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One thing at a time

Posted in Health

I open my eyes at 8 o’clock. That is about two hours past by usual wake up time. It serves me right for staying up late bingeing on Frankie and Grace.

I get up in a hurry, thinking of the long list of things I need to do and how behind my schedule I am. As I step out with the dogs in the foggy morning to retrieve the paper I realize I will have no time to dedicate to the Monday crossword puzzle, the only New York Times’ crossword puzzle I can muster, being the easiest (my delight at being able to tackle a crossword puzzle in English is still fairly new and I bask in it whenever I can).

When I sit down for breakfast I notice an e-mail alerting me this site is down. Great. Now I will have to spend the morning sorting out technical features and lingo I can’t even pretend to half understand. I am truly annoyed. I marinate the chicken I will be cooking for dinner. I take a shower, finish the laundry, vacuum and mop, call my heath insurance company, deal with a couple of other necessary phone calls and finally sit down at my desk with the intent of contacting my hosting platform to see what is up. Still in a pissy mood.

But. Unlike times gone by I didn’t launch myself into tackling the most annoying problem to the exclusion of the rest of my day. I stuck to dealing with what was most urgent and worked my way down. I was annoyed but not upset. I was able to frame what needed to be done within its proper context. I triaged instead of multi-tasking.

My m.o. has always been to handle as many things at once as I can. But, recently, I started to notice that I would start four things and not finish any of them, or I would retrace my steps so often that whatever time I thought I was saving was actually time drained.

After reading a scientific article that explained why our brains our not wired to multi-task and how they function much more efficiently if left to focus on one thing at a time, I forced myself to try this new approach. I really had to start small. Getting up from the breakfast table, instead of clearing half of the plates, then opening the dishwasher, then going back to ingest my daily vitamins, move on to smooth the sofa and then retread my actions back to the table, the dishwasher and the phone call I decided to engage in, I talk to myself: take the vitamins. Ok done. Now clear the table in its entirety and start the dishwasher. Done. Now you can move to the couch etc etc. Really small.

Eventually, I cast my net wider. I only keep one screen open at a time on my laptop. If I am writing, I banish the phone to another room. I don’t automatically answer the phone anymore just because it’s ringing. If I don’t get to the entire list, I don’t freak out. I have become really good at triaging. And, magically, I noticed my productivity going up. More things were getting done, with the added bonus that I don’t feel like I am losing my mind, as I am giving myself fewer opportunities to forget things.

The question is: have I gotten older and wiser? or am I just navigating the aging process in a more efficient manner?

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12 Comments

  1. Maybe both? Molto divertente comunque

    April 11, 2017
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  2. alison41
    alison41

    Great post. I recently started focusing on the most immediate task, and completing it, however large or small. I think the Multi-tasking approach has had its day.

    April 5, 2017
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    • I agree with you. By the way Alison, I cannot find your personal blog anymore. Your profile links to the shared blog – can you send me the link please?

      April 6, 2017
      |Reply
  3. silvia
    silvia

    You’ll never know how this is coming at the right time.
    Very worried about my productivity indicators.

    April 5, 2017
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    • Understandabe, given what you have been through. Give yourself a little time to recover and you will be back on top.

      April 6, 2017
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  4. Not older, definitely wiser. I wish I could master this as you do. I often try to multitask and end up feeling lost. I’m trying really hard to focus on one thing at a time, and I hope I get better at it with time. Well done!

    April 4, 2017
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    • I believe it’s an exquisitely female problem!

      April 4, 2017
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  5. It really is much better eating the elephant…one bite at time. Hope everything is resolved. ღ

    April 4, 2017
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    • Yes. Not as bad as anticipated. It was the hosting platform doing maintenance. It still required a video chat and the site was down for half the day.

      April 4, 2017
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  6. It’s funny that you should mention triage today, because just yesterday I realized that I had started to do the same thing, and I also used the word triage to myself, because that’s what it most reminded me of. My sister’s mother-in-law has a saying “touch everything only once” and it’s finally started to sink in that this is the best way for me to do things. After thirty years as a stage manager, I was used to multi-tasking and trying to do a little bit of everything all at once and it left me exhausted. Now I see things differently and it’s much more efficient. We can’t always control the way we have to function in a workplace that isn’t organized by us, but we can certainly do it our own way with everything else, and then try to influence the workplace too – one small step at a time…

    April 4, 2017
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    • I also worked in an environment where juggling multiple balls at the same time was required. Should I find myself in a similar environment again, I would try to apply my new found skills. Better late…

      April 4, 2017
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