I still remember my first job interview. It was for a catering group at a theme park. They held an open interview where loads of teenagers pile in to stand in line for a speed dating session with everyone who’s hiring for the season. I sat down with the catering manager first, handed him my application and gave him my name.
His response to me was simply, “I only have one question for you; are you flexible and can you multitask?”
I replied quickly, “yes,” and he hired me on the spot.
Once I got started I realized how valued and praised multi-tasking was. Juggling 3 tasks at once made me look like a superhero and gave me priority when it came to hours and opportunity. I was the boss’ favorite, and as a long-time teacher’s pet and (still recovering) perfectionist it was important that I cultivate any skill that would give me an edge in the area of likability with the boss.
It wasn’t until my multi-tasking empire began to collapse that I realized how taxing multi-tasking really is on our minds and bodies. When burnout finally set in it was time for me to re-evaluate what productivity really means for me and how to make the most of my limited energy.
For the past couple of years I’ve tried every suggestion I found in a blog, or magazine. I exercised, I took walking breaks, I drank water, I delegated what I could, but still I felt exhausted by the end of the day and almost always unaccomplished.
I decided to analyze myself
When I took the time to truly analyze my own behavior I realized that I was simply doing too much at a time. Here’s what my day looked like:
- Checking and responding to emails as they arrived (basically every 3 minutes)
- Working on 3-4 projects within an hour time-span
- Having meetings throughout the day at random times
- Forgetting to eat and drink and holding my pee
Through reading articles I learned that multi-tasking is a fallacy. It’s truly our mind switching attention between things and actually causes us to lose productivity. I realized I was living a lie, one where I believed I was being more impactful because of my habits, but they were actually a hinderance to my success. The tactic I had adapted to create success in my early career was no longer serving me, so I needed to make a change.
Taking on the one-task day
It seemed almost ridiculous, but I wanted to see what would happen if I dedicated an entire day to one task.
During that day I set aside one project to work on and was dedicated to finishing it in its entirety during that one sitting. I allowed myself 2 email checkpoints to see what was happening in my inbox, and 2 social media checkpoints to respond to comments and reduce the inevitable FOMO (fear of missing out).
What happened blew me away! I finished my project in fewer hours than I projected, remembered to take care of my creature needs (eating and drinking), and felt more energized at the end of the day.
Now that I know that this strategy works I’ve manipulated my schedule to accommodate for more opportunities to spend long periods of focus on a single project. I also manage to push most meetings towards the end of the week to batch those activities.
As a busy entrepreneur with two businesses I found that this is the most impactful productivity hack I’ve ever tried. If you’re struggling with burnout or having challenges achieving key objectives I highly suggest trying this tactic at least once to see if it can help you achieve your goals and reduce wear and tear on your mind and body.