Doing one thing at a time works wonders

Tony Schwartz, at the Harvard Business Review, says dividing attention between tasks is dangerous.

He says digital devices with always-on connections train us to split attention between tasks without ever focusing on one.

Schwartz says this hurts productivity increasing the time to finish a task by 25 percent.

In The magic of doing one thing at a time he recommends setting aside time for what he calls absorbed focus.

Or concentration. It is an old-fashioned idea. Remove all distractions and work on a single job.

Almost all my work involves writing, so this means finding a laser-like focus. That’s easy to say, but hard to do.

Recently, I found myself in town between appointments. The company where I had my first call offered me the use of a quiet business lounge. Here I could use my iPad and wireless keyboard to catch-up with an important writing job.

The iPad is ideal for this because, although it can task switch, it focuses on a single application. In this case my app was iA Writer. I hunkered down, read through my notes and began writing.

Ninety minutes later I looked up. The time has passed almost without my noticing it. I had written the best part of a major magazine feature. I did it without speaking to another human, without answering a phone, checking mail or messages. I achieved a Zen-like flow.

The self-imposed limitations made me more productive.

Jack Vinson has another take on The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time at the Knowledge Jolt blog. There he  shares his tips on how to set aside blocks of time for intense focus.

3 thoughts on “Doing one thing at a time works wonders

  1. Good advice, I passed it on. Thought it apt as Bigpipe starts to bloat with streaming video, hardware and who knows what all else they’ll come up with.

    One job. Do it well.

    Currently I use tomato-timer.com to manage focus. It does one job, adequately, better IMHO than a plethora of poorly implemented “features,” that would be my TP-Link Archer C9 V1.

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  2. Good post, Bill. I’m a writer, too, and find it near impossible to be productive if I’m continually interrupted. So, I do this: I work in 60-minute units and turn everything off during this time. It works well, and I’m in control of my day, not other people.

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