Get The Right Things Done in 2017

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To view Module 1, click here.

Module 2: What is your DAY about? (3 Parts)

Part 1: Populate the List (9:39)

Module 2, Part 1 Worksheet Download

Download the 6 Box To Do List here: Word | PDF |
Download Peter’s 6 Box To Do List

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Part 2: Getting Support (10:26)

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Part 3: The 18 Minutes Process (14:19)

Module 2, Part 3 Worksheet Download

Download the 18 Minutes Template here: PDF

Recommended reading:
If You’re Too Busy to Meditate, Read This
Try Meditation to Strengthen Your Resilience

Module Discussion

  • Peter Bregman January 19, 2017

    Hi all – I have so enjoyed - and I am so inspired - reading your comments, aspirations, and commitments! We are putting a lot of time and energy and care into bringing you these modules - feeling the energy in your writing makes it all worth it! Together we really are making a difference.

    Again, please feel free to use this comments section liberally – it will be great to learn from each other and to feel the support from each other as we work to get traction on what’s most important to us this year.

    - Please comment with any reflections, challenges, learnings, insights, questions, or musing you have.

    - What did you discover as you populated your 6 Box to do list?

    - How did your conversations go? Any challenges you want others to support you with?

    - How is your time tracking? Are you surprised by what you’re finding?

    - Anything you’re discovering that may be helpful to others?

    - Any insights from the meditation?

    - Any feedback for us on any part of this program?

    Thanks again for being on this journey with me. Let’s make 2017 the best year yet!

60 comments

add yours
  • Ryan Cadigan January 19, 2017 Reply

    One question that came up as I was completing my 6 Box to-do list was how large the items should be in each container. Are this more like long-term goals (i.e. create a new client pipeline) or more immediate tasks (i.e. take care of X project for client X)? I am assuming a mix of both is ok, but should we focus on one or the other?

    One thing I discovered as I was completing my 6-Box to-do list was that two of my categories should probably be combined into one, as I just didn’t have a full list of items for one of my containers. It felt right in the head-heart-gut check, but I couldn’t really think of enough unique items not to lump it in with another category.

    I also wonder how Peter would have us treat daily activities. There are a few items in my list that I want to do every day, for short periods of time. Is there a special way to treat repeated items like this?

    • Eva G. January 21, 2017 Reply

      Ryan, are these daily activities things you can combine to some kind of routine or “ritual” , so for example you could have just a keyword on your list of ‘morning routine’ or ‘before/after lunch break routine’ or ‘evening routine’?
      This is difficult for me too. I know there are some things I would like to do in the evenings before I leave but often I work til the last minute and then feel “I don’t have the time”. I have just begun experimenting with three such routines and try to make them a stack of habits I just do – not at fixed times but connected with start/break/end points in my day.

      • Nan Reed Twiss January 22, 2017 Reply

        This makes a lot of sense to me, Eva.

        Currently I’m studying the research of BJ Fogg from Stanford who looks at how we can build tiny habits – anchored with things we already automatically do – to create big change. He has a simple formula that, when you really understand it, work with it, tweak it, allows you to build routines that become automatic pretty effortlessly and remarkable quickly.

        For example (and this may sound silly, but I’m delighted with it!), in the last three days I have built the habit that every time I flush the toilet, I do two push-ups if I’m at home or 6 squats if I’m in a public place. It adds up! and I can build on it easily. But it is critical to anchor it solidly to something you already do.

        Every time I hang up my car keys – or feed the dog – I do 30 seconds of physical therapy for my plantar fasciitis. This has been great because I used to have a hard time remembering to do it and it’s an important thing to incorporate in my day.

        Would something like that help you, Ryan?

        • Cindy Marston January 24, 2017 Reply

          Thanks for this, Nan! I’d not heard of BJ Fogg, but I just signed up for the free TinyHabits session he offers. I find it very interesting, and I’m sure it will be helpful!
          http://tinyhabits.com/

        • Eva G. February 2, 2017 Reply

          I have signed on to the free tiny hbity session, too. I have selected three tiny habits I would like to start developing this week. The aim is to practice the skills that help developing habits. For me, what helps is to anchor the habit in my life by placing it a f t e r something I do as often as I want to practice the habit.
          First, after 1-2 days, I’ve noticed that I still thought of the habit too late, after the “anchor moment” – but I began to remember there was something I had wanted to do and I thought, “Ok, next time then.” Now the next day, I managed to remember the habits and my anchors for them in time and really followed through. That was really encouraging. Thanks again for the hint, Nan, and for the link, Cindy.

      • Ryan Cadigan January 29, 2017 Reply

        Thanks for the ideas, Eva. In the past I’ve tried to combine some (not all fit together) into a morning routine/nightly routine, maybe that will work better in the structure provided by this workshop than it has in the past in my life 😉

  • Christina January 20, 2017 Reply

    Not a good Module, Its better to do Brian Tracy Goals because it gives us a broad overview. This course is just below average.

    Thanks,
    Christina

    • Peter Bregman January 20, 2017 Reply

      Thanks for your honesty Christina. In the spirit of learning – can you offer us some advice or specifics about what would make it better for you? Thanks!

  • Eva G. January 20, 2017 Reply

    As for me, I think this should neither to be confused with long-term goals for each focus, nor with a complete to-do list for my day.
    I’m at work but couldn’t help quickly checking in 😉 I have watched the first video last night and decided to try it out immediately. In module 1, I had already have put some detailing points or goals to each of my focus areas.
    For module 2, this morning I have thought about how I could use the ‘6 box’ method to identify the things I would really like to have done by this evening. I know I often struggle with deadlock situations – competing things I have to do and me jumping around with them and getting nothing really ‘done’.
    So I have decided to ‘zoom in’:
    I have listed a few things I really wish I get going with and reach a certain result TODAY. There are 4 of these.
    I have divided these things into different boxes and then, as Peter suggested, thought of a first step, What do I really need to do first? – and then maybe a second or third which I have set in brackets.
    I have a big problems with To Do lists – they tend to get too long and overwhelming. Therefore, this morning I have tried to limit myself not to go on and on and on noting all ‘ToDo’s’ that come into my mind, as usual…. It seems to be helpful for me to set a ‘breakpoint’ or ‘watchpoint’ (just like while debugging a program) – when I have reached that, I can look at what I’ve done, take a little break as a reward, move, stretch, and often then the next step or steps become much clearer and easier based on the result.
    Just now I’m working on one of these points and find this method works for me. No panic. (As least not yet 😉 )

    • Cindy Marston January 24, 2017 Reply

      I’ve struggled with “ToDo” lists, too, and recently listened to Dan Pink’s Pinkcast on 2 other lists that are helpful – “ToDon’t” and “Done” lists. It’s a < 3min listen and I hope you find it as helpful as I have! http://www.danpink.com/pinkcast/pinkcast-1-16-2-lists-better-than-a-to-do-list/

      • Eva G. January 29, 2017 Reply

        Condy, thanks for this hint! I’ve created a To-Don’t -List for this weekend, and so far I’ve found it very helpful and liberating. One of the items is, I’m NOT going to beat myself up for the things that just don”t fit into the time I have for myself.

  • Eva G. January 20, 2017 Reply

    Update near the end of my workday… I’ve really deeply immersed myself in the topic on which I decided to work first this morning. I am satisfied with the tangible / usable result I reached from which I can now take the next step with more ease and clarity. This was only possible because I allowed myself NOT to deal with the other three topics at the same time. And I managed to take some little breaks to move, stretch and breathe deeply.
    Ok, hmm… I still have to practice
    – estimating what I can actually do during one work day
    – taking into account unexpected interruptions (at least I noticed I interrupted myself significantly less often 🙂 )
    – stopping early enough so there is a time slot for starting
    (or at least preparing to start) the next step or the next topic.

    • Peter Bregman January 20, 2017 Reply

      Great learnings Eva!

  • Bryan Stoudt January 20, 2017 Reply

    Peter & team, really appreciate the way this module helps us move forward without getting overwhelmed and paralyzed into inaction. We need to keep hearing that message of ‘Just get started, it doesn’t have to be perfect, etc…’

    Two main thoughts from completing the first video & exercise in Module 2:

    1. The obvious next steps for each box are enough, but not all that overwhelming. That was encouraging, and helps me feel like I can probably do that… if I don’t get distracted ‘the other 5%’.

    2. Looking at my Other 5% box, it’s not awful, though I didn’t obsess about putting everything in there. But, there are enough things in there that I wonder if I can truly keep it at 5%, especially as it relates to work. Even so, I’m sure you’ll have some thoughts on minimizing that in later videos, and/or even making significant progress would be tremendously helpful.

    Thanks again for all the hard work you guys put into this!

  • Cynthia January 22, 2017 Reply

    I have identified my modules and feel good about them. Ironically, one of the modules is something I would prefer not to be doing, but I committed to it for a year (leading an organization) and I will honor the commitment. With that in mind, I am focused on putting into place processes that will help the next leadership team. Identifying that commitment has made me feel better about the year and knowing that I, hopefully, will be leaving it in a better place. I would not have figured this out if I had not been participating in this process.

