One thing at a time – Notes from a Success Coach

One thing at a time – Notes from a Success Coach

Guest Blog by Karen Graham of Panacea Canada

Do one thing at a time


One thing at a time. One of the most exhausting and least effective approaches to, well, pretty much anything, is multitasking. Once hailed as the best way to navigate challenging workloads, days, projects and roles, multitasking is now seen as a poor choice.

It’s tempting to try to do many things at once. We are barraged by information, demands for our attention, and an infinite variety of ways to waste our time and energy. Trying to stay on top of the inflow of information is, as the wonderful Martha Beck once pointed out, like trying to take a delicate sip of water from a fire hose.

I believe that multitasking leads to mediocrity. It’s just not possible to do many things well, all at the same time. Not only does multi-tasking tire us out, it leads to errors and incomplete work. Multitasking drains our energy and leads to frustration, either in the moment or after the fact, when a poorly executed task comes back to bite us.

Single-pointed awareness on the other hand is relaxing and energizing. It feels wonderful to accomplish something, knowing that by giving it your full attention, you did your very best.

Perhaps the best example of the benefits of single-pointed awareness is meditation. This practice strengthens our ability to stay fully present and enhances our ability to focus. Meditation has been shown to have myriad benefits and a daily practice can enhance your health in body, mind and spirit. In a way, meditation “grows your brain” by re-wiring pathways that help you to think clearly, sustain focus and feel good.

How to move away from multi-tasking?

Try carving out islands in your day that allow you to focus on one thing at a time. This means literally and figuratively shutting off all distractions. Turn off various message alerts and close your door. If you don’t have the luxury of a door, take your work and your focus to a location where you can’t be disturbed like a library, conference room, coffee shop … you get the idea.

Focus on creative work at the start of your day, before the barrage can take you off track. Consider creating blocks of time for dealing with messages – for most people it’s best to schedule these blocks when you are not usually operating at maximum capacity. In other words, save your peak performance times for significant tasks.

If you feel panic about not responding to messages as they arrive, take a look at this. Perhaps you are operating on adrenaline and overwhelm – unsustainable fuels that harm your inner and outer environments.

Support a focused awareness approach by having only one thing in front of you at a time. Clear all of those files off your physical and virtual desktops so that the only thing in front of you is the task you need to attend to in this moment. A favourite client of mine described her distraction-prone environment with this: “Oh look…. string!”

Something I notice when I am being effective as a facilitator, coach or counsellor is that I am fully engaged and focused in the moment. When I feel energized, relaxed and grounded after working with a client I can be pretty sure that I have done my best.

I also feel deeply grateful for the chance to do this work.

A great piece on how to train your brain to stay focused:

This month, practice one thing at a time:

  • Remove distractions from your environment
  • Do creative work, or work that needs your undivided attention, at the start of your day before all the things that compete for your attention crowd into your awareness
  • Consciously pause throughout the day and bring your focus back to what’s right in front of you
  • Practice meditating for a few minutes each day
Rest Here - Do One thing at a Time
Karen Graham - author of Doing One Thing at a Time

Panacea Canada – Complexity to Clarity

Panacea Canada has been a catalyst for client success across Canada since 1993. They have worked with hundreds of organizations and individuals to support their quests for clarity in the midst of complexity. Serenity Vista supports and recommends Karen Graham. Follow her Blog, Evolving You.

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