The 18-Minutes Ritual that Will Maximize Productivity

Have you ever wondered what happened to your productivity when you started the day with good intentions and then only to reach mid-afternoon and lose momentum? Peter Bregman, author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done reveals helpful insights on how to jump-start our productivity.

A key distraction we face at work is technology. Though we have benefited from the advances of technology, we also have seen how inventions like smartphones, emails and phone calls often disrupt the “flow” we experience at work, thus lowering our productivity.

Bregman says the secret to managing distractions is by creating and sticking to a ritual: “It needs to be an ongoing process we follow — no matter what — that keeps us focused on our priorities throughout the day.”


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STEP 1: Plan (5 minutes)

“Before you begin your day or check your email, sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down tasks that will make the day successful”, says Bregman. Then take your calendar and schedule those things into open time slots.

“There is tremendous power in deciding when you are going to do something,” he says. Place the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day when distractions are fewer. If your entire list does not fit into your calendar, reprioritize your list.

STEP 2: Refocus (one minute each hour)

Set an alarm on your watch, phone, or computer to go off every hour during your workday. When it rings, ask yourself if you spent your last hour productively. Bregman says this ritual will help catch you when you get off track. How you spend your time can be compared to what you eat at a buffet, he says.

“People often eat poorly at a buffet because what they want to eat in the moment is different than what they wished they’d have eaten at the end of the day,” he says. The same thing can be said for time — what you want to do in the moment is often different than what you wished you had accomplished at the end of the day. Checking in every hour will help keep you on track.

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STEP 3: Review (5 minutes)

At the end of your day, review what worked, where you had the most focus and where you got distracted. “Did you accomplish what you wanted to accomplish?” says Bregman. “If not, what can you do better tomorrow?”

For example, if you got a lot done during the morning but had a hard time concentrating in the afternoon, consider scheduling work that requires focus, such as writing a proposal or designing a marketing campaign, for early in the day. Save less-taxing tasks, such as reading email or reviewing website statistics, for the afternoon.

Bregman says it’s also a good time to tie up loose ends so they don’t leak into the evening. For example, express gratitude to those who helped you and send quick updates to members of your team.

Free Resources: Peter Bregman offers two free templates that will help you leverage your 18 minutes.

1)   The 18 Minutes 6-Box To-Do List

Identify up to five things — no more — that you want to focus on for the year and write one at the top of each box on the page. Then, generate your daily to-do’s in those boxes.You should spend 95% of your time in those areas; take anything that doesn’t fit into one of those areas of annual focus and get it off your to-do list.The 6th box labeled “the other 5%” is like sugar — a little might be OK but your day should never contain more than 5% of the activities that don’t fit into your five areas of annual focus.

2)   The 18 Minutes Daily Template

The heart of the 18 MINUTES book is the 18 MINUTES method of managing your day. For background and full instructions, see Chapter 28. For a handy template/cheat sheet you can print out this daily guide and reminder.

3) The 18 Minutes Book

Bestselling book that clearly shows how busy people can cut through all the daily clutter and distractions and find a way to focus on those key items which are truly the top priorities in our lives.

Question: What ritual do you use to maximize your productivity?