FAQs about 18 Minutes

FAQs about 18 Minutes

FAQs about 18 Minutes

Over the last few weeks several people have sent me questions about 18 Minutes and using the 18 Minutes process. Rather than answer each person individually, I decided to create a blog post that is public so more people could benefit from the questions and answers. If anyone has any questions, answers, insights, or thoughts, please add them to the comments section – this can be a central place to gather the wisdom of the crowd.  Thanks – and thanks for reading 18 Minutes!

Thank you for your book.  I have read GTD twice and have never been able to find the time to implement even making the filing system!  I felt defeated. Your simplified methodology makes total sense to me. I have one question: where do you keep your daily task sheet? Have you ever thought of having them printed to fit a Filofax or some such binder? I am a paper person and have gone back to this calendar, but can’t figure out how to make your sheet fit!.  Many thanks.

I have a plastic see-through folder where I keep 20 or so sheets of plain 81/2 x 11 white copy paper. I put my daily 6 box to do list in that folder. I use the folder as my catch all for the day – it’s where I take my notes from meetings, keep papers that people give me throughout the day and even throw receipts in it.

You might be able to print out the pdf in a smaller size (see your printer settings) or photocopy them in a reduced size. But it’s also simple enough that you could just draw the six boxes on your Filofax paper each time you create a new list.

Where does the content from the Ignore list come from?  How is it different from the Someday/Maybe list?

Every time I work on something – or I’m tempted to work on something – that does not feel like a good use of my time, I add that thing to my ignore list. I recently sat down with some friends and we made a fun list of things that we think are better to ignore – smaller things – but lots of people added things of their own. You can find that list here: http://peterbregman.com/no-thanks.

The things that go on my someday/maybe list are things that I am not absolutely certain I want to ignore yet. But, the truth is, I’ve become much more courageous about saying no and I rarely use the someday/maybe list. These days, if I’m sure enough to put it on my someday/maybe list, then I just go ahead and put it on my ignore list, admitting to myself that it’s something I just wont get done.

If you have several projects that fit into your areas of focus, how do those tasks find their way to your daily 18 min. list?  Is the 18 min list what you would like to accomplish for one day that is pulled from your “to-do collection lists”?

My daily 18 minutes list is my calendar. I take things off my 6 box to do list and place them onto my calendar every morning. Then, for the most part, I work off my calendar, not my to do list.

If I’ve put an appointment in my calendar that’s broader than an activity – for example I might put “Phone calls” for 30 minutes – then I refer to my to do list to see which phone calls I need to make. I also use my to do list through out the day to add tasks as they come up. But, most of the time, I’m working off my calendar.

What kind of planner or calendar do you personally use that you find works well with 18 minutes?

I use iCal on my mac and iPhone. I don’t think it matters which calendar you use, as long as you use it to manage your day.

Is there an electronic copy of the 6 box to do list that allows you to type in your daily to do list or does that have to be a handwritten exercise.  The file I downloaded does not allow me type into it.

Right now all we’ve created is the pdf version that’s downloadable from the website. It’s pretty straightforward to duplicate in word though – just create a table with two columns and three rows.  But I like using pen and paper rather than a computer because pen and paper forces me to rewrite items day by day and that helps me avoid keeping items on my to list forever.

Some people asked for me to send the link to the PDF (of the 6 box to do list) and some were like: You still write on paper? When I was using the worksheets, I thought the same thing, I barely ever write on paper, like remember Daytimers? What if you made an app for the iPad or iPhone for 18 Minutes worksheets?

I’ve thought about that – though I haven’t gotten around to even begin to figure out how I might make it happen. I do sometimes use an app called “Things.” I use one “Area of Responsibilities” for each of my 5 areas of focus. It doesn’t print out the way I like in a grid – and I find it doesn’t work as well for me as paper (I’ll explain why in a second)  – but it is an electronic way of creating the to do list if you’re looking for that. If you come up with other ideas, please comment below.

I know it’s arcane – but I like paper. Somehow it helps keep me focused on the most important things – in part precisely because I need to write things over again each day – it prevents me from leaving things on the list that I never get to. And I love to cross things off a list – much more satisfying than hitting delete!

Recently purchased 18 Minutes and couldn’t put it down.  Thanks for the enjoyable and thought provoking read!  I want to give the approach a try but have a few clarifying questions. Do the items that get placed on the 18 minutes daily to do list come from a master list for each area of focus?  For example with “do great work with current clients”, you could be working with several clients or with “attract future clients” you might have a list of 20 things you could or want to do. Are you referring to other lists every day to populate the daily list?

For every area of focus, I have a sheet of paper where I keep all my ideas. It’s not a to do list exactly, more of a brainstorm – but it could be a master to do list if you want to think of it that way. The, when I’m pulling together my daily to do list, I will sometimes look to those sheets of paper for ideas.

Do you rewrite the list each day?  For example you have “write book chapter on to-do list”.  What if you are not sure how long something like that  will take you?  Do you just keep blocking out time until the task is completed?

I do generally rewrite the 6 box to do list each day. And I try to chunk the tasks into small enough chunks that I can complete them in a few hours. As you know, my book chapters are short – about 1,000 words long – and I can usually write one in 4-5 hours.

How does this approach tie with long-range planning?  For example:  with “do great work with current clients”  You may have some milestone tasks that need to done by a certain date.  You would need to be working on those in advance, say designing a training program or prepping for a client meeting.  What triggers the tasks to make it to the Daily list?

As I mentioned in answer to a question above, I do use the app “Things” for some things – and it’s most useful to me as a memory. When I am waiting for a response from someone, I will schedule a reminder to ping me. Sometimes, if I have a series of milestone tasks that need to be done by a certain date, I’ll have it remind me a week before hand so I can work it into my workflow.

Do you block time to process emails and phone calls into your calendar?

Absolutely. I do my best not to answer emails as they come in – that becomes a time suck. It’s much better to cordon off time and fly through as many as you can in your allotted time.

Is there someplace where one can go to post messages and ask questions about the book content?

This blog post is the best place to post messages and questions. If you go to the comments section and ask questions, I’ll do my best to answer them all. The added advantage is that you can access the collective wisdom of other readers – anyone can respond to questions and share perspectives, ideas, and wisdom.


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  • Yvonne Moncovich October 20, 2011 Reply

    I try to use electronic resourcees as much as possible not only because I’m in an industry that’s moving toward paperless (medical) but also because I lead a remote workforce. For those who don’t want to print the 6 Boxes To Do List off daily, I use Outlook Tasks and Nitro PDF. I move emails and documents into the Tasks and use Categories to sort them into my 5 areas of focus. This way I’m not distracted by the 80 things that are not my priority this week. I open my 6 Boxes To Do List in NitroPDF each morning and look at my Outlook Today page where I have my Calendar appointments (fixed) and my Tasks (filtered). I type into the 6 Boxes those things I’m going to work on today and save it with the date, e.g. 10202011 6 Boxes To Do List YM. I update information on here, add things that crop up during the day and note if I need to defer something I planned to do. My 6 Boxes folder is always available to me as a record of my whole day.
    At home I laminated a copy for my teenage son. He writes in with grease pencil or wipe-erase marker and he’s learning to do one thing every day towards each of his four areas of focus.

  • Rodney M Betten October 24, 2011 Reply

    I have a question: How do I keep track of all my passwords? I use to have only one and that worked well for years, but then my email got hacked and maybe I went overboard but I changed email addresses and used different ones and so on. The problem is that now I have to reset my password nearly every time I log on to a site–even my emali! I keep a paper list and use a password keep track of program but both are a hassle to keep up and when I don’t have access to my paper list I make a new pw and forget it.

    Thanks for your help

    • Peter Bregman October 24, 2011 Reply

      Hi Rodney,

      I use SplashID. I like it because I can put it on both my phone and my computer. Not sure what else is out there . . .

