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Too much to read? Try the Peter Bregman buffet technique

Don’t you love it when you find a simple productivity technique that really works?

If you are an ultra-busy person like me – you’ve probably tried all sorts of productivity and time management techniques. Often these methods take lots of time and effort.

buffet cakes

One of my challenges is to find the time to read and understand the wealth of business performance and effectiveness articles on offer.

I must admit – I’m greedy for this sort of information and I get frustrated at having too much to want to read and too little time.

TB talking to class

Often, if I DO read something:

  • I read so fast I don’t seem to “take anything in” OR
  • I’m impatient and jump from one article to another OR
  • I click on an internal link in an on-line article and get “detoured”.

Any of this sound familiar?


(Peter Bregman – regular writer for Harvard Business Review, author and presenter)

Anyway, yesterday I was watching a video of one of my favourite business writers Peter Bregman and he used a very simple and memorable metaphor about life being an intimidating buffet of choice.

We are often overwhelmed by choice. We fill ourselves and our days and our lives with too much.  We load up more than our stomachs can fit in.

The answer isn’t to take more or bigger plates to the buffet.

Peter’s solution: take a small salad plate to the buffet. You know you have less “space”  –  so you choose more wisely.

As an Australian meat-eating male – I’m not a “salad” or “salad plate”  guy. I’m a big plate, get as much as you can sort of guy.

My initial reaction was that Peter’s approach was “soft”.

Then I thought I’d give it a try. His counter-intuitive business “advice” has been helpful on so many other ocassions.

I’ve been trying this metaphor to my challenge and frustration with the information/article/blog post buffet. 

My “salad plate” is a small post-it note. The small space forces choice.

I set aside some “reading/learning time” (usually 10 minutes) and I decide on 3 items I will choose to read. I use a timer on my phone – so there is focus within boundaries. Otherwise, I could go on reading for hours!

I also set aside time for watching business-lesson videos (like the Peter Bregman video/presentation where I saw his buffet lesson!) I’ve disciplined myself to choose a few and watch the videos right through – with full focus and attention (Not multi-tasking!)

If I find more things I want to read or videos I want to watch – I’ll schedule another block of reading/video time.

I don’t focus on all the stuff I will be missing out on. I focus on the 3 things I will “enjoy” with full attention.

To extend Peter’s buffet metaphor – I “eat” more slowly and, as you do when you are eating good food, you pause to savor the flavours.

I discipline myself to finish each article and before jumping into the next article, I pause and think what did I get out of that?


Sure, this salad plate technique probably makes me slower and less “productive” – but I am confident the technique can make us more “effective:.

  1. You feel more in control and not overwhelmed
  2. You are “forced” to choose more wisely
  3. You focus on what you have chosen rather than what you are missing out on
  4. You get MORE out of what you have chosen

I am trying the salad plate/post-it note technique to all the tasks I have to do in my day and I will see if it helps with work too.

Here’s a link to the video about the buffet/salad plate technique.

See what you think.

The salad plate solution metaphor comes in around 20:45. The buffet “problem/challenge” is at the beginning of the video.

At first, I thought just take bigger or more plates and load up as much as you can – then I found a “freedom” with the salad plate technique.

Thanks Peter! Great idea. I might even try it when I visit a real buffet!

Here’s a link to Peter’s website. I am not connected with him in any way – other than being a big fan of his thinking and writing and presenting.



If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.

I’ve disciplined my self to check ALL my different communication platforms twice a day – as part of my Check-in Ritual.


tony biancotti


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

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3 comments on “Too much to read? Try the Peter Bregman buffet technique

  1. Pingback: How to encourage your clients to get “off their arse” and to part with their money | efangelist

  2. Abel
    October 2, 2013

    This website truly has all the information I wanted about this
    subject and didn’t know who to ask.

  3. efangelist
    August 26, 2014

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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