  • Nan Reed Twiss January 22, 2017 Reply

    What I’ve learned populating my 6 Box to do list: I filled my work box with a long list and some of them are enormous. This was not helpful. So I went back and put the next tiny step for each box in bold and highlighted them. I put everything else in tiny font so that I haven’t lost the ideas, but all I SEE when I look at my 6-box document is a tiny step for each box.

    When I allocated the time for each tiny step (basically 5-10 minutes for each one), my motivation shot up and I immediately took care of two of them 🙂 (There are still do that I don’t really want to do, but since they will only take about 5 minutes, I’m confident I will take care of them tomorrow if not tonight.)

    • Eva G. January 23, 2017 Reply

      Nan Reed Twiss, thanks for the hint to BJ Fogg above, and the idea about putting the “everything else” in each of your boxes in tiny font. I’ll try that next. Using a lighter grey as font colour for these items might also help to make them less visible.
      I also like noting the ideas that come, so they don’t get lost, but I’m often tempted to follow such an idea instead of dealing with a task at hand.

  • Janet January 23, 2017 Reply

    I always have a struggle getting my arms around the time factor. Thanks Peter for recommending the toggl app–very easy to use. When I populated my 6 Box To Do List, I did a time estimate then doubled the time i thought I needed. Some of the action steps will take minutes but others weeks. Box 6 Other is equal to a full time job! I look forward to learning how to pare this list down.

  • Priya January 23, 2017 Reply

    Question for you – my big focus for this year is to create an alternate scalable source of income that allows me to break out of corporate 9 to 5 routine. So I am trying to do this while I am in a corporate job… I have committed an hour every morning to working on this focus (creative) + 1 hour in the evening more for tactical things.

    so here is the question..how do I use the 18 minute process since most of the day I am working my day job?

    • Peter Bregman January 23, 2017 Reply

      Hi Priya – great question. I assume that at least some of your boxes have to do with your day job – for those, the answer is simple. For the boxes that are not in your day job, the question is: you have to work with the time that you have. In other words, if I walked up to a buffet and I didn’t have a lot of room in my stomach for more food, I have to be especially strategic and intentional about what I put on my plate. Your plate is smaller, so you have to choose especially wisely. What will you do in the 2 hours you are describing – using those two hours judiciously will enable you to move forward in your boxes.

      What you’ll find, I think, is that two hours a day – and possibly weekends too – is actually a lot of time. Maybe not as much as you would like. But enough to get traction on things you care about.

  • Ryan Cadigan January 23, 2017 Reply

    I wanted to share one small thing I’m doing that has been interesting for my process. Instead of asking myself, “Am I being who I most want to be? Am I doing what I most want to do?” I’m asking myself a slightly different version of the question. The way I phrase it to myself is, “Am I being the best Ryan I can be?” It might seem silly or narcissistic, but by talking to myself that way, I find myself thinking very specifically in terms of my ideal self. Who I most want to be is someone with everything–but I’m just not and will never be that person. When I put it in terms of my own name, I feel much closer to my version of ideal self, and have a clearer picture of what that looks like. I don’t know if this resonates for anyone. Peter, what do you think about this? Am I just vain?

    • Eva G. January 23, 2017 Reply

      Ryan, I like your more personal question. I’ll try that, too.

  • Eva G. January 23, 2017 Reply

    I’ve had a strange experience today. I decided to work on one of the topics I noted out of my focus area work and it went quite well – and then I had such a flow of music going through my soul and mind, I can’t explain it better – it was quite a conflict: Should I ban from my mind what was happening, and just go on working? This would surely have made me very sad and I was also sure that it would not really help. Or should I find a way to quickly note the music down and listen, so I could save the musical ideas and be at peace with my work task again?
    It may seem counter-productive – but I decided for the second way. Luckily I had installed an open-source music notation software on my computer a while ago for use in breaks – just in case… It is the same software I use at home and I am now familiar with it to a certain extent. It allows to enter music and play it back. So I just had to create a new file and enter a few bars of what I ‘heard inside’, and save it for later. This actually didn’t take long and then I was happy and at peace and could go on working, after promising to myself that I could go on working on the music in the evening – which I’ve just done. ( Here is what came out of that:
    https://musescore.com/user/8752261/scores/3286276/s/fd3e7c )

    • Eva G. January 25, 2017 Reply

      ( Sorry it seems the link doesn’t work well on my mobile and probably neither on others. To listen, just if anyone wishes, go to https://soundcloud.com/user-161255753/de-profundis/s-kB1Sy .
      It is a beginning of what hopefully will become a Latin psalm setting for 3 voices of the text of psalm 130. De profundis clamavi ad te domine – From the depths, o Lord, I call to you… That is one of my focus areas. )

    • Bruce E Breeding February 2, 2017 Reply

      Eva — I thoroughly enjoyed listening to (and singing along with) De Profundis. Thanks for posting the link. I sang the bratsche line although I suggest a “basso profundo” [no pun intended] voice will be better (than my baritone). Yet, I have no clue how you were able to create that in a short time. I get sidetracked (like right now when I am behind in these modules) and have difficulty stopping and getting back on track.

      Peter — Getting sidetracked like this is typical of my behavior – especially if I have no externally provided deadline for tasks at hand. I guess I need to catch up on these modules, which I am sure will cure me of my perfectionistic tendencies, right? 🙂

      • Eva G. February 4, 2017 Reply

        Hi Bruce,

        Thanks for listening and singing along – that means really much to me! I’ve had a certain ensemble of 2 soprano and 1 alto voice in mind when I wrote this, that’s the reason why there is no basso profundo in this arrangement. But I’ll try another arrangement, too.
        If you like, I’d be really happy to let you have a link from time to time so you can try and sing along a new composition.

        It does take me a while to write something like that – often a melody or a chord progression comes to me like a flash, and I can note some bars of melody or chords quickly, but then I have to work on it afterwards.

        Like you, I am often sidetracked – most often in those times during the day when my energy is really low and I have no willpower and discipline left at all to deal with complicated tasks.

  • Peter Bregman January 23, 2017 Reply

    Nope, Ryan, you’re not vain. In fact, the opposite – you’re realistic about who you are even if that falls short of who you would like to be. I love your comment – thanks for posting.

  • Karen Grant January 24, 2017 Reply

    Hello Peter
    I am greatly enjoying these sound bites and listen to your Bregman Leadership Podcast. I wanted o firstly acknowledge and encourage your efforts because they impact me here in Cape Town, South Africa.
    This is not the first time I have been exposed to your 6 box to do list and concede that I have trouble in knowing the level at which to populate it. As an independent facilitator and coach I’m not sure what my ‘big arrow’ should be and as some of the comments above reflect, some of the 6 items can be too large/fuzzy. I guess I feel a little ‘unambitious’ as working mother who really seeks to survive rather than build an empire? I know one of your goals is to write, which I greatly admire. If mine is to facilitate and coach, how do I get more specific and intentional about what that means?

    • Peter Bregman January 24, 2017 Reply

      First of all, I want to recognize you for how ambitious it is to be a working mother. Period. That’s huge. You are ambitious. You may not be building an empire (though you may be :-)), but as a working father whose wife is a working mother, I want to say, again, what you are doing is ambitious.

      In terms of what it means to get more specific and intentional about facilitating and coaching – my best advice is to look for specific, particular opportunities to do each. Whether in a work setting, a family situation, pro-bono – whatever. Where in the next week do you have an opportunity to coach? To Facilitate? Ask yourself that question and follow through, where you can, given the rest of your life obligations.

      I admire you – go for it!

  • Cindy Marston January 24, 2017 Reply

    Okay, I’m a bit confused as to whether my 6Box ToDo list should be things I can get done each day, or bigger things to move me forward. Or is this first draft the latter, and then work toward the former? In looking at Peter’s list, he’s got several things in his “speak and write” focus box that look very time-consuming – prepare 2 speeches, revise a proposal, write an article, record a video. To me, those appear to be big ToDos to move forward, not daily tasks. So, I think what will be most helpful to me is to have a list of big steps needed to move me forward, and then daily lists that help me accomplish those steps. And, somehow I totally missed the “other 5%” box … is that for the must-dos, such as calls and errands and fixing things that break unexpectedly?

  • Lizzy January 24, 2017 Reply

    While populating my 6 boxes…I reflected on my readings of Tara Mohr’s Playing Big…to stop hiding and make the leap. So as I brainstormed, I thought of what things I can do now to make forward movements. Even small steps will get me closer to what I want. Waiting for things to be perfect…well I won’t ever get started. My ideas are going to be hinged on time…when am I going to write? What day will I get my dad out on an excursion and I will get out for a Lizzy Time so I can refresh and keep on keeping on…what will my morning routine be so I can workout, read and journal???

    Thanks Peter for this opportunity and for suggesting Playing Big.

