Many of us have had days when 5 o’clock rolls around and we have little to show for it. In his new book “18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done,” management consultant Peter Bregman teaches that it’s not about tackling everything on our plate — it’s about choosing what to put our energy into.

 

“We love to procrastinate, and distraction is the golden ring of procrastination because we think we are getting things done,” he says. “We are answering 40 e-mails and we think we have been incredibly productive until we stop and say, ‘Did I really need to answer all of those e-mails?’ In a world that will take what it can from us we need to be more strategic than ever about what we want to give it.”

His 18-minute plan can help you figure out how to best manage your workday. Allow him to explain.

 

Take five minutes in the morning: “The five minutes in the morning is to get centered and ask yourself, ‘What is it that I most want to accomplish today?’ I transfer those things onto my calendar.

There is a tremendous amount of evidence that points to the fact that if you decide when and where you are going to do something, you’ll do it. If you just say, ‘I am going to do it sometime today,’ you won’t end up doing it. So there I am really deciding what I want to get done and where I am going to do it.”



Take one minute every hour:
“Every hour I stop for one minute and ask myself two questions: ‘Am I spending my time in the right way right now?’ And: ‘Am I being who I most want to be right now?’ Those two questions end up being this fantastic productive interruption. Those questions will bring me back to ‘What is that I am trying to accomplish for the day?’"

 

Take five minutes at the end of the day: “At the end of the day I spend five minutes and ask myself, ‘What I did I learn from today? What worked, what didn’t work?’ Then also, who I want to ask a question to, who I want to update, who I want to thank for something they did to me. I think of these as my learning minutes and my gratitude minutes.”

 

Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithatMetro.