Tag: Peter Bregman

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Saying YES to a New Commitment

“Resist the temptation to say yes too often.”
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Everyone wants a part of your time. Even me.

The problem is we don’t really understand the nature of time. And so we waste it.

We can learn to better harmonize our time across the things that we want. One of the ways to do that is to avoid things that are unproductive.

We need to learn that the most powerful productivity tool ever invented is simply the word “no.” And you can say no with grace. But how do we know when we should say yes and when we should say no?

In 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done Peter Bregman offers a simple solution that can be easily implemented.

Ask yourself three simple questions before you accept any new commitment.

1. Am I the right person?
2. Is this the right time?
3. Do I have enough information?

If the answer to any of those questions is no, then don’t do it.

Pass it to someone else (the right person), schedule it for another time (the right time), or wait until you have the information you need ( either you or someone else needs to get it).

But you say … What if my boss asks me to do something that fails the test? In this case …

It’s not just okay— it’s useful— to push back or redirect so the work is completed productively. It’s not helpful to you, your boss, or your organization if you waste your time on the wrong work.

Trying to be helpful to everyone on everything is what puts us in a position of failure…

That’s the irony. We try to be so available because we want to be helpful. And yet being overwhelmed with tasks—especially those we consider to be a waste of our time— is exactly what will make us unhelpful.

As for those pesky meetings. Just say No.

When we get a meeting request that doesn’t pass the test, we should decline. When we’re cc’d on an email that doesn’t pass the test, we need to ask the sender to remove us from the list before we get caught up in the flurry of REPLY ALL responses. And a fifty-page presentation needs to pass the test before we read it (and even then, it’s worth an email asking which are the critical pages to review).

18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done is worth reading in its entirety.

An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day And Finding Focus

We start every day knowing we’re not going to get it all done or fit it all in. How we spend our time is really a function of priorities. That’s why Peter Bregman argues in 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done that we need to plan ahead, “create a to-do list and an ignore list, and use our calendars.”

“The hardest attention to focus,” he writes, “is our own.”

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The Ritual of Managing Our Day

We need ritual to manage our days, “clear enough to keep us focused on our priorities. Efficient enough not to get in the way.”

Bregman argues that ritual should take 18 minutes a day: Your Morning Minutes, Refocus, and Your Evening Minutes.

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Step 1 (5 Minutes) : Your Morning Minutes

Echoing Tim Ferriss Bregman recommends planning ahead. Ferriss prefers the night before, Bregman prefers the morning.

Before you turn on your computer, sit down with your to-do list and “decide what will make this day highly successful.”

Take the items off your to-do list (a picture of Bregman’s to-do list is below) and schedule them into your day.

Berger's To Do List
Bregman’s To Do List

“Make sure,” he writes, “that anything that’s been on your list for three days gets a slot somewhere in your calendar or move it off the list.”

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Step 2 (1 Minute Every Hour): Refocus

Some interruptions help us course correct.

Set your watch, phone, or computer to ring every hour and start the work that’s listed on your calendar. When you hear the beep, take a deep breath and ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Then look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour. Manage your day hour by hour. Don’t let the hours manage you.

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Step 3 (5 Minutes): Your Evening Minutes

“At the end of your day,” Bregman writes, “shut off your computer and review how the day went.”

Ask yourself three sets of questions:

  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. Whom did I interact with? Anyone I need to update? Thank? Ask a question of? Share feedback with?

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The key to this is the ritual and its predictability.

If you do the same thing in the same way over and over again, the outcome is predictable. In the case of 18 minutes, you’ll get the right things done.

Bregman speaks worldwide on how we can lead, work, and live more powerfully. 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done is an easy to read book that will add a few tools to your toolbox.

Still curious? Check out how to be insanely more productive.