      Thanks – Peter

      • George Huang December 2, 2011 Reply

        I’ve used eWallet for years. It’ll work on PC, MAC, iPhone, and Android:

        For password-protection, I like the app because it’s quick and easy to learn, cleanly laid out, it’s easy to backup and sync with my iPhone, tech support is responsive, and it gets to job done.

        They have a 30-day trial: http://www.iliumsoft.com/ewallet

        My advice: These apps are inexpensive. So find one that fits your needs and then don’t wait another thought on looking for the “ultimate” password protection app.

        George

  • Jerry October 26, 2011 Reply

    I just finished 18 Minutes in a day – highlighting all the way through. So much smarter and simpler and more focused on doing the right things, than on just getting things done. And with simple tricks like the hourly reminder to check in with yourself, it borders on spiritual life management. It’s up there on my pantheon of great books about how to think about how you interface with the world, along with Richard Koch’s 80/20, Marc Allen’s Visionary Life (and Visionary Business) and the brilliant (but unwieldy in practice) 7 Habits. I’m curious to see if 18M catches fire, and curious to follow Peter and other users exploration of how to further define the system and how it works without falling into GTD-cult territory (or violating a principle Peter put into practice himself – strive for imperfect and let the user customize for buy-in). 🙂

  • Rodney Betten October 27, 2011 Reply

    But in trying to get started in the 18 min program, I have a couple of questions:

    When you say concentrate on three activities per day, do you mean 3 in each bucket or three picking of the most important after looking at all the baskets?

    Also do you think it is necessary to think about where you would like to be at the end of the year for each bucket? Or do you think that is an intuitive process?

    I have 8 buckets: Spiritual; Productivity; emotional/social; organization; learning; physical and fun; creative; and the 5%.

    Is that too many and if so do you think it would be “cheating” to combine some into one basket, such as

    1) Spiritual
    2) Productivity, that would include work; learning, organization, and creativity
    3) Emotional/social
    4) Returning to school
    5) Controlling spending
    6) 5%

    I agree that mission statements and the like are overrated and by focusing annually, we allow God to guide us into our life-vocation

    • Peter Bregman October 27, 2011 Reply

      Hi Rodney,

      Thanks for your questions. I don’t think I would restrict you to only working on three activities per day. The number of activities I work on in a single day varies. But I do also maintain 5 major areas of focus – big picture things – that I try to manage my day around.

      In terms of making the buckets into goals (e.g., do you think it is necessary to think about where you would like to be at the end of the year for each bucket? Or do you think that is an intuitive process?) I don’t feel that it’s necessary, though I do sometimes have goals within the buckets. Mostly they are areas in which I want to focus and, as long as I’m spending my time on them, I move forward without confining myself to specific goals. Goals can be great but they can also create such laser focus that we miss the process.

      In terms of numbers of buckets – 8 seems like a lot and combining them seem fine to me. Remember though that managing your life well means making choices about what not to do – defining your priorities up front may be the most important decision you make.

      Best,

      Peter

  • Peter Bregman October 27, 2011 Reply

    Tim asks: Any chance you could give a mock-draft of your list of an average day and how it plugs in to your calendar?

    If you look on page 118 of the book, you’ll find a draft of a filled out 6 box to do list. I plug it into my calendar by choosing the things that seem most important for the day and giving each one a time slot proportionate to the time I think it will take to complete it. Almost always, there are things left over on the to do list – what’s important is that those are strategic decisions I make at the beginning of the day instead of letting things haphazardly fall through the cracks.

  • DG November 3, 2011 Reply

    3 Day Rule Question…

    Do you make your decision on what to do with these tasks on Day 3 itself or when you are reviewing Day 4?

    • Peter Bregman November 4, 2011 Reply

      I’m not always precise about it – but usually on day three. Either way should work though – you should do whatever seems to make most sense to you. P

  • DG November 4, 2011 Reply

    Getting Started with 18 Min.
    I had a notebook of project and goal lists. After reading 18 Min, I have culled through them. The ones that do not align with my areas of focus are now in a “Someday” folder. Now my areas of focus each have a master list. One area of focus has 3 project lists. Let’s call them all Master Lists for now. Each day I review my Master Lists and make a choice about what gets moved over to the 6 box tool. From there I make choices about what makes it to the calendar. I don’t recall reading anything in the book about Master Lists.
    1) Do you use Master Lists as your input for your daily 6 box tool?
    2) When you want to add something to your area of focus, do you add it to the 6 box tool or your master list?
    3) Am I making this more complicated than it needs to be?

    • Peter November 16, 2011 Reply

      I don’t have a master list – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. If it’s working for you, you should use that. If it feels too complicated for you, then you should try to live without it and see if that helps you stay more focused. trial and error is your best tool!

      • DG November 16, 2011 Reply

        Interesting. So if you had twenty ideas for “attracting new clients” where do you capture and keep those and how would they find their way into your daily 6 box tool?

        • Peter November 16, 2011 Reply

          I keep ideas I don’t want to forget on a list (I use evernote for simplicity) – it’s not a list that I look at very often because I always seem to come up with other new ideas in the moment instead of going back to old new ideas. But it does make me feel better to know the idea isn’t lost. Kind of like my someday maybe list.

  • DG November 4, 2011 Reply

    Determining Your Areas of Focus

    Are there any resources you’ve found helpful for determining your areas of focus?

    • Peter November 16, 2011 Reply

      I think the best way is trial and error. Make a choice and go with it – each day you’ll be looking at that list and as you do it will become clear whether you’ve got one or two of them wrong and then you can change those. Failure, in that case, is good because you learn more about yourself. Don’t worry about getting it right at first, just getting going and work the kinks out as you do.

  • DG November 4, 2011 Reply

    E-Mails
    I’ve tried batching a one hour time frame for processing emails. I’ve tried checking them AM, After lunch, and end of day. Either way I have more emails than time to process them. Any suggestions?

    • Peter November 16, 2011 Reply

      Here’s a thought: what wold happen if you simply didn’t answer some of your emails. You might want to look at them critically – it’s hard to not answer an email because it seems rude – and in many cases it is. But in some cases, you need to make the tradeoff between being slightly rude and getting your most important work done.

      • DG November 16, 2011 Reply

        Good idea. I’ve discovered that many of them are sites I’ve signed up for in order to keep up with trends in my field. Can’t keep up with reading all of them, so I think it’s time to review and select the best of those and take myself off the distribution of the other ones.

  • DG November 4, 2011 Reply

    6 Box Tool…
    Do you toss your old Daily To Do Lists? Is there any reason to hang on to them?

    • Peter November 16, 2011 Reply

      I often keep mine (though sometimes I don’t) – but I do find it’s interesting to look back over time.

  • DG November 10, 2011 Reply

    3 Day Rule…

    When you transfer something to your calendar do you find it works best to place those items in specific time slots or do you place them on your daily calendar to do list for consideration when you do your 6 box review on that day?

    • Peter November 16, 2011 Reply

      Hi DG – I find it works best to place them in a time slot in my calendar – If I decide when and where I’m going to do something, then I do it. Otherwise, it will most likely fall through the cracks.

  • Peter November 16, 2011 Reply

    From Indira:

    I have ordered your 18 minutes book and intent to practice it. I have a question on the 6 to-do list box.
    Some of my areas of focus are personal and cannot be done during office hours. I presume this will work as well.

    Also, for example if I choose leadership development as one area of focus and put a list of items under that – read leadership related articles, listen better during the day, read a book on emotional intelligence mentor with a business leader etc.. do I pick only one time from this box for that day. I would like to do more than one. How does this work? Also can I keep shuffling this list as I complete an item – example I finished a book and want to read another one…. update this list. Did you mean it this way or is this overwhelming too?