  • Nan Reed Twiss January 24, 2017 Reply

    I am LOVING the Toggl app. It is so easy to use when I am doing anything computer related or home-bound. (I’ve also discovered it has an extension for Chrome – yay!)

    That said, as a working mom, my life is complicated with the day often chopped up with child or domestic-focused things. There it has not been so useful.

    As I’ve written this, I’ve discovered there is an iphone app for Toggl – I’ll try that.

    I’d love to hear how others have used the data they’ve gathered from tracking there time – best practices? Maybe obvious, but I’d love to hear anyway 🙂

    • Nan Reed Twiss January 24, 2017 Reply

      I will also add that as a working mom, my calendar is populated with the entire family’s to-do since I am the Master of the family calendar – the people at Apple are always very impressed by the colorful array on my ical (each person has a different color of course). This calendar has always had scheduled events in the various colors and in very faded grey I have my “non-scheduled” “ideal day” in the background. Some of it happens, some of it doesn’t. Not very powerful.

      What I’m now doing as a result of this 18-minute process – and it’s working *very* well – is I’ve created yet another calendar in ical (that I don’t share with my husband’s calendar to spare him) where I plant my daily to-dos selected from my 6 boxes in the spaces around client calls or other appts. Very easy to move around as needed. I realize this is probably pretty obvious, but for some reason I’m finding it more helpful than many things I’ve tried.

  • Eva G. January 24, 2017 Reply

    Starting tomorrow, I’ll give toggl a try, I have just installed iton my mobile phone. I think of trying out the “To-Don’t-list”, too. I may use a different name or build up a seperate list for ideas, though: The idea behind that is that I consider some ideas precious and feel that I could make a real difference implementing these – and putting these on a “To-don’t-list” like something evil just doesn’t feel right, when just visualizing about them provides a boost of energy and joy. I’ll rather keep them as potential rewards: I can promise myself to deal with such an idea after I’ll finished a certain big task or project.

  • Eva G. January 24, 2017 Reply

    … and I have also signed up for that “Tiny habits” session.
    Nan, so far I struggle with time tracking, the min reason might be that I have too many activities open or pending parallel. Perhaps it can help me to focus more on one thing at a time? – I’ll let you know what I’ll find out with toggl.

    • Nan Reed Twiss January 24, 2017 Reply

      Great, Eva – I think you’ll enjoy it. Let me know how it goes! (I think they’re still learning how to do a group online course, but if you can forgive the hiccups, the content is very effective imo.)

  • Lee Shanahan January 25, 2017 Reply

    Like others here, I am trying to better understand how to scope/size my 6 box list. Currently, mine are large buckets like “meaningful work” (I know what that means to me and it’s relatively broad but doesn’t include all the work I do for my job) and “deepen relationships” (which is almost more of an intention though does include behaviors as well).

    2 questions:
    1. Do people find it more helpful to have broad buckets that are directional, or to have narrow buckets closer to what I think of as a goal?
    2. Are the 5 boxes supposed to be 95% of “free” time, time where I can *choose* how to spend my time? Or should they also include time at work, where I do not always have flexibility? Like others here I am a working mom and much of my schedule is dictated by my children and my job.

    I do have some boxes related to my family and related to my day job, however, not all family work and time contributes to my “family bonding and experiences” box and not all my work time is “meaningful work”.

    Any advice or suggestions?

    • Peter Bregman January 25, 2017 Reply

      Hi Lee – thanks for your questions. I would love others to answer with their experiences as well – my view is that you should play with the boxes to see how they work best for you – it will be different for each person.

      The way I use them is that I rely on the larger categories. I put the narrower actions into the boxes. I’m most interested in areas of focus for the boxes, not goals or tasks (which go inside).

      In terms of free time vs. time at work – Ideally the 6 boxes include your time at work – that may not be realistic if you are spending a lot of time at work outside your boxes – but it points you in the direction you will want to move in – which is to shift what you’re doing – over time and when you can – so that your work is more aligned with what you care most about accomplishing.

    • Eva G. January 25, 2017 Reply

      Hi Lee – I have found that I can use the 6-box list on multiple levels:

      1) First, there were just the areas of focus identified in module one. Not all of them relate to work, actually I just have one for “work”, and the other areas are “health and wellbeing”, “music”, “create space”, “relationships” and then the other 5% . I wrote some 2 – 4 key ‘goals’ in each of the boxes – you can find them in the module 1 discussion if you search for my name, if you wish. These are not “To-Do’s” that I can most probably ‘complete’ on a day or within a week – these key points serve as a reminder in which direction I would like to go regarding each focus area. Some describe a problem or challenge that I see and of which I think that solving this issue will really make a difference in that area of focus.

