The One Thing at a Time Mantra by Tony Schwartz


A well-written piece on time management and the evils of multi-tasking has been making the rounds online and through various social network channels, in particular nearly every group you belong to on LinkedIn. It’s called “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time” by Tony Schwartz of The Energy Project.

If you’ve read this far before clicking to something else, you’ve got a pretty good sense of what this is about. As Schwartz points out, technology has turned us into a bunch of hyper-wired, multi-tasking mutants who check email during meetings, eat meals over our laptops and text while driving (even though we know we shouldn’t) . The ability to be connected all the time has eliminated “stopping points, finish lines and boundaries…..Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive.”

A popular fix for this, also making those weekly LinkedIn tips, is to do your work in 60- to 90-minute increments. The theory goes that we are only able to focus that long on any one project anyway, so to maximize production we should disconnect from all intrusions (both real, like someone at your door and imagined, like you have a more interesting email somewhere). I’ve personally been practicing this one and have seen some improvement not only in a sense of finishing something but also in less time spent with my chiropractor, who was preaching the “get up and move around” every hour theory long before Facebook came on the scene and became my preferred mid-morning and late-afternoon snack, eliminating even getting up and heading to the refrigerator for this long-time self-employed freelancer.

A quick glance at the most recent comments on the “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time” piece shows a bit of a corporate backlash against some of Schwartz’s tips, like doing the most important thing on your list first thing in the morning and establishing regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically. Apparently bosses get in the way of this. Another tip is to take real and regular vacations. Probably somewhat easier when that’s a paid perk, something I’ve experienced a total of once since 1989.

But whether we’re able to sit cross-legged on the home office floor and be one with our creative and strategic thinking or have to take a paid personal day every now and then to achieve — for now, the writing of pieces like the one by Tony Schwartz is on the wall. The hyper-connected workforce, both independent and otherwise drawing a paycheck must begin to establish the habit of doing one thing at a time in incremental blocks of time. Or else….

Source: Harvard Business Review: “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time,” by Tony Schwartz.

Kathy Drasky
Kathy Drasky regularly writes about online culture. Her marketing and communications work with the ANZA Technology Network, Advance Global Australians and with various Australians and Australian enterprises has led to at least a dozen trips Down Under.

An accomplished digital photographer, her photos have appeared in 7x7 Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle and Google Schmap.
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