    My Answer: I don’t simply decide what I’m going to do in a day, I decide when and where I’m going to do it. So I would advise you to place whatever items you want to accomplish that fit into time slots into your calendar. It’s not simply about the number of things you need to do, it’s about how much time you have to do it in – and you calendar helps you stay realistic.

  • DG November 21, 2011 Reply

    Do you ever find that your day is already totally booked, a conference, or previously scheduled meetings and items scheduled from your 3 day rule? If so, do you skip your Morning Review? Approach it differently?

    • Peter November 21, 2011 Reply

      I never skip my morning review. If nothing else, it helps me get focused on what’s most important for the day – even if that’s a conference I’ll be attending or a training class I’ll be leading. It helps me get in the right frame of mind. And sometimes I’ll move things around based on what’s important to me in that day. I find spending a few minutes at the beginning of the day making sure the right things are getting done and the appropriate things are getting ignored is always helpful to me.

  • DG November 22, 2011 Reply

    Peter,

    Thank you for sharing you “life’s lessons” with all of us. As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m grateful for the wisdom in 18 Minutes and the focus that it has provided. Having experimented with many other approaches, this one is a winner. A very Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    • Peter November 22, 2011 Reply

      Thanks DG! For your appreciation and for reading and taking it all in – I am thankful for your enthusiasm. And the enthusiasm of so many of you who have been posting and reading. Thank you! Happy Thanksgiving.

      Peter

  • DG November 23, 2011 Reply

    Using the 18 Minutes approach has improved my focus. Lately, I’ve felt as if I’m working on alot of daily actions that are important. Lots of activities. What’s missing is a sense of achievement. How do you measure your success in each of your annual areas of focus? Do you have a list of desired outcomes or goals for each area of focus that you are striving towards? If we use the areas of focus in your book, what does success look like for each of these?

  • Peter bregman November 23, 2011 Reply

    I don’t have a list of desired outcomes – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t – if you feel like it would help you gain a sense of achievement, then you should set some goals. For me, I have a sense that I’m moving forward in e areas that are most important to me and that has felt enough. Sometimes I can get distracted by a goal and then miss the enjoyment of the work. But there’s nothing about the system that prevents SETI goals – if you think it would help, go for it.

    • DG December 2, 2011 Reply

      As I was reviewing the Daily Template Tool today, one of the key questions caught my eye. “What can I accomplish in my 5 areas of focus for the year?” I think that’s the missing piece from my earlier desired outcomes post. Which chapters in the book would be most helpful to revisit in addressing that key question?

  • Peter Bregman December 2, 2011 Reply

    HI DG – It’s not a question I worry too much about myself but I can see why it’s a useful question. The resin I don’t focus on it is because as long as I am focusing on those areas that are most important to me, I trust that I will move forward – often in surprising ways. I want to be open to those ways rather than push too hard for a specific outcome that I’m expecting – and then become disappointed if I don’t achieve even though what I did achieve might be perfectly great.

    But that’s just me. I understand why asking that question can be helpful. I don’t have a specific chapter in the book that addresses the question directly – but I bet if you spent just 5 or 10 minutes asking yourself that question, you would come up with specific enough answers that would help you focus.

  • George Huang December 2, 2011 Reply

    Regarding “Annual Focus”, I initially found this to be surprisingly challenging.

    I think it’s because the examples you give in “18 Minutes” are very general and broad. So my mind short-circuited: How do I focus on something general and broad, when focus is supposed to be narrow and specific.

    I was discussing this with a good friend and colleague of mine and she asked me: “Why are you doing areas of focus vs. setting goals?”

    My response was that I normally would just write down 55+ goals for the next year, most of which I could not realistically accomplish!

    Then I realized that I need to create specific goals and “measures of success” for each annual areas of focus.

    Has anyone else been wrestling with this? Peter, your thoughts?

    • DG December 13, 2011 Reply

      Yes, I’m wrestling with this a bit myself. Some questions that I had when I read your post……

      Are there patterns/themes associated with your 55+ goals that are indications of what your areas of focus are?

