18 MinutesTalking with Customer Insight Leaders whilst coaching, training and consulting, I find many if not most struggle with prioritization & time management. Perhaps this is not all that surprising given both the greater demand for insight in many businesses and the breadth of this leadership role.

From chatting to some of you, it sounds like it may also be a reason why you struggle to protect time for leadership development (one of your intended priorities for 2015).

Reflecting on this whilst travelling, I was reminded of a book that has really helped me to be more organised and productive in my life. “18 Minutes” by Peter Bregman. This is a very approachable and practical book. Peter is an engaging writer, who uses short chapters and personal stories very effectively, plus the book contains a number of immediately applicable tools.

In Part One, “Pause“, you are helped to do just that. Though many anecdotes and case studies, you are encouraged to stop & think about where you’re going and how much you’re enjoying your life. Like a “Find my iPhone” exercise, you get to take a helicopter view of your life and reflect on whether you are clear about your life priorities and truly focussing your time on what you want to achieve with your life. But don’t be put of if that sounds to worthy or grandiose, this is a time to be honest and personal, to just simply think about what you want.

Part Two, “What is this Year about?“, is again full of very human stories as you consider your top priorities for the year. Pete’s openness about his successes, failures and how he came up with his list, helps you design yours. Through some very effective exercises (that I like as a coach as well as a reader), you are helped to set about 5 priority areas for our life. Think of these as both goals and the names of 5 To Do lists on which you will only write tasks that help you achieve that goal.

Part Three, “What is this Day about?“, gets down & dirty with practical application. Helping you carve out just a few minutes during the day to plan what you are going to do that day which aligns with your 5 goals. What makes tips & tools shared in this section brilliant is that they face into the reality that you can’t get everything done. Unlike no end of idealistic but impractical schemes, this one encourages approaches like a “Don’t Do List” and tough choices about what gets on your To Do list and how long it stays there. It’s also very practical about the most effective use of your Calendar instead of your To Do List for sticking to your priorities.

Part Four, “What is this Moment about?“, cover the moment to moment challenge of living this all out. Tips & warnings about being who you want to be & remembering to keep your focus on what you’ve decided to do. Whether or not you want the hourly beep as a prompt, which I don’t, nevertheless the ideas here are again grounded and realistic about our everyday lives. At the end Peter shares 10 golden behaviours to help you love all this out. But the best way to use this book is to get on and try applying it as soon as you put the book down.

I hope you find this useful. I’d love to hear more about your progress and whether this method or other approaches have helped you as a leader.

Finally, if you click on the book image above, it will take you to a page on Peter Bregman’s site with free download templates to use putting this into action.