Doing One Thing Well.

As someone who has a myriad of interests, I’m usually in the middle of several projects at once. At the moment, having just counted them out, there are at least a dozen things I’m in the middle of and that’s pretty typical. Sometimes, it works well and I feel in control and sometimes it doesn’t. Today is one of the ‘it doesn’t’ days, and I feel a bit like I’m in the eye of a storm of my own making.

For the past couple of days I’ve had a sentence running through my head, and it’s one that is anathema to a scanner, really.

“Do one thing well”.

It’s from the brilliant David Hieatt, founder of Huit Denim and the Do Lectures. Attending the Do Lectures is high on my life’s wish list. But for me, the idea of doing just one thing is a bit terrifying. I hate the thought of missing something, the chance to try something new, have a great experience or learn. Yet the self-made storm of projects that are littering both my mind and my home means that I really need to move towards doing one thing, rather than trying to do everything simultaneously.

Perhaps I can translate ‘do one thing well’ to ‘do one thing well at once‘? So, instead of trying to write, research, check Twitter, plan my allotment crop rotation, take a photo for Instagram and set up a mailing list all at once, I could commit to one thing at a time. I’m thinking of using something like the Pomodoro technique;  even I could manage 25 minutes of concentrating on one thing instead of trying to do it all together and ultimately achieving very little! As I wrote on my friend Dave’s brilliant blog the other day, although I’d really like to be accomplished at something, I have accepted that I’m not a specialist, and this is just who I am. But I still need to check myself every so often to make sure that I’m not sabotaging myself.

Although multi-tasking is often spoken of as a way in which to achieve lots, I’m not really convinced of it as a tool for me to get more done. There is a Japanese saying that springs to mind; one who chases after two hares won’t even catch one. Doing two things at once means you’ll fail at both. Sometimes, that’s a small failing. I often leave the tea-bag in my tea because I’ve been distracted by Twitter in the middle of making it. That’s bad enough. But sometimes it can be much bigger – not making progress on projects because I’m too busy ‘researching’ (looking at pretty things on Pinterest) or ‘planning’ (doodling random words in a notebook) and I am driving myself to distraction with this self-sabotage. I know that time spent enjoying yourself isn’t time wasted. But actually, getting a spike of envy by looking at the perfect home/holiday/lifestyle on Pinterest sometimes isn’t terribly enjoyable anyway!

Alongside thinking about the Pomodoro technique, I’m  re-reading the ultimate guidebook for scanners and having a look through some life-hacking and time management blogs.

But I’d also really like your tips for getting things done. What do you do to make things happen? How to do you manage your time effectively? And how on earth do I decide what to concentrate my time on?

4 Responses to Doing One Thing Well.

  1. This is really useful advice to remember! I suffer from the same malady of anxiety at missing out. I also use the pomodoro technique and find it really helps to deal with that. Also worth remembering is the time it takes to get ‘in the zone’, usually about 5 minutes for me, after which time I tend to forget about any other projects and enjoy focusing on the task at hand. I’ll be checking out the guidebook for scanners too.

    • I’m glad you found it useful! I think you’re right – it takes me a while to get my head focussed on the activity that I’m supposed to be working on, and if I find myself trying to do other things at the same time, it takes that time again to re-focus, so there’s even more time wasted! Going to try Pomodoro and see how I get on…

  2. dakegra says:

    I sometimes force myself to concentrate on just one thing. Put the phone away, turn off the internet, switch off the TV. Focus on a book. Build a shelf. Write a blog post. It’s hard though, as I’m the same as you – always looking for the new thing, the shiny thing, the …

    Sorry, drifted off to check my phone which just buzzed with an update to a question I posted on Twitter.

    Now, where was I?

  3. It’s all about list writing for me. When there are lots of things to do I find myself getting stressed and doing nothing. Write a list, get it all out of your head and then prioritise. Lets you decide what’s important and then forget all the other things while you complete the first task.

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