18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am starting to notice that there is a lot of overlap in business/time management books. This one referred to several studies that I was familiar with from other reading (Jonah Lehrer and Malcolm Gladwell particularly).
Some of Bregman's advice fits in with Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, some of it is challenging the premise that you can get everything done. I think the strength of Bregman's argument is in the area of choosing priorities. He suggests that 5 areas of focus be chosen for your year (which may be quite broad, one of his examples is finding new clients) and that all but 5% of the stuff you spend your time on should fit into those 5 areas of focus. This seems like it would be very tough to do, but it would be incredibly valuable in terms of reducing stress and wasting time on stuff you don't really care about (how does so much of that end up in my day?) if you could ahieve that level of focus. He does offer some solid thoughts on how to tell people no, which is key to making this work.
He also offers a framework for your to-do list (which he contends should only have stuff on it for 3 days after which if it isn't done or scheduled it's gone), and calendar, and an 18-minute per day (not 18 minutes in a row, but 5+1's+5) ritual to plan and refocus throughout the day.
I tried using his approach to daily planning yesterday and was hit with the reality that I couldn't do nearly as much stuff in a single day as I need to to keep on top of everything. However, the process did actually reduce my stress and I did get a few tasks actually crossed off my to-do list which is uncommon on a day when the office is short a person. (One of those tasks had only been there since Wednesday!) I think the approach is worth continuing to use.
Overall there is a lot of good stuff in this book to supplement other approaches that are working for you, or to serve as a structure for dealing with all the stuff life throws at you day to day.