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An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day

| October 18, 2011

by Jim Bruce

In MOR’s several Leaders Programs, we routinely talk about the need for everyone to set aside time on a regular basis for reflection, for work on strategic projects, and for planning.  In today’s reading “An 18-Minute Plan for Managing Your Day“, Peter Bregman proposes a very structured plan for planning and thus for gaining control of your day.

Bregman notes that we all regularly experience days where we begin with a vague sense of what we want to accomplish only to have the day highjacked by events we never anticipated.  On top of this, we start every day knowing that we are not going to get everything we would like to do that day done.  Thus, we need a guide – for example, To Do and NOT To Do lists – and “a trick.”

Taking an approach used by Jack LaLanne, the fitness guru who died earlier this year at the age of 94, Bregman suggests we follow LaLanne’s “trick” and establish a ritual that we unerringly follow each day.  The ritual he proposes for us to follow each day no-matter-what is designed to keep us focused on our priorities throughout the day.  It has three steps that can take less than 18 minutes over an eight-hour day:

STEP 1 (5 minutes):  Set the plan for the day.  Before turning on your computer, take a blank piece of paper and decide what will make this day highly successful.  Consult your calendar, make sure that these tasks are scheduled into time slots that you have deliberately left open (if they are not already scheduled events).  Work to get the hardest and most important items at the beginning of the day.  (HINT:  Arrange your calendar to provide unscheduled time at the beginning of each day for this purpose.)  In doing this, you may find that your list won’t fit into the time available.  Reschedule and reprioritize now.  

STEP 2  (1 minute every hour):  Refocus.  Every hour, checkin to see if you have spent the past hour productively.  Look at your calendar and deliberately recommit to how you are going to use the next hour.  Actively manage your time, don’t let it manage you!

STEP 3 (5 minutes):  Shut off your computer and review your day.  What got done?  What worked?  Where did you focus?  What distracted you?  What did you learn that will help you be more productive tomorrow?

Rituals are powerful because they are predictable – the same thing over and over and over again.  Bregman concludes by noting that if you choose your focus deliberately and wisely and then consistently remind yourself of that focus you will stay focused.  It’s that simple.

Give it a try for a couple of weeks and see the value it adds.


Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim