The Best Ideas from the book 18 Minutes

Posted 01/13/15 by James and filed under:

I recently finished reading: 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman.  Overall it is a great book, with lots of excellent ideas. 

Peter has a very successful consulting practice and works with executives of many fortune 500 companies.  I found many of his ideas to work well not just for executives but for knowledge workers and entrepreneurs. 

A few ideas really resonated with me and also have some implications to working with GTDNext

The best ideas in Peter Bregman’s 18 minutes (according to me)

Complete next actions within 3 days. The Three Day Rule

Peter makes a strong case for completing actions within 3 days.  In a Harvard Business Review article he outlines the process he uses in detail.   The basic gist of the process is that he decides what he is going to do today, and transfers those items to a calendar.  He then looks at his remaining actions and categorizes them into four different lists. 

  1. Do it Immediately
  2. Schedule It
  3. Let it go
  4. Add it to someday/maybe list

This is a great practice and goes along very well with GTD practices and the built in capabilities of GTDNext.  I like the emphasis he places on getting things things done within 3 days and I find that all too often item get placed on our next action list and then languish for one reason or another. Creating a personal rule that all next action items must be done in 3 days is a great habit to develop.

I don’t personally believe in adding every action to your calendar.  Instead I think it is better to add times where you will work on specific projects or areas of focus. 

From a GTDNext perspective, this idea is easy to implement in GTDNext. To help with this, GTDNext already keeps track of when each item is added to GTDNext.  The date it was added (and completed) is displayed in the Action Details panel.

Because you can track both next actions and future actions, I would  make sure to apply this rule only to next actions.  Items that are active, but not yet next actions are often not intended to be acted upon right away and don’t make sense to apply this rule to.

The second item I like from Peter’s book is the 18 minute ritual.

The 18 minute Daily Ritual to improve your Productivity

The idea that prompted the title for the book is basically to do a daily mini-review of your task list at the start of the day and at the end.  Followed by a check-in on your plan for the day at the top of each hour. It’s really that simple, and if you do it consistently is very powerful. Here is how it works in detail. (I’ve modified the instructions to match how you would do this in GTDNext.  Peter uses a combination of paper and calendar.)

Start of the day:  (5 minutes)

Spend five minutes reviewing your next action list. Determine the actions that you need/want to do today.  Mark them as focus items.  Switch to your focus list and start working.  If you switch between focus areas a lot during the day, I personally recommend that you also take some time to block out particular hours by area of focus on your calendar.

Top of Each Hour: (1 minute x 8 times)

Switch back to GTDNext and review your focus list.  Mark items complete, drag and drop items into the order you will do them

End of Day: (5 minutes)

Spend the last few minutes of your day, getting organized for tomorrow.  Review your calendar, determine follow-up actions and  conversations you need to have.  Fire off a meeting invite or two, or an email to as a result of the review. 

That’s it! 18 minutes a day and you will be much more productive.  I think some of the more advanced GTD practitioners probably do something like this already, maybe unconsciously. That is great, but spending the time to make it a habit and consciously think about doing it will make it much more powerful then applying the principles sub-consciously. The power and the challenge here is to turn this into a ritual or habit that you do everyday.