18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done


18 MINUTES was born after a blog post I wrote for the Harvard Business Review became one of the most popular and most commented posts on the site. The post, titled “An 18 Minute Plan for Managing Your Day,” began with a humbling admission:

“Yesterday started with the best of intentions. I walked into my office in the morning with a vague sense of what I wanted to accomplish. Then I sat down, turned on my computer, and checked my email. Two hours later, after fighting several fires, solving other people’s problems, and dealing with whatever happened to be thrown at me through my computer and phone, I could hardly remember what I had set out to accomplish when I first turned on my computer. I’d been ambushed. And I know better.”

Think about your own daily battles with work tasks and obligations. Have you ever felt exhausted at the end of a day only to realize that you still didn’t move forward in the most important priorities in work and in your life? Never before has it been so important to be intentional about our time and say no to distraction.

I wrote 18 MINUTES because – although I’d read all the time management books – I was still overwhelmed and spending my time in areas that, ultimately, were not moving me forward in the most important areas I wanted to focus on in my life. What I realized is that most time management books were showing me how to get it all done. But I think that’s a mistake.

What I found in my own experimentation is that, to really focus on the things that were most important to me, I had to do the opposite – I had to stop trying to get it all done. In fact, trying to get it all done is the biggest mistake we can make. When I multitasked, I produced less. When I organized my calendar and to-do list the traditional way, I only intensified my guilt and stress. And as I increased my busyness, I began to watch my overwhelm and frustration increase as the year passed by while the things I most wanted to focus on – the things that were most important to me – remained untouched.

I wrote 18 MINUTES because I needed 18 MINUTES. I wrote it so I could figure out how I could cut through all the daily clutter and distractions and finally find a way to focus on – and move forward in – those key items which are truly the top priorities in my life.

18 MINUTES is derived from, and written like, my blog posts. Its short chapters are interwoven with first-person vignettes of how I spend my own time whether mountain biking, parenting, solving arguments with Eleanor, performing a handstand, or coaching clients. I also share lessons I learn from people like Susan Boyle (about how to realize our full potential) and a marathon runner (about how to run our own marathon of daily tasks).

In the book, I share a process for prioritizing your day in three steps that take 18 minutes over a nine-hour workday: Set your plan for the day, refocus every hour, review how you spent your time.

You’ll also learn how to:

  • Identify the four elements – your strengths, weaknesses, uniqueness, and passions – that form the foundation of your success and happiness…and time well spent.
  • Focus your year on only five things and decline everything that doesn’t fit.
  • Replace the typical “To-Do List” with a 6 box system that ensures each day moves you one day forward in your annual priorities.
  • Avoid unproductive distractions by creating some productive distractions of your own.
  • Get traction on what matters most while deftly deflecting the distractions that threaten to sabotage your efforts.

18 MINUTES offers easy, actionable insights for managing a year, a season, a day, and a moment to reclaim our lives from distractions and move forward to where we want to go.

Free Resources

We’ve created helpful free resources for our 18 Minutes readers. These resources will help put the book – and you – to work in finding your focus, mastering your distractions and getting the right things done. Download them here:

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.

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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.

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Quiz: How Well Do You Manage Distraction? Find Out Now.

What People Are Saying

18 MINUTES is an intensely smart, insanely readable, and eminently practical guide to boosting our effectiveness and deepening our satisfaction. I’ve already benefited from the ideas in this book in my own work. So will you.”
– Dan Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind

Pick this book up and read it. Bregman’s wisdom, humility, and ability to tell a great story run through every page of this gem. 18 Minutes is the best blend of a business book and a self-help book I have ever read.
– Robert Sutton, Stanford University Professor and bestselling author of Good Boss, Bad Boss

Feeling in control of your time is a key element of happiness. In the thoughtful, practical, and often funny 18 MINUTES, Peter Bregman explains how to make sure we have plenty of time to do the things that matter most to us — so that our lives reflect our true values and priorities.
– Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project

It’s available for order now.