Back to the Essentials

Last week when I read The No. 1 Time Management Mistake Capable People Make I was excited for half a day.  

Greg McKeown suggests that instead of multi-tasking madly, we should focus on fewer things so that we can succeed. 

His argument is that we became successful in our jobs because we focused on a few things, not multiple priorities. To stay successful, we should pair back on the multi-tasking and center our focus on one thing / one task at a time.

His advice is simple:

  1. Write down 6 priorities
  2. Scratch off 5
  3. Focus on the one.  Stay with that until you have completed it.
  4. If you’re good, you may get to another item on your list. %)

I whipped out my yellow notepad and listed my top priorities.  I scratched off the lowest 5 listed and started to focus.

In the background my email starting to bing like popcorn.  One here, one there.  I ignored the noise and kept soldiering on my Communication Plan.  Today – the Communication Plan was my One Priority.

My phone started playing my ring tone.  I let it go to voice mail.

And throughout it my email continued to bing.

I relented and glanced at an email that demanded an urgent response.  And then I saw another…

After a couple of hours I noticed two things:

  1. Staying with one task until I finish it is impossible in my job.  I juggle multiple projects and each has its own cycle, issues and fires that need to be fought as if it were the only thing on my plate or one of my stakeholders is going to start screaming. And I’m not even taking the meetings into account.
  2. Attempting to focus on my one thing was helpful, because it gave me something to anchor my day around.  Before my staking my day around the One Priority, I would bounce from one thing to another and I’d feel scattered and worn out at 5pm.  At least with my One Priority, I have a tether that pulls me back to center so that I complete that task by the end of the day.

So while I cannot live with just one priority throughout the day, I can live with a modified priority list.  Using the One Priority as an anchor, I am able to get through my day with some level of clarity and I close on one thing for that day.

This may be my own form of minimalism or I could be kidding myself.  How do you juggle multiple priorities?  Leave a comment, send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.

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