As we start Week 3 of our Simplify Your Life Challenge, the instruction for this week is to “Do one thing at a time.”
This week, youâ€™ll focus on trying to remember to do one thing at a time. And also, see if you can move towards having one project or goal focus at a time.
Let’s talk about each of those, one at a time.
Single-Tasking in Work & Elsewhere
Whether you’re working or just going about your everyday life, single-tasking is a practice that can simplify anything:
- Writing is best done without distractions
- If you’re cleaning your home, being fully present with each task can be a beautiful meditation
- If you have a dozen browser tabs open, focusing on one at a time and taking care of the reading or the task in each tab can be a great way to clear out the pending todos in your browser
- If you are talking with someone, being fully present and doing nothing but giving them your attention is a gift
- If you are walking, just walk â€” you’ll notice more, be less distracted and more present
- If you are exercising, just do the exercise, don’t be on your phone â€” you’ll find that the exercise can be another kind of meditation
There are two issues to address with single-tasking:
- Remembering to do it. Single-tasking is a very different habit than most of us currently have. We have the habit of switching. It’s hard to remember to do one thing at a time, all day long. The answer, of course, is to have multiple reminders â€” and I highly recommend it. Put a reminder on your phone, on your lockscreen. Put notes around your home and workspace (think of them as love notes!). Use a calendar reminder. Ask people around you to remind you.
- Dealing with the urge to go to distractions or switch. When you are in the middle of doing something, you’ll usually get an urge to switch tasks or run to distractions. If you become mindful of the urge, you’ll learn that it’s not a command â€” it’s just a sensation in your body. In fact, you can notice it and give it some attention, even love, but learn that it’s not a big deal. Practice with this and see!
Don’t worry about perfection. You don’t have to remember every moment of the day to do one thing at a time. Just practice it as often as you can remember. And see what it’s like.
Single Goal & Projects
For many people, having just one goal or working on one project at a time are unrealistic … but you don’t have to actually achieve this to work towards this.
For example, if you currently have 6 projects going, you might consider:
- Putting two projects on hold for now, so you can focus on the most important or urgent projects.
- Getting out of one or two projects.
- If after doing those things, you have two projects left, you might focus on one at a time for 3-4 days at a time, if possible.
In this way, we can narrow our focus and simplify what we’re doing. Of course, it’s not always possible, but it is something to consider.
If you do have the ability to simplify in this way, here’s what you might try:
- Make a list of all of your goals for this year. Pick the most important two or three. Focus on one of the goals next month, then another the month after, and so on. This allows you to be more focused on each goal, as you give each one your full focus.
- Put some of your goals on hold. Yes, it’s painful to let go of goals that seem really important, but it’s also painful to have too much on your plate and be overloaded, not able to meet your commitments, letting yourself and others down, overwhelmed and stressed. So let go. Put some on hold for now, and let yourself focus on just a small number of goals (possibly just one) for the time being.
- Make a list of your current projects. Maybe one list for work and another for personal projects. Do they feel like too many? Can you cut some out or put them on hold for now, to simplify? How many of them align with your short list of what’s most important to you, that you made in Week 1?
- Try doing just one project at a time, if possible. It’s not like you’re going to delete the other projects, but rather put them into maintenance mode while you put all your focus and energy into one project. If that’s not possible, how about focusing on a subset of that project that only takes a week, or a few days, or even one day? I think of this as a “mini-project.” Then focus on another mini-project after that, and so on. This keeps your focus on one thing at a time, and simplifies your life a bit.
There’s no right answer here â€” it’s something to play with. Give yourself permission to play with this for Week 3.