How to Stop Drinking From A Fire Hose & Get The Right Things Done – In a mere 18 minutes (Really?)

This book sat in my Kindle queue for 8 weeks before I picked it up a few days before New Year’s Day. Why the foot dragging? I was fully anticipating a tired, re-tread, re-run of the often quoted “me-too” time management disciplines – – get-your-focus-on-the-main-thing-being-the-main-thing, turn off your email and blackberry, delegate better, say no more frequently, stop multitasking, blah, blah, blah. Even the title (18 minutes to solve global warming) had turned me off.

But, just like I had to eat all of the vegetables on my plate when I was a kid – – I bought the book, so I had to read it. And the verdict? I was wrong. This book is so much better than that. (Yes, it helps to have low expectations, but I stand my ground. This book is SOLID.)

Bregman gets your attention from the first chapter and you ride with him all the way through to the finish. Do you find yourself answering yes to one or more of the following questions? If yes, for $12 on Kindle, you’ll get your monies worth and then some.

  • Do you find that you ask yourself where did the day go? Where did the week go? Where did the year(s) go?
  • Do you often find that you do not have the time to get done what you want to get done?
  • Does “stuff” always get in the way of what you need to get done precluding you from finishing what’s important to you?
  • Do you feel that you are on a treadmill scrambling to try to keep up or finish…anxious, or frustrated or unfulfilled?
  • Do you find that you are working harder yet staying in place or falling behind?

Bregman explains that “either we keep moving along a path that isn’t quite right and we fail to knock ourselves off it onto a better path, or we intentionally choose the right path but keep getting knocked off. If we are to look back and feel good about what we’ve done – over a year, a day, or a moment – we need to break these patterns to interrupt our inertia” with a more systematic approach.

Part 1 (“Pause”) helps you focus on the right things and put them into a daily plan. Part 2 (“What is the Year About?”) helps you “organize your life around the things that matter to you, make you happy, use your gifts, and move toward your goals.” Part 3 (“What is This Day About?”) you’ll “learn how to translate your annual focus into an 18 minute daily plan, ensuring that the right things get done. And Part 4 (“What is this moment about?”) is where you’ll “learn how to master distraction, how to get yourself motivated and how to follow-through.”


Who is Peter Bregman?
Peter Bregman is a strategic advisor to CEOs and their leadership teams. He began his career teaching leadership on wilderness and mountaineering expeditions with Outward Bound and the National Outdoor Leadership School. He moved into the consulting field with the Hay Group and Accenture. In 1998 he founded Bregman Partners, a global management consulting firm. Peter has advised CEO and senior leaders in many of the world’s premier organizations, including American Express, Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, FEI, GE Capital, Merck, Clear Channel, Nike, UNICEF, and many others. He is the author of 2 books and a regular contributor to Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Forbes, National Public Radio Psychology Today and CNN. Peter earned his B.A. from Princeton University and his M.B.A. from Columbia University.

What led you to buy this book?

  • I heard buzz about it.
  • I find myself “drinking from a fire hose each day.” Running harder. And not necessarily keeping up or operating efficiently. I thought this book could help. And it did.
  • We’ve all heard the quote: “If you don’t have a destination (or target), any path will take you there.” Many of us have also read or heard from self-help gurus who preach that we need a daily plan, an annual plan or a 3-5 year plan. Yet, who really prepares a plan longer than the day in front of us.
  • We (Americans) are wired to believe that we can achieve anything we put our mind to – that with willpower, determination and just trying harder, we’ll get there. Problem is, we try and try and try. Willpower alone will not get us there. We need a more disciplined and systematic approach. Again, I think this book and Bregman’s recommendations do it in a practical, straightforward way.

Is this yet another boring Business Book?
No! This is 288 page book with 46 quick and snappy chapters. It applicable not just to business people – but to a much broader audience. It’s a page turner if you can believe that for a goal setting/ time management book. Peter uses a solid structure to lay out most of his chapters – he tells a short story (and he’s very good at it) – he supports it with some form of research or background and then he gives you his recommendation. The book is written in a conversational voice. He’s humble and authentic. He’s practical, thoughtful and grounded in today’s realities (as opposed to the ivory tower or theoretical kind). His recommendations are doable. Finally, the book is readable, punchy and engaging. (OK, I’ll stop now.)

What were your favorite excerpts? (There were too many…but here’s a few)

  • So often we scramble to get a lot accomplished in a day, and succeed – only to realize in retrospect, that those things we accomplished won’t get us where we want to go. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s a lack of direction and focus.
  • The secret to surviving a buffet is to eat fewer things. And the secret to thriving in your life is the same: Do fewer things.
  • I looked at all sorts of time management systems but they were either too complicated, too time consuming to implement, or too focused on getting everything done (impossible). But that was already my problem: I was trying to get everything done and, in the end, the only things I got done were the things that screamed the loudest.
  • That’s what happens when we’ve got too many things to do. We look busy. We seem to be moving. But in reality, we get very little done.
  • So we try to speed up to match the pace of the action around us. We stay up until 3am trying to answer all our emails. We tweet, we Facebook, we link in. We scan news websites to stay up-to-date…And we salivate each time we hear the beep or vibration of a new text message. But that’s a mistake. The speed with which information hurtles towards us is unavoidable. And it’s getting worse. So trying to catch it all is counterproductive.

Your Amazon Rating?
Highest 5 out of 5 rating. This may be the best time management book that I have read or at minimum it falls in the top three (with David Allen’s Getting Things Done). I’ve also added this book to my Suggested Reading Lists. (See links on right side of blog.)

Any Closing Thoughts?
Great book…I know what I have to do…the question is, will I do it and stick to it. Bregman even offers up 2 free templates that help you plan your day according to your priorities. Nicely done. Let’s see if I can GIT-R-DONE!

1) 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman.


  1. Great review, but I admit that I am personally skeptical about the merits of this book…..”Having fewer things on your plate” seems like a contradiction in an economy where we are doing more, with less, in both our work and personal lives. However, if you say this book can show me how to keep people from screaming (or myself for that matter) then I am sold!


    • Hi Julie. Happy New Year! My initial reaction to our comment was “OMG, I’ve way oversold this book.” I don’t disagree that this book or any book will solve the daily crush of demands on our time or reduce fire drills or, or, or… But, I think it can certainly help improve our situations, even incrementally. And that’s why I’m after anyway – improving inch by inch, day by day. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Dave


  2. I’m sold. I will add it to my list.



  1. […] blog which I discovered very recently.  One of the more recent blog post there is really good review of “18 minutes” by Peter Bregman. What’s the book about? In short it’s 46 chapters about different techniques and strategies to […]


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