In 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done, Peter Bregman doesn’t offer a slew of strategies to accomplish all your activities per day. What he does offer is an approach to consider thoughtfully your priorities and ideas for truly accomplishing your top goals. His book helps readers build a more meaningful and satisfying life filled with focusing—as the title reveals—on the right things.
18 Minutes is divided into four parts. Part 1, called “Pause,” focuses on pulling back, evaluating and gaining an accurate perspective of your life—rather than plugging along doing meaningless things. While this section doesn’t necessarily present any new insights, it does underscore the importance of stopping, taking a breath and figuring out what you truly want.
Part 2, “What Is This Year About?,” helps readers come up with their top five priorities for the year. Bregman outlines four ways to determine your priorities:
- Leverage your strengths
- Embrace your weaknesses
- Assert your differences
- Ppursue your passions
This is an excellent section that provides various thought-provoking points and questions that readers can ask themselves. It helps readers figure out what matters most to them. Bregman also features many interesting insights. For instance, on embracing your weaknesses, he writes:
“The most interesting novels,” Newsweek editor Malcolm Jones wrote in a recent book review, “are the ones where the flaws and virtues can’t be pulled apart.”
That’s even truer for people. The most powerful ones don’t conquer their dysfunctions, quirks and potentially embarrassing insecurities. They seamlessly integrate them to make an impact in the world.
In Part 3, “What Is This Day About?,” readers learn how to distill their annual goals into a daily to-do list along with helpful hints on handling the tasks. The goal is to spend 95 percent on activities that you love and find fulfilling and the other 5 percent on miscellaneous, such as paying bills or changing the oil in your car. In other words, you create your task list based on your annual goals and make sure that the bulk consists of meaningful activities.
One of Bregman’s helpful hints is creating an “ignore list,” which is a fantastic idea. It includes the things that get in your way and aren’t important to you. (For many of us that includes mindless Internet surfing or TV watching.) Another is to set your phone to ring every hour. Bregman uses this to evaluate how he’s spending his time. Even more importantly, he asks himself a key question at every chime. He writes:
…When it goes off, I take that deep breath and ask myself, if in the last hour, I’ve been the person I want to be. In other words, during that pause, I deliberately recommit to not just what I’m going to do, but also who I’m going to be over the next hour. It’s a way of staying recognizable to myself and to others.
Here, Bregman also offers an explanation for the 18 Minutes in the title. He suggests that readers simply carve out 18 minutes each day to stay focused on their priorities. Specifically, the 18 minutes are made up of three steps.
In step 1, readers spend five minutes in the morning before turning on their computer to plan their day (“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?”)
Step 2 takes just one minute every hour to help you refocus on and recommit to your day. During this minute, you ask yourself whether you’ve been productive and been the person you want to be.
The last step involves taking five minutes every evening and evaluating how the day went, such as asking yourself: “What did I learn about myself?”
Part 4, “What Is This Moment About?,” covers mastering distraction by mastering your initiative, boundaries and yourself. Bregman teaches readers how to use distractions to their advantage, overcome perfectionism and determine when you should say yes or no to someone.
In the conclusion, called “Now What?,” Bregman urges readers to do just one thing. Instead of getting overwhelmed and overcomplicating your life, just take the step that’s most meaningful to you. This is wise and valuable advice. (On a side note, one of the examples Bregman uses is losing weight. He says that weight loss is simply a matter of eating less, which is a common misconception. Plus, in our society, we’re inundated enough with weight talk as it is.)
In addition to the book’s smart advice, another strength lies in its simplicity. You won’t find any convoluted organizational systems or tools here. It doesn’t overwhelm you with tons of tips and to-dos. Rather, Bregman’s book helps readers ask themselves the important questions, learn helpful tidbits on productivity and really see their life more clearly. It’s written in a straightforward, conversational style and shares relatable anecdotes, many of which come from Bregman’s personal life.
Another strength is that 18 Minutes is very motivating and encouraging. It gives readers the nudge they might need to figure out what a fulfilling life looks like, along with, again, a simple and straightforward plan to follow through. Overall, this book will no doubt become an important tool for readers in accomplishing their goals and enjoying the day-to-day process.