When your to-do list is as long as your arm, it’s overwhelming. And where do you even begin when you’ve got eleventy bajillion things tugging on your attention strings?
- You have to do laundry, but you also have to wash the dishes.
- You have to make dinner but you also have to walk the dog.
- You have to finish that report but you also have to book a dental appointment.
You feel like giving up before you’ve even begun because, really, what’s the point? You’ll never complete it all so you may as well pretend it doesn’t exist.
La la la, nothing to see here.
That’s how I’d been feeling recently – spinning the wheels but going nowhere – until I started doing something that snapped me out of it.
The ONE THING
It sounds simple but what’s working for me is focusing on one thing at a time.
“Woah, Laura, way to build to an anti-climax.”
But think about it, when was the last time you sat down and gave your undivided attention to one thing until it was done?
Can you even read this blog post without wondering what’s for dinner?
(Heck, I couldn’t even write it without wondering what’s for dinner.)
You have so many demands on your time and attention that it almost feels natural now to switch from one task to another every few seconds.
And when you’re being dragged in multiple different directions like that, nothing will ever get done.
That’s exactly why you feel you’re always busy but never achieving anything of any great importance.
Consistent drops in one area will eventually form an ocean, but little drops in all sorts of different locations will lead to nothing more than a bunch of muddy puddles.
And while that’s great for Peppa Pig, it sucks for your productivity.
Try sitting down and focusing on just one thing until it’s done. It will be hard in the beginning as your mind naturally wants to wander. But stick with that one task until it’s fully completed or until you’ve done as much of it as you can at that particular time.
That’s how you tick big items off your task list, not just make little bits of progress on lots of trivial things.
OK, I'm convinced, but how do I know WHAT to focus on?
After all, you don’t want the satisfaction of having scrubbed the toilet to be outweighed by the horrifying realisation that, in your fervour, you forgot to collect the kids from school.
Look at that long list of yours and pick out the things that absolutely MUST get done today on pain of death (or your children’s disgust and derision).
And be honest with yourself about what’s a true essential because, while you may want to do something, it’s not really necessary unless it has serious negative consequences if left undone today.
(And no, having people see your unpolished nails is NOT a serious negative consequence. Sorry.)
Do those things have to be done at a certain time? Great, set an alarm and move on.
No set time? Get stuck straight in. Work until one’s done, take a break, and then dive into another.
Once all your must-dos are out of the way, don’t worry if you find it’s bedtime. You completed all the essentials and that’s about as much as any of us can hope for. Sleep soundly, my little task-smasher.
Still got some time to spare? Super! Pick back up that list and ask yourself, if you could only do one more thing from it, what would make your day feel like a resounding success and bring you closer to the life you want to live?
Got it? Great. You know what to do.
Keep going until you run out of time or energy. (And by that I don’t mean work flat out every day until you fall into bed, I mean work until it’s time to hang out with your friends or family, or unwind with a glass of wine, or watch the next episode of your favourite show.)
By doing this every day you’ll be keeping on top of the important stuff, and you might even make great strides towards something special.
What you won’t be doing is staring at the exact same list of half-done things for the next four years.
You’ll eliminate inefficient multitasking in favour of superstar monotasking.
Ready to take things to the next level so you can get more done than ever before? Click one of these posts on increasing your productivity: