One thing at a time, simple as that

Doing one thing at a time has lead to a great deal of efficiency for me. I think the approach works!

Focusing on the task at hand, the race that needs to be run. Nothing else matters during those few seconds before and during the race.
Focusing on the task at hand, the race that needs to be run. Nothing else matters during those few seconds before and during the race.

I feel much more focussed than before in just about everything I do. I have been reflecting on this and wondering what has really changed. I realised what brought about this wonderful change is a simple thing. Now I just try to do one thing at a time. Yes you heard right, just one thing at a time. I don’t aim to be a hero or rockstar when it comes to multi-tasking, just a simple guy who does only one thing at a time. One thing, the approach is as simple as that. I don’t know if it could be any simpler really.

The days or years of multi-tasking are behind me. I don’t try to do many things at once. I focus on one thing at a time. So this means that if I am writing a short article like this one, that is all I do. I don’t allow distractions to get in the way because they break my thought pattern. If I stop to do something else, even for a minute when I get back to the writing I have lost the flow and I have to try and pick up from where I left off again. Some might argue that it would take just a few seconds or at worst a few minutes to get back in the flow but sometimes things are more complicated than that.

Creativity is not something to be taken for granted. Make the most of it when the inspiration comes your way. Doing one thing at a time is really a kind of specialisation if you think about it. For a certain amount of time you become a specialist in that one thing you are doing. You are no longer the generalist writing emails, checking your social media messages and updates, sending a message to a friend, trying to find something in your wallet. No, you are the specialist who stops everything else for that one moment in time.

So now with my articles I committed to at least one thousand words whenever I post something. Initially one thousand words seemed like a huge target but I realised that if I am really committed it is actually not much at all. On average it will not take me more than forty minutes to write one thousand words.

Whenever I get down to writing this is the minimum target in terms of words. Of course the idea is to not have fluff, just adding words so that I can make my target. That would be a real tragedy. I would like to take the reader of a short journey, to share my ideas and inspiration and hopefully by the time they finish reading, they feel much better than before. I want to write something that actually makes a lot of sense and flows nicely from the start to the end.

In the past it would take me forever to reach one thousand words in an article but now I do it one sitting. In fact I lie, it would be painful to try and reach just three hundred to four hundred words and now it feels easier doing one thousand words. How on earth does that work? I start typing and I keep typing until I feel that I have hit my word target. I use evernote for my articles, not the desktop application but the online one. I first post my articles on the web then transfer them to the blog later on. During the actual process of typing I do not focus on the word target itself but the ideas and thoughts that I am exploring. I believe that my time I am done with the exploration I should also have comfortably met my word target.

So back to my theme of doing one thing at a time, this is what works for me now. With the notifications on the phone removed, it means there is no stopping to check messages or social media. No, I will do that when I am doing with what I am doing. This habit on focussing on thing means I am able to really apply myself on anything that I am working with. When I am working with emails, because there are so many emails to deal with on any given day I need a clear mind, sense of purpose and the ability to work in a speedy and efficient manner.

What amazed me about this idea of doing one thing at a time is that it actually seems counter-intuitive. It is tempting to think that if you only do one thing at a time it will take your forever to get through everything but I think not. I won’t quote the scientific research done in this area because I do take that stuff with a pinch of salt (you see the research conclusions and findings are ever changing) , much as I love reading the research. I believe that if you are doing one thing at a time all your faculties are zoned in one thing. Everything in you is working on that one thing.  Imagine the rays of sunlight being focussed by a magnifying glass on a paper. Sooner or later, they burn a hole into the paper. That’s focus, applying all the energy to one thing even for a brief period.

So the idea is that when I am doing one thing at a time, I don’t actually worry about the amount of time that I will take. The focus is on excellence, doing the very best you can. Because what could be better than excellence. And the more you do something, the better you will get at it. I work from home so this idea of doing one thing at a time for me works reasonably well. I am not sure how it would work in an office-type environment where you have to constantly engage with other people. That might be a challenge.

When I moved this article to the blog I had done just over eight hundred words which was obviously short of the minimum one thousand words. however, within a few minutes I had already filled in the gap which felt really great. It is amazing how a high target if attempted often enough soon starts to feel really achievable.

Now what I love to do is if an approach works for me in one area of my life, I try and see how best it can be applied to other areas of my life. So as a chess player I find myself thinking of this one thing at a time, almost as one move at a time. When it is my turn to play, I focus on one move at a particular time. I can have many ideas in mind but I can only work on the merits of one move at a time. In any case that is all I can play at any given time. I cannot play more than one move. That would be clearly illegal.

How about focussing on one thing so much that other things start to become a blur. This could be driving, talking to someone, listening to someone, playing with your children. How much joy would we get from that? Just a thought I simple thought I leave you with, one thing at a time!

Past your best? Do your best right now!

Do your best and wait for the rest!

Some weeks ago I read a very interesting article which said certain mental activitites peaked  at the age of 22. (http://www.health24.com/news/Mind_Psychology/1-930,50108.asp) I follow science articles with great interest and every now and then I read a number that contradict previous ones as new information and knowledge comes to light.  Nothing is cast in stone!Some years ago I observed that chess players seemed to reach their peak around this age as well particularly the tactical players. (The tactical style in chess generally requires a great deal of calculating ability, imagination and speed.)  However, my observation was not supported by any scientific or objective criteria. I focussed on accomplishments of former World Chess Champions and noticed that around the age of 22 they seemed to accomplish a great deal more than compared to other ages.

After reading the article I asked myself a few questions, seeing as I am way past 22. 

– What does this mean for anyone whose best is behind them?

– Is there hope if your best is behind you?

I am sure that as we decline in some areas we improve in some areas. So while our calculating ability might deteriorate on the other hand we might improve in our ability to make sense of lots of data and focus on the bigger picture. So our strategic ability might improve as our tactical ability wanes. As individual I focus on my strengths and will try to target those areas or situation that bring them out or make the most of them.

If you are on the decline create new peaks in your life!  Do your best in your current situation.

There is always hope  even if your best is behind you. You might not be able to summon the strength and energy of yesterday but today you are equipped with the experience that only comes with the years. Today you can do things that you could not have dreamed of yesterday. We see this from sportsmen, artists, singers…they reinvent themselves, they find another niche, another area they excel in. If one thing, one area, one style, one genre does not work for them, they find another and adapt using all their experience.

At any stage of your life, you need to do the best that you can! Then wait for the rest!