Dr. Yaba Blay, professor of Africana Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences, reads nonstop as part of her research and teaching. This does not leave her much time for recreational reading, but she recently made time for the book 18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction, and Get the Right Things Done by Peter Bregman. Blay describes the book as a quick read—something she didn’t want to put down—and the perfect recommendation for a self-described busy person and multi-tasker.
Why did you choose this book and what is it about?
Interestingly enough it was chosen for me. A friend recommended it to me for a little bit of encouragement and to find another way to do things. I’m characteristically busy all the time—I literally work seven days a week—and my friends and colleagues know this about me. I’ve also been known to do a lot at once—in my mind its multi-tasking, which we all have to do, but this book drives home the point that multi-tasking is not productive in terms of how our brains work. The book is really about getting the reader to find focus and techniques to map things out so that everything that needs to be done gets done.
One of the things that struck me is that I have always been a “things to do” person, with a list that goes on and on. Any time something came to mind I’d write it down, and when the task is finished I’d check it off. I’d feel accomplished at all the checks, but the daunting reality is that the list never ends. Bregman has a technique for making a smarter to-do list. He suggests a yearly list, limited to five things you want to accomplish in a year, whether they are personal or professional. Every day, make sure you’re doing something toward each one of those five things. If it doesn’t fit you don’t do it or it gets put on a lower priority list.
Ultimately, you can feel—and be—more accomplished because there’s more focused attention to what you’re doing.
What about this book/topic do you find important or enjoyable?
I really liked his writing style. The chapters are simple—short and sweet. I read the book in a day; I didn’t want to put it down and it’s something I refer back to often as a refresher. I liked how direct he is in saying this is what you need to do, so do it, which is much easier than trying to figure it out on my own.
Did the book live up to your expectations?
Absolutely, and I didn’t really have any. I was more cynical about it since someone gave it to me with the idea that it was going to change my life. I was hooked though—the introduction totally had me thinking I needed to read it.
After I finished reading the book I told everyone I know about it, and bought it as a gift for friends. We all spin our wheels a lot trying to get things done. I’m easily distracted, and even if I can’t do everything he suggested it was good for me to sit back and read about the benefits of being focused. It’s been very good for me.
Is there a passage or quote you find particularly interesting?
He wrote something in the intro that really pulled me in:
"Time is the only element in the world that is irretrievable when it's lost. Lose money and you make more. Lose a friend and you can patch up the relationship. Lose a job and you can find another. But lose time and it's gone forever.”