How to Get the Right Things Done
Peter Bregman is strategic advisor to CEOs and management teams and author of 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things. According to Peter, people are interrupted, on average, four times an hour, and the more challenging the work, the less likely you are to go back to it after the interruption. In other words, we are most likely to leave our most important work unfinished.
Here are Peter’s tips to reclaim your life from distraction.
1. Slow down
Momentum is powerful. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, it’s going to be hard to reverse direction. You need space in your life, space for change. Start with a single deep breath. See how that feels. The feeling of one deep breath will make you crave another.
Create time when nothing is required of you except to breathe and feel. A few minutes here and there is a good start. Soon, your momentum will slow, and your ability to make real choices and shift direction will grow.
2. Pursue failure
You can’t experiment without failure. But the whole idea of experimentation is that even failure is a success because it informs you. It teaches you what doesn’t work, which is just as important as knowing what does. As long as the failure impacts your behavior, it’s a success. Also, pursuing failure means you will take bigger risks and, much of the time, be pleasantly surprised. If you’re expecting failure most of the time, you can’t help but exceed your expectations.
3. Say “no, thank you”
We have limited space in our minds and each time we say “Why not?” to something—or even consider saying “Why not?” to something-it takes up room. If we learn to automatically say, “No thanks,” to things that don’t fit into our main areas of focus, we’ll simplify our lives and free our minds to focus. “No thanks,” paves the road for “Yes please,” and it simplifies your life. It helps you do more important things and less unimportant ones. I developed “No Thanks List” consisting of 27 simple examples when, in my opinion “No thanks” was the best response to eliminate distraction and help me maintain my focus.
4. Define your boundaries and communicate them
We live in an ADD world where there are few, if any, boundaries. Phones, computers and tablets—we can do work anywhere, anytime. And we do. So we end up exhausted and overwhelmed.
Even though we seem to be working all the time, we end up far LESS productive. Because trying to get everything done is impossible and like overeating at a buffet, in the face of unlimited options, we often make the wrong choices—choices that are not in our own best long term interests.
We work on the wrong things. In this world with no boundaries, we need to create some intentional ones of our own. We need to know what we care most about accomplishing and we need a process to keep us focused on those things that matter most to us. And, just as importantly, we need to learn how to communicate those boundaries politely but with firmness. It’s how we stand up for ourselves.
5. Learn from each day
Someone once asked me if I could teach an organization only one thing, what single thing would have the most impact on an organization. My answer was immediate and clear: Teach people how to learn by looking at their past behavior, figuring out what worked, and repeating it while admitting what didn’t work and changing it. People should take five minutes at the end of each day to ask yourself how the day went, what you learned, who you need to connect with, and what you plan to do differently—or the same—the following day.