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Have We Been Sold a Lie About Multi-Tasking?

03/06/2015 14:33 BST | Updated 01/06/2016 10:59 BST

Like any working mum, I spend my life multi-tasking and sometimes my brain feels like it will explode, or possibly just melt.

And of course, I was multi-tasking as I sat down to read The One Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papsan (read book, fetch daughter juice, read book, feed cats, read book, cook dinner, read book, reply emails and so on).

The book opens with a Russian quote 'If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one' and the authors move you towards not thinking about getting more done, but in fact doing less. Ignoring the issue that I am often chasing around twenty rabbits, I carried on reading.

The real question we have to ask ourselves is 'What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will become easier or unnecessary.' They say knocking out a few hundred tasks for whatever reason is a poor substitute for doing even one task that is meaningful. Being busy, they stress, is not the same as being successful.

We all familiar with the Pareto Principle, that 80% of our output is achieved with 20% of our input. The authors take this even further, saying take the 20% and apply the Pareto principle again and again, until you are left with just One Thing on your to-do list, whether that is a to-do list for your home and spiritual life, or your work and business life.

This, they say, is the task you should be doing. And once you've worked out your one thing, you must 'time block' it - put it on your schedule and protect that time.

The book also addresses the 'lies' we have been sold as a society. These are namely that multitasking is good, successful people are naturally disciplined, willpower is always on call, we all should strive for balanced lives.

The authors say to the contrary, multitasking doesn't work as it divides up focus and dumbs down all outcomes, successful people are not born 'disciplined', they have just trained a few positive habits into their lives, willpower wears down over a day so if you want to get the most out of your day, you need to do your 'One Thing' in the morning. They also state that balance is a question of priority and if you act on your one thing, striving towards your goal, your life may go out of balance. But hey, that's ok.

So how do you find your one thing?

According to the authors, you need to answer the question we are all asking ourselves anyway, but break it down into three parts.

Part one 'What's the one thing I can do.....' (pushing you to pull out one important task from your bulging to-do list)

Part two 'Such that by doing it....' (the task you select must lead to positive outcomes)

Part three 'Everything else will be easier or unneccessary' (to give you the assurance that if you do this one thing, you will move forward)

And then, to make it even more specific, reframe this question with a time period, for instance, this year, this month, this week, today.....

It's a simple concept but one which lingers in the mind and I found myself pondering, if my 5 year goal is to make my company, Profiler Media, the leading firm for webdesign and profile building for talented and high profile individuals, then I need to ask 'What is the ONE thing I can do in the next five years to make Profiler Media the UK's leading firm for web-design and profile-building for talented and high profile individuals?'

And I ask the same question but adjusting the timeframe for this year, this month, this week and the right now. Until the fog clears, the to-do list seems irrelevant and I can see the path forward.

Hmm, I am not 100 per cent certain that writing this blog post is in fact the One Thing I could do right now to make this vision come true. Picking up the phone and talking to potential new clients might be a better idea. I'll do that right now. Damn, I'm multi-tasking again.