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Bill Bennett

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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.

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