Practising One Task at a Time: What Works for Me and What doesn’t

Are you super good at multitasking?

We know there’s no such thing as multitasking, but that doesn’t stop us from trying, right?

Some things seem doable after all.

You may be listening to a podcast while driving or cleaning, filling out a few surveys for extra cash while watching TV, or chatting with a friend while scrolling through the Facebook feed.

Yep, you’re the queen of multitasking.

I must admit, I’m actually terrible at it.

Several times I tried to listen to Ted Talk or some other inspirational channel on YouTube during my therapeutic cooking time (yep, there’s such a thing. ha)

I gave up.

Between chopping stuff and stirring the pot (and running water to boot, in the background), I could barely focus on what was being said.

Maybe I love my cooking a little too much.

So now I listen to my favourite radio station while cooking or cleaning.

What does “Being Productive” Mean?

Being productive means finding your most important things, eliminating activities that distract you from doing them, and staying on the task until it is done. 

That’s it.

Now you see why multitasking works.

Things that you multitask aren’t your most important things.

Important stuff requires your energy and demands intense focus.

Yes, driving is important. It gets you to work, school, the hospital or the grocery store.

But it’s not your most important thing.

Your life goal isn’t becoming the next Lewis Hamilton, right?

Now try reading War and Peace while listening to your favourite band.

Maybe you challenged yourself to read one of the greatest novels ever written before you died.

Somehow this is really important to you.

You can’t multitask here, then, right?

The band’s got to go while reading the book.

I’ve tried many productivity hacks in the past and still do.

They all revolve around your most important things and distractions that stop you from doing those things.

So here are things that worked for me and didn’t.

Things That Work for Me

Switch Off Phone Notifications

It’s one of the easiest distractions I can expose myself to.

Which means it’s the least taxing to control.

Imagine you’re immersed in your most important thing.

Whether you’re writing, studying, or preparing sales reports for your manager, notifications immediately grab your attention and make you stop what you’re doing and take a look at them.

Your instinctive reaction is borne out of habits built on the illusion that it must be important.

Notifications from social media are a major productivity killer.

If you act instinctively to check notifications as soon as you hear the sound, you don’t have as much control over your actions as you think you do.

Take back control by switching off notifications.

Allow yourself to finish the most important thing without distractions.

Check My Email As a Reward

During my early blogging days, I used to check emails twice a day, first in the morning while drinking morning coffee and then again before calling it a day.

It worked fine for a while.

As my blog grows, so do my emails.

They now require more than twice a day’s attention from me. So I had to incorporate emails into my list of important things.

The way I tackle this is by using email as a reward.

My most important things are broken down into many small tasks.

After completing several tasks, it’s time to reward me with… wait for it… email!

How exciting!

It works great though because reading and replying to emails aren’t taxing, and I use it as my break time from work.

This is great for people who check emails too often or spend too much time writing them.

Bribing yourself into rewards is effective.

It incentivises you to focus on your important task first until you finish it.

Give Others My Full Attention

My mind often has a mind of its own.

So does yours.

How many times did you plan a meal, stuff to take care of, or things to do the next day while talking to someone?

You’d half listen and half be somewhere else.

Not good, really.

It’s time to go back to our most important things.

See, I told you everything revolves around them.

You’re with someone right now because the person is important to you, whether for your work or in your personal life.

Being fully present and not letting the past or the unknown future distract you enable you to build a solid relationship with the person.

When was the last time you felt your partner really listened to you? How did s/he make you feel?

Important, right?

Try to be that person to your partner and the people around you.

An added bonus is that when you give your full attention to the person sitting before you, you immediately declutter your mind by letting go of all kinds of meaningless chatter inside you.

The Pomodoro Technique

The promodoro technique is one of the most effective ways of getting things done.

If you like creating a sense of urgency as much as I do, you’ll love this technique.

Give yourself a task and race against time.

Begin with 25 minutes and a 5-minute break. Write for 25 minutes nonstop, for example.

It will make you super conscious of time. How quickly it flies by!

The Chrome extension Pomodoro is an excellent free tool.

When I first used it, I started with 25 minutes with a 5-minute break. Over time, it’s settled down to a 45 minute or 1-hour session with a 15-minute break.

Give it a go and discover the time that works best for you.

The 3-Minute Rule

One of those days, you’ll have the feeling of having to swallow a frog, but you really don’t want to.

That’s where “the 3-Minute Rule” comes in.

Let’s do it for 3 minutes, just for 3 minutes.

It’s basically cajoling yourself to begin.

We know nothing is ever going to be just for three minutes. But it gets the job done.

Almost always, I end up finishing the task I set out to complete when I successfully persuade myself to finish it 3 minutes.

The 3-Minute Rule will get you to sit down so you can begin.

Forget Perfectionism

I’ve come to terms with the fact that “there’s no such thing as perfection.”

Are you chasing that rainbow?

I’m telling you now that you’ll never get anything done if you continue down that path.

Instead, be okay with:

It’s good enough for today.

I trust in the process and know that if I keep pushing forward, it’ll get better.


I’ve got to believe that the best is yet to come.

If you believe your best is yet to come, you’ll trust the process, let go of perfectionism, and learn to focus on one thing at a time and complete it.

Things That I’m Yet to Master

Too Many Taps are Open

Okay, so I struggle with it every day. I think many of us who work at home do.

I thought about using apps that would forbid me to use other sites while working but decided that it’s not that destructive (or am I in self-denial? ha)

This will sound ridiculous, but among all things, I love keeping Google Analytics open.

It gives me a wonderful feeling that someone somewhere is reading what I have to say.

Particularly, going through these questions, immersing herself in self-discovery in a nice little cafe, sipping her tea, and trying to figure out her life purpose…

For all I know, she just left the tab open and forgot to close it. ha.

Still, I love the feeling of someone’s presence in real time.

Every day, I make an effort to close each tab when done, but I think I’m addicted to Google Analytics.

The Most Important Things on My To-Do Lists

How many important things do you have on your to-do lists?

I confess that having more than three important things drives me nuts. I like to keep things simple, and I’m better with my time and energy this way.

Writing down a long list of to-do lists for the sake of it seems like a waste of time to me.

I think truly important things can be narrowed down to a handful of items. Perhaps not even that.

Having too many things on the list stresses me out and almost always makes me feel dissatisfied at the end of the day.

I get far more satisfaction from 2 or 3 most important things done.

The 2-Minute Rule

I thought about trying the 2-Minute Rule.

It’s originated from David Allen’s bestselling book, Getting Things Done.

The whole notion of the 2-minute rule is “if it takes less than 2 minutes, do it now.”

I see how it can benefit you if you’re constantly stressed over small tasks that pile up.

Imagine you’re supposed to respond to two emails a day.

You skip.

Fast forward 7 days. You’re glaring at 14 emails to attend to!

Now it’s getting to you.

The way I see it though, if I postponed certain things, they weren’t important in the first place, meaning it’s not worthwhile to stress over the small stuff.

If they were important enough, I’d have prioritised and made time for them, no matter what.

I’m not sure whether I want to “master” this 2-Minute Rule… yet.

But if you are messy and disorganised and the chaos around you stresses you out, give it a go.

Find Your Own Personal Productivity Routine

Having a clear goal about your most important things is the first critical step to having a productive day.

Even the most popular productivity hacks will do nothing for you without them.

That’s because, without clear goals, you won’t be motivated enough to combat the endless distractions presented in your daily life.

Whether you try one of the productive hacks above, find your own elsewhere, or create a unique routine that gets the job done, there’s no right or wrong but your way.

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