Just do one thing at a time.

We all work incredibly hard, often to the point of exhaustion. Somehow despite all of our collective efforts, our to do lists never seem to get finished and we always have an anxious feeling about something pending at work. For some people this even affects their sleep, their personal lives and their most intimate relationships.

Our normal way of coping with this crazy endless to do list is to multi task. To try and drink coffee while thinking of a presentation, replying to email, taking a call from the boss and sneaking a peek into facebook, all within the same 20-30 minutes. Or in a meeting, we tune out to do emails and complete an unfinished task. 

This multi tasking is the real cause for our permanent anxious and stressed selves. It leads to five distinct problems everyday for anyone who tries to do it

  1. Mediocrity – The normal output of a multi tasking session is average. Everything gets done so that its off the check list but nothing is done brilliantly. Ask anyone who does brilliant work everyday – a painter, a writer, an architect whether they multi task while at work. The answer is no.
  1. Repitition and Time Loss – Once you do something average, you are bound to repeat it. The proposal you made will need 2 more reworks and the important point you missed in the meeting because you were on whats app will cause you to send a follow up email. You think it is faster but it actually costs you more time to multi task.
  1. Anxiety –  Even if you do a 100 things a day, multi tasking always leaves one with a discontented unsatisfied feeling that more is to be done and things are not finished yet. How many hyper productive office workers do you know who leave the office whistling and happy even after they have done so much work
  1. Mistakes – How many times did you spill some food because you were trying to eat it and play with the TV remote or the phone. Or you forgot something somewhere. Or you missed out on an important point in a conversation as your attention was somewhere.

Our present moment attention is the most valuable resource we have which can be used to create miracles if we focus it on the important things and give it our whole energy.

So let me invite you to give up, even if for a day or a week multi tasking and embrace Single Tasking – the beautiful art of giving your 100% attention to one thing at a time. Single tasking can also be called work meditation, where we meditate on our work by focusing on it whole heartedly. Single tasking can also be called service as we give ourselves fully to the cause that we are embraced in.

Single tasking will release your energy, double your productivity, release stress and bring happiness to your work life.

The way you do this is very simple. Do one thing at a time. That’s it. Do one thing at a time. If it seems unclear read it aloud one more time. Do one thing at a time. If it helps you add a qualifier – Do one thing “mindfully” at a time or Do one thing “beautifully” at a time.

So how can you get down to it. Lets say you have 5 things ( or 15 ) to accomplish today. 

The first thing we will do is to decide what we are going to do ☺. Begin first by deciding the order or schedule of what you seek to do and when you seek to do it. It doesn’t matter where you start. As you do this exercise, you will start to notice the “multi tasking urges” coming back. Here’s how you deal with them

  1. Turn your phone off or on silent and keep it away – If at home, put it in another room. If in office put it in your bag.
  1. Turn off email notifications –Go to outlook or gmail and turn off the pop notifications that keep you from finishing your work
  1. Bring your complete attention to your to do list for the day and complete it.

Once done, decide what you seek to do next. Maybe you want to eat something. Now again when you eat, eat it. Don’t eat the news, read email, do facebook and eat. Bring your entire presence to one task – to the task of eating. Relish the taste, feel every bite, enjoy the act of eating.

If you choose to have a conversation with someone, do so whole heartedly. Look them in the eye, listen fully, ask questions, share your views. See the magic one such conversation can create in a relationship.

What can come in the way of single tasking and how to deal with them.

  1. Create A Space – Where is the physical space where you can be for a couple of hours. Is it at home, then get up early and work at home. Is it a corner in the office. Go find it and work there.
  1. Be Polite but firm when distracted-  You are working and distracted by someone who wants something. Politely say you will be with them later or will call them back later
  1. Phonomania – You may be addicted to your phone and feel anxious without it. We have lived for millions of years without mobiles. Trust me you can. Leave it somewhere where you cannot reach it easily. Call back the people who called you later

Single Tasking is the great secret of top athletes, scientists, artists, entrepreneurs, leaders. You can have happiness and success at work too. 

Just do one thing at a time.

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