I’m just like you — just like every entrepreneur I know. I have a million ideas and I want to do them ALL right away!
But I learned an important and enlightening lesson last year that I’d like to share with you. By focusing all my attention, energy, time and resources on one big project, I increased my income (even during a recession), and more importantly I was happier and more relaxed.
I was shocked! Even though experts had been telling me for years to focus on just one thing, I didn’t want to give up my freedom and creativity. I liked having multiple projects to work on. It made me feel vibrant and alive. But it also made me feel unproductive, cranky, overwhelmed, and a nervous wreck. And guilty because I was having a hard time completing just one of those projects to my satisfaction. Hmmmm.
Imagine you are driving down a busy highway at rush hour. Now imagine that there are three other people in the car with you, all trying to have a conversation with you. Now your cell phone rings. In between all this talking, ideas pop into your head so you pull out your mobile device to type in some text notes.
Crazy, right? You’ll have a car accident any minute now. Yet that’s exactly what you’re doing to your business when you try to focus on multiple projects or multiple goals simultaneously.
In the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield said, “There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once — but there is not time enough in the year if you will do two things at a time.”
Doing more than one thing at once doesn’t get more done and doesn’t make you more efficient. Recent studies by several research teams prove this point.
According to researchers at the University of Michigan, when you toggle between multiple tasks or multiple projects, you are using what’s known as the “executive control” process. This mental CEO has to choose priorities and allocate thinking/creativity resources. The more you switch between tasks, the longer it takes to re-focus attention and resources.
David E. Meyer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Michigan said in a recent New York Times article, “Multitasking is going to slow you down, increasing the chances of mistakes.” When it comes to your business, mistakes will cost you. Can you afford to lose time or money?
On a practical level, working on multiple projects simultaneously made me feel scattered, out-of-control, and diffused my intellectual and creative abilities. When I slowed down and focused on one major project for a full two months I felt more in control, much more relaxed, my confidence soared, and I was able to get the project completed a full four weeks ahead of schedule. It was as if I had been released from a multi-tasking prison of my own making. Talk about freedom!
Choose One, Master It, Move On
In his book, “Getting Things Done,” David Allen suggests you create a list of “Areas of Focus.” Start by looking at the areas you manage in your business (you can create a separate list for your personal life). In business you may have these areas: marketing, customer contact, product/service development, operations/administration, long-range planning, etc.
Next, list all your possible projects in each of these areas. Once you have your full projects list, look them over and ask yourself:
- Which project will most likely lead me towards my large business goals?
- Which project will lead me in the direction I want to take for my business?
- Which project am I ready to tackle now?
- Which project inspires me?
- Which project scares me?
Then choose one project that will have the biggest impact on the success of your business. If it scares you, ask yourself why. Figure out where you’ll need some help or some education in order to complete that project.
In speaking with some of my mastermind group members about this subject last week, they reminded me that you don’t have to focus on one thing for an entire year. Try it for three months or six months, and see what results you are getting, both financial and emotional.
Once you complete a project or master a new skill, then you can move on to the next one on your list. In this way, you can have BOTH things in your life: a successful business and getting multiple things done in one year.
First, choose one project. Finish it. Then move on to the next.
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Category: Business Strategy & Planning
Tags: time management