout, and wrapping up with a review of that day’s events. We often are so entrenched in our world and what we need to get done that we don’t always pay attention to our own development—what are we learning, what is working for us. Bregman suggests taking a few minutes for self-analysis before you leave the office. How valuable could it be to pull out your calendar and compare what you set out to accomplish with what was actually produced?
1. How did the day go? What success did I experience? What challenges did I endure?
2. What did I learn today? About myself? About others? What do I plan to do differently or the same tomorrow?
3. With whom did I interact? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question of? Share feedback with?
By tweaking a few of our actions, routines, and focus points, we can accomplish more than we ever imagined. The author Ted W. Engstrom said it well: “Anything that is wasted effort represents wasted time. The best management of our time thus becomes linked inseparably with the best utilization of our efforts.”
I’ve just begun implementing some of Bregman’s techniques, such as focusing on five areas that will make the biggest difference in my life, and I’ve already seen positive results! So, after reading Bregman’s excellent tips, how will you define your focus, remove distractions, and conquer your goals?