      Do some of your goals belong in a “someday/maybe” folder so you can better focus on your Top 5?

      What outcomes in your 5 areas of focus, if you accomplished them would leave you with a feeling of success? Which projects support those, which do not?

      If you uncover any suggestion or ideas that help you through this question, please share your “aha” moments, too..

  • Elizabeth December 31, 2011 Reply

    I just read the book and would also like a little more guidance re: the areas of focus (although the advice above to just get started and refine as you go is helpful too). Do you have a list of areas that have worked for others? Reading over a list of possible areas would help me think beyond those five in the book and brainstorm potential areas of focus for my life. Thanks!

    And/or… would other readers be willing to share their areas of focus? We could crowd-source a good list I am sure :).

    • DG January 2, 2012 Reply

      Here are mine for 2012. A couple of Peter’s worked for me as well.
      1. Do great work for existing clients
      2. Attract new clients
      3. Explore alternative revenue streams
      4. De clutter my life
      5. Live my life & have fun

      Who else can share theirs? Peter, do you have any insights from people you’ve worked with over the years?

  • Jeff January 21, 2012 Reply

    Hi Peter,
    I just got finished reading 18 Minutes. Thank you for sharing what you have learned. I’ve set-up my hour alarm to pause and make sure I am doing the things I need to be doing and being the kind of person I want to be. I am getting ready to finalize my 5 areas of focus and get moving.

    I noticed some people have been asking about how to do this digitally. Here are 2 FREE tools I am using to implement 18 Minutes:

    1. Jjot.com is an online note taking application. It sets up notes as a grid, just like your annual focus worksheet. This is what I am going to use for my weekly tasks and calendars.

    2. RememberTheMilk.com is my “Master Task” list. As I work on projects with due dates I keep those things there. When I’m ready to work on them I move them to my areas of focus in Jjot.com.

    This is what I’m doing right now. Hope it’s helpful. I would love to hear about how other people are implementing 18 Minutes.

  • Abdon January 31, 2012 Reply

    Hello Peter, great book!

    I’m quite confused about establishing my annual focus, you know, for those that depend on a job, it is quite difficult to quit from it (I know you advice that time cannot be retrieve) but somehow, you are glad and grateful to be part of a company. However, when planning my annual focus I get to the point where the phrase “…where I’m going to spend my time this year…” is pretty conditioned to what you job/company demands from you, this is not only a matter of “I will just decide what I want to do…” do you understand?
    In my case, I run several projects, all of them could be part of different areas that I want to develop within my annual focus, however, is difficult to create one when you are multitasking and have accountability for different topics… Any advice on how to set up my annual focus bearing in mind that I will spend time doing what my company is requiring from me?

    As a first draft, I’ve come to the following annual focus (done as I described, bearing in mind my current activities with my company, but also bearing in mind my strengths, weaknesses, differences and passions):
    Business – Concrete & Generate New Profitable Businesses
    Business – Master Executive and Managerial Skills
    Business – Establish & Excel New Robust Processes
    Personal – Take care of my health, mind/knowledge, network and skills
    Personal – Plan family activities

    Now I’ll try to fit my Master to-do list within the areas of focus (including the Other 5%, Ignore/Maybe & Waiting lists)…

    Best,
    Abdon
    Curitiba, Brazil

  • Jerry Kolber March 19, 2012 Reply

    Refresher question – the three day rule –
    Does this apply to any item added to a master to do list or area of focus brainstorm list, or only to items that have made it into a daily six box grid?
    In other words, is the entirety of your to do list (inc. master list as I keep one) subject to
    – do it
    – schedule it
    – drop it
    – someday/maybe it

    and if so, how do you deal with a big backlog at the start? I’m returning to the fold after a month away and now have like 120+ items on my to do list – so do go through that whole list in one sit and apply the above, until there is eseentialy nothing on my master list (it’s either done, scheduled soon or in future, dropped, or someday/maybed?)

    thans Peter

    • Peter Bregman March 21, 2012 Reply

      I think it’s fine to keep a master list – but you have to be careful that the master list doesn’t become the over bloated to do list that keeps you feeling guilty because you’re not making a dent in it. I would keep the master list as more of a someday/maybe list and, if you want, periodically go back to it to see if you want to take anything off it and put it on your actual daily six box to do list.

      I’ve been keeping a file of articles I wanted to write about – and I just went through it, throwing just about all of it away. More important and interesting things came to the forefront in the meantime and I’ve admitted to myself that I won’t go back to those articles. We can be very efficient hoarders of things to do – so be careful with that . . .

      best, P

  • DG March 21, 2012 Reply

    Peter,
    Once you move something off your 6 box form to your calendar, do you no longer list it on your 6 box form or only remove it once the action is completed. Sometimes, even though I planned to do something on the calendar, I need to move it ahead in the calendar based on a change in that days priorities.

    • Peter Bregman March 21, 2012 Reply

      I no longer list on the to do list the piece that I’m planning to accomplish – that’s moved over to the calendar. Though if it’s not complete, I’ll keep the part that’s not complete on the to do list.

      P

  • Jeff May 15, 2012 Reply

    Hi Peter,
    How to you do your calendaring as it relates to your areas of focus? Do you have different calendars in ical so you can see how your spending your time in each areas of focus or do you group them together, such as “Work”, “Family”, “Friends”, “Self”, etc. or context (like GTD) as separate from the areas? If you group them together independently of your areas of focus how do you go about doing that?

    • Peter Bregman May 15, 2012 Reply

      Hi Jeff – I put everything into a single calendar – it’s all blue in my ical – but I don’t necessarily think that’s the best way to go – I like the idea of color coding different areas of focus. Experiment with it and see what works and, if you’re willing, report back. Thanks – P

  • Le Marque July 3, 2012 Reply

    Hi Peter – I’ve been reading your articles on HBR as well as your book 18 Minutes. Thanks for the insights that you bring, they have been very useful and enlightening! I’m trying to implement your advice into my life, and I would like to ask you a question regarding the topic “Creating Your Annual Focus”.

    You’ve mentioned 5 things in total, split into Business and Personal category. When working on the Business category, I came across the following obstacle: I realised that during my course of work, I do not have control over the work and projects that I’ve given, unlike the examples you have given whereby you are mostly able to choose where to spend your time/clients.

    (Some background info: I’m a 2nd year Associate in a management consulting firm).

    Hence, I’m wondering if you could just share your thoughts on how one could further craft his areas of focus when he is still young in his career, with little choice over work that’s given to him.
    Your advice is most greatly appreciated.

    Hope to hear from you!

    • Peter Bregman July 3, 2012 Reply

      Hi Le Marque,

      Thanks for posting your question on the site. One of the things I suggest is that you create your 6 box to do list with your manager. That way the two of you can make sure you’re on the same page about your top 5. It’s really helpful to make sure that your manager is on board with you about your priorities.

      If you’re finding that your priorities and your manager’s are irreconcilable, or if you’re simply not interested in doing the work your manager values, then you might want to think about whether it’s the right job/right manager/right company for you.

      Hope this helps. P

  • Leon July 6, 2012 Reply

    On writing up Annual Focus descriptions:

    I note that others have experienced difficulty in describing areas of annual focus. I’ve also had difficulty.

    However today I worked out a simple and effective way for me…and I hope it is of some use to others.

    I work as a health professional and we often use simple arrows to set therapeutic aims. Increase / improve is an arrow UP. Decrease / reduce / lower is an arrow DOWN. Maintain / keep lever is an arrow across.

    So mine are now #1 (Arrow pointing up) improve overall fitness. #2 (Arrow pointing up) Increase savings. #3 (Arrow pointing up) Improve career options. #4 (Arrow pointing up) Improve home environment. #5 (Arrow pointing up) Improve learning and fun with the family #6 (Arrow pointing across) Maintain the other 5 %.

    I hope this tip helps!

  • Zoran July 25, 2012 Reply

    Hi Peter – what do to when you create a daily plan using the calendar and then during the day you go off the track either because of some outside circumstance (e.g. something taking longer to do than planned) or inside (e.g. lack of motivation/energy, procrastination)?

    • Peter Bregman August 1, 2012 Reply

      Hi Zoran – I use the hourly beep to remind myself to get back on track. Sometimes my “off-track” thing is the right thing to be doing even though I hadn’t planned for it – in that case, I just change my plan.

  • Andy January 3, 2013 Reply

    Enjoying the book very much! I do have a question regarding the TO DO list. Reading the book I had the impression that the TO DO list wascreated every c0uple of days (or as needed), and that the CALENDAR was the list that was created each morning (from the TO DO list). But reading the comments and suggestions above, I get the impression that the TO DO list is also created each day. So does that mean that every day you are meant to make a new TO DO list and then a CALENDAR? It seems like unnecessary work. Could you clarify? Many thanks!

    • Peter Bregman January 3, 2013 Reply

      Hi Andy – i usually do a new to do list every week – but I modify it every day, making sure nothing stays on for more that three days – by either putting it on my calendar or taking it off completely. Hope that helps.

  • Fitri March 24, 2013 Reply

    Hi Peter, i’m Fitri from Indonesia (i hope you know where Indonesia is ^^).

    I’ve read 18 minutes and practice to do list and to do(not) list and also do one thing in a time and several others, it’s absolutely works!

    I am a medical student (who need 28 hours a day to complete all the things, and of course i need 8 days a week) and i’ve write and do research for my final assignment about one year, it’s take so long time. If only i read 18 minutes one year ago, maybe i can finish that final assignment in 3 months, but it’s okay. I just want to say, THANK YOU very much, 18 minutes has improve my productivity as a student! May God bless you and your family.

  • Jake May 21, 2013 Reply

    Peter, thanks very much for the great book and your continued support of your readers.

    One piece I’m wrestling with is the GTD equivalent of a Projects List… based on what I’ve understood from your book, etc, you don’t mention using one: is this accurate? If you do, what format are you using for this? If not, how are you tracking the ultimate results from your daily to do list?

  • Jeff Mc Clung December 16, 2013 Reply

    Hey Peter, love the principles in 18 minutes. They’ve really helped to uncomplicated my work so I can get the right things done. Thank you.

    One of the ways that I’m using the 6 box to-do list digitally is through Pages on my iPhone. I’ve created a document with 6 text boxes (1 for each area of focus). Each day I look at what’s in each area to schedule my day’s work. As things come up throughout the day I simply add those tasks under the appropriate area to tackle later.

    The cool part about doing it in Pages is I can edit those tasks on the fly on my iPhone, iPad, or computer because it’s all on the cloud. Even when there’s no internet I can still update it on one of my devices and it all syncs once I’m back in a WiFi zone.

    For someone who doesn’t use a lot of paper this has worked really well for me. Hopefully it will for other people like me, too.

  • Richard February 17, 2015 Reply

    just been reading your book.
    I get the idea of focus during the work day, but how do you deal with personal stuff. For example, one of my major areas of personal focus is to improve my musicianship (I’m not a professional musician – my day job is in academia.

    So music practice isn’t really a task like “read report A” or “Call bill”. Instead, it is just something I should do – like going for a run etc.

    Do you put these things in your task list?

    thanks

  • Jacob February 19, 2015 Reply

    Dear Peter,

    Thanks for your great book, it eally helps me to stay focussed.

    I was wondering how you deal with main and sub tasks in a big project that spans several weeks/months, After the main tasks in such a project have been defined, and sub tasks have been set-up, how does it end up in your 6 box to do list and how do you plan it in your agenda. This question is especially relevant if your run several big projects.

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