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Refocus Your Work Day in Under a Minute

Do you feel your day slipping away? Are you accomplishing the goals and objectives that matter most to you and your organization? Are you consistently the manager you want to be?

Great, important questions we should all be asking ourselves. But if you are like me, introspection quickly becomes victim to a priority e-mail, an unexpected project dump, or a touchy personnel issue that needs to be resolved now.

So I like this idea by executive coach Peter Bregman, who essentially recommends in A Ritual to Help You Keep Your Focus and Your Temper that we devote one minute -- just one minute -- per hour to make sure we are on track toward meeting our daily goals and objectives. Here is his exercise.

First, set a timer to go off every hour. When it does, you have one minute to take these three steps:

  1. Take a deep breath and settle.
  2. Ask yourself if the last hour had been productive. Commit to how you are going to use the next hour.
  3. Ask yourself if, in the last hour, you've been the person you want to be. "And then, during that pause," writes Bregman, "deliberately recommit -- not just to what you are going to do but also to who you are going to be during the next hour. It's a way of staying recognizable to yourself. And to others."
Frankly this sounded a little new agey for my style, but I thought I'd devote a day (or as long as I could stand it) to trying this practice. Here was my experience.

Step 1, the deep breath, was a get-focused-on-the-next-minute trigger that was a useful mental downshifting. I was less self-conscious about it as the day went on.

Step 2 was very helpful in helping me refocus on the day's primary objectives and to better recognize those small side currents that were siphoning off my time. If the same objectives kept popping up incomplete hour after hour I was eventually motivated to take action.

Step 3, the self-introspection into what kind of person I want to be, was more difficult for me to wrestle in the time allotted, and I decided to forgo that activity to a one-shot activity at the end of the day. But at the end of the day, I was pretty anxious to hit the highway, so this exercise is still in my to-be-tested file.

Give it a try and let us know your own experience using this method, and how the modifications you would make.

(Image by casey.marshall, CC 2.0)