      2) For module 2, I first applied the same principle to my focus area “work”, by “zooming in” – practically narrowing my view and getting closer on an additional 6-box list: I have identified 4 concrete tasks that I wish to get going and get finished, left one box empty, and the remaining one representing the other 5 %.
      For each of these tasks, I thought of the first step that I need to take so I can use the result as a basis to go on working from there. I noted 2 or 3 ideas for what may come next, but set them into brackets to concentrate on the first one. It was suggested above to put these following steps into tiny font to make them less visible.
      If these steps are still threatening, that means they can and should be split up further, i.e. one could go one focus level further and define sub-steps.

      I found that I have to allow myself to zoom in on one such task in order to actually DO the work, but it is helpful to define a “break point”, that means, to limit each step to something you can reach within a time frame you can usually work uninterruptedly or – if interrupted – your environment shows enough patience so you can finish that step and respond afterwards. For me, e.g., 18 minutes seems a bit too short. I can do a lot in one hour. After 1 – 1,5 hours I need to consciously take a break, or else I tend to get nervous or interrupt myself, such as by checking emails.

      It seems that to zoom in on the “work” focus during my working hours is something that helps me concentrate. I know I will allow myself breaks, and some me-time in the evening and morning, and on the weekend, where I focus on other areas. If anything else comes into my mind – like the music as I described above – I am more aware of this and take a conscious decision, maybe I decide to do something small and meaningful relating to another area and then go back to work fully focused.

      • Eva G. January 25, 2017 Reply

        What I’m going to experiment with now is to collect ideas how I could make progress in my focus areas in a context- and capacity-dependent way,? E e.g.
        What works best when I have a low energy level, or when I really only have small pockets of time?
        How can I make sure that I make the best use of times when I am full of creative energy?
        Can I do something proactively to prepare for what I’d like to do, so I have a good starting point whenever the occasion comes?
        Is some of my daily work of a less complex kind so I can easily get back into it even when interrupted?

  • Eva G. January 25, 2017 Reply

    Regarding time tracking:
    I’ve started to use toggl and may have to practice to really think of activating it – I often just forgot it today. What I like is that it asks me to state what I will be working on. Having to state this, to assign the activity to some ‘project’ makes me more aware to work with a certain project or a bigger context in mind.
    It seems to make sense to define some projects or activities beforehand, i.e. before I actually start tracking the time, because it forces me to focus the tasks I have defined and I want to have done at the end of the day. Now after the first trial day I’d like to clean up and start from scratch, but I haven’t yet found out how I could do this. Does anyone know?

    • Nan Reed Twiss January 25, 2017 Reply

      Eva – you wrote “What I like is that it asks me to state what I will be working on. Having… to assign the activity to some ‘project’ makes me more aware… with… a bigger context in mind.” Yes! I am finding that, too. It kind of forces me into a a more conscious structure with boundaries.

      I found it helpful to identify projects in advance. I created my projects according to my 6 boxes and that has worked really well for me. If the “activity” I’m about to do doesn’t fit in one of the primary 5, it gives me pause. I do NOT want my day filled with the 5%.

      I will also add that planning the day in advance makes it pretty easy to anticipate the activities and projects. Since the projects are, at least for me, the chosen areas of focus, it’s pretty gratifying!

  • Eva G. January 25, 2017 Reply

    Regarding these difficult conversations, I’ve had them frequently with my husband, because he says I spend to little time with him and too much for other things like work or music… It seems it is nothing we can discuss and solve once and for all times. It is always a compromise.
    At work, my role is not that of a leader or that of a free-lance worker – I’m part of a team and I have a boss who needs to assign work to me and rely on me doing it correctly within a certain time. I am mostly left to myself and within these limits I can decide where to start and how to proceed. But I also have to be prepared to deal with problems and errors at very short notice. So I can always be interrupted. That is part of my work. So I am not sure what I should actually discuss.

    What I do in view or conflicting priorities. is to ask my boss which task is of most importance right now just to make sure we are on the same wavelength.
    Peter, if you were in the shoes of my boss, is there anything else you would like and expect your staff member to bring up or discuss in such a conversation?

    • Peter Bregman January 25, 2017 Reply

      Hi Eva – what I would want my employee to do is to suggest the priority that she thinks is most important and to explain why. I would want her to take the ownership of her work in that way – which might even help me understand the priorities from a fresh perspective.

  • Eva G. January 25, 2017 Reply

    And, lastly for tonight.. re. calender:
    I have an electronic calender, but so far do not use it to schedule tasks, because I always have to be prepared for interruptions and delays – but I hate when I’m deeply immersed in a complex task, like conception for a program or like testing and debugging, and a reminder pops up. It tears me out of focus, and it’s difficult to get back again.
    Everytime I work with reminders, I have this problem, and end up delaying or postponing the scheduled item.
    Maybe someone has found a good way to use a calender?

    • Nan Reed Twiss January 25, 2017 Reply

      Eva, I agree – reminders that pop up would drive me crazy.

      I only use reminders for scheduled events – e.g. when it’s time to leave for a meeting or get ready for something about to happen. If your reminder is for something that’s not time-bound (as in must be done NOW or in 5 minutes), is there another bucket you could put it in?

      For example, I have an ongoing list of tasks for each area of focus (each area/box has its own separate page). Then when I’m populating my boxes, part of my decision-making includes referring to each of those pages.

      To summarize, my electronic calendar has scheduled/timed events. My tasks are listed elsewhere. Then when I’m planning my day, I use a special colored calendar to plant my tasks between the scheduled events. These have no reminders associated with them, and I do move them freely around during the day as needed. Does that make sense?

  • Eva G. January 26, 2017 Reply

    Yes, Nan, and thanks, this makes much more sense.
    It’s 6 am again… I’ll see what I can implement today.

  • Eva G. January 27, 2017 Reply

    I’ve yet to look at the meditation, though I already am developing the habit of getting up from the desk, open the window and breathe calmly and deeply 10- 15 times. Also, I still have to look at the 18 minutes process. But I had to catch up with sleep before. That was a very intensive workshop and work week.
    Now my workday is about to start – I’m looking forward to starting with module 3 in the evening. Best wishes for you.

  • Trevor Manning January 27, 2017 Reply

    Peter,
    I just wanted to say I really enjoy the simplicity and practical nature of your system. I have previously planned my priorities using the rock analogy (Covey), but being an ex engineer I tend to complicate things and have historically over engineered the planning process. Your worked examples helped me make my focus areas high level and the To Do items (next most important activity) practical. Just in case its helpful to others, I’m using Trello to implement your system. I created a Board for each Focus area and can fill in my next actions in the Lists. Because I am used to using Trello to track my work (Kanban style), this really works for me. In practise its no different to your templates but it just suits my working style. I think these sessions are great and your approach is inspiring – thank-you!

  • Eva G. January 28, 2017 Reply

    Update on the time tracking

    It has taken me a little while to get familiar with the tool, and still it’s a learning curb. As Nan advised, I’ve taken some time to predefine projects, clients and tags, and to predefine several tasks between which I presently need to divide my time. So that helps because when I work on one, I can just toggle the start button. I have also discovered that I don’t like to use my mobile, so I use the desktop on my workspace computer instead. My mobile is what it is – I don’t want to be distracted by it while I’m working.
    As “clients”, I have more general categories like my present team, my former team (which I presently support in a particular project), Eva (myself related to workplace, planning etc.) and an additional one for myself related to non-work issues. As “tags”, I have defined certain kinds of activities that, in my experience, require different mindsets and levels of energy – such as, “describing”, “thinking through”, “debugging”, “experimenting”, “researching”, “implementing”, “customizing”, “controlling”…
    The idea behind is that I can better allocate certain activities and take into account what mindset and energy I need to work at them most efficiently, or which ones I can group together. Some years ago already, a colleague expressed it this way: I seem to have to go into a kind of “Sherlock Holmes” mode when I have to find out the reason for a problem or fault. This image helped me understand why it is so hard and inefficient to look after a small details question or problem while I try to develop a new idea or concept – it just doesn’t fit together in my mind and I stand in my own way.

    “Projects” are connected to a certain client and describe the task in general – that is, the area of work in a more general sense. The description of my timer is the result I need to achieve before I can take a further step. E.g. in implementing an interface to an epayment service provider into our software, the project would be “Epay Interface”, a timer description might be “get Trx Details: XML parsing”, and I would add the tag “Implementing”. In this particular area, my client is my old team.

    My problem at present is, I’ve just to get used to actually THINK OF toggling the start button whenever I switch to such a task.
    I have discovered that I can enter start and end date / time later, which helps a bit, but I guess it’s a routine I just need to get used to. Maybe I can connect this routine to a deep breath…

  • Petar Serafimov January 29, 2017 Reply

    If i really stay in the moment when i have the urge to procrastinate – i can sense it on a physical level almost as a set up in my body. Strange a bit let’s say..

  • Eva G. February 1, 2017 Reply

    Yeah, I managed to track my time today with toggl :-)))
    I am using it web-based. It really works well for me now that I have done the work of defining projects, clients and tags.

  • Ellen February 1, 2017 Reply

    For exercise 1 – I populated my boxes with some practical, measurable, actions to move the focus areas forward – repeatable daily actions (like planning and then shopping for healthy meals in advance to support my goal of “Nourished, Strong, Physical Health”). For my “Focused, Co-Creating, Positive Work” goal there are a lot of Don’ts! that are more goals (like “don’t hoard or put off – do smaller bites well to hand off more often”).

  • Ellen February 1, 2017 Reply

    I’ve also been keeping track in my 6 boxes of what I have agreed to do for others – using a highlighter to call them out (keeping my promises). Seeing them highlighted is a heck on whether I’m agreeing to do things that really need to be done and/or distract me from doing the things I need to do in my focus areas – and whether I’m actually able each day to really move the focus area forward. It’s paying off! I’m pausing before committing to make sure that a)whether the thing needs to be done at all; b) whether I’m the one who really needs to do it; c) does it need to be done today – prioritizing since I tend to do these things above larger tasks/goals in my focus areas to “clear the deck”.

    I’m feeling SO much better about what I’m getting done now – completing work and checking in on all the focus areas (mine are a mix of work, relationships, physical health, and mindfulness/gratitude practices)

  • Julie February 14, 2017 Reply

    Module 2 Part 1: Populate the Five Areas of Focus To Do List

    1. Support my daughter in expanding, growing and finding her pleasure
    -create animations together
    -practice mindful parenting techniques

    2. Expand, grow and find my pleasure
    -improve
    -dance classes
    -take risks
    -volunteer reading
    -write short stories/meditation scripts

    3. Approach legal issues with the mindset that my goal is to reconnect with my daughter and build a healthy relationship (I need to find ways to keep reminding myself of this)
    -meditate
    -cardio (running, boot camp)
    -journal
    -find legal representation

    4. Establish healthy relationships
    -become aware of and stop repeating self defeating patterns

    5. Establish finances by doing work that is pleasurable and meaningful
    -start a pay it forward type of business
    -facilitate core energetics workshops
    -voice work

  • Julie February 15, 2017 Reply

    REVISED Module 2 Part 1: Populate the Five Areas of Focus To Do List

    1. Support my daughter in expanding, growing and finding her pleasure
    -create animations together
    -practice mindful parenting techniques (listening, spending time together)
    -hiking/walking together
    -introducing her to new people and activities
    -travelling together

    2. Expand, grow and find my pleasure
    -improve
    -dance classes? (involves music and moving my body)
    -take risks trying new things and meeting new people(in what ways i don’t know yet)
    -travel
    -write short stories/meditation scripts

    3. Approach legal issues with the mindset that my goal is to reconnect with my daughter and build a healthy relationship (I need to find ways to keep reminding myself of this)
    -meditate
    -cardio (running, boot camp)
    -journal
    -find legal representation
    -Peter Bregman podcasts have been helpful. Thanks.

    4. Establish healthy relationships
    -become aware of and stop repeating self defeating patterns

    5. Establish finances by doing work that is pleasurable and meaningful
    -start a pay it forward type of business
    -facilitate Core Energetics workshops
    -voice work

  • Karen Grant February 16, 2017 Reply

    Sorry that I’m late in the day on this, but wanted to ask a question about the last 5 minutes of the day, Peter. As a coach, probably email follow up and sending notes/articles are a big part of my coaching offering. So that in itself becomes more part of my 5 boxes than a quick 5 mins at the end of the day? I feel overwhelmed by trying to just fit that into 5 mins?

  • Peter Bregman February 16, 2017 Reply

    What you’re doing is a great idea Karen. Take all the time you need – just schedule it.

  • Nermine Zakhary February 20, 2017 Reply

    I picked up 18 Minutes a few years ago and I’ve been following your work ever since! I’m not nearly as consistent as I could be with filling in my boxes and my calendar on a daily basis, but as an overarching guide to what my year and my day are about — it’s been huge! Part of my struggle with using my calendar is that my focus is around building up my coaching practice, which for the moment is done on the side of my full time day job during evenings, weekends and the occasional lunch hour. As I’m writing to you, it has occurred to me that I can map out my calendar for evenings, weekends and lunchtime, making it work for where I am with my business and my life – today. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

  • Peter Bregman February 21, 2017 Reply

    It’s a great idea!

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