Do Less to Accomplish More
by: Lynn Cutts
Multitasking – it’s how we do things these days. Five things at once. Why? Time crunch. Too much to do, so little time. We’re busy, busy, busy. Rush, rush, rush. Gotta be productive. Gotta get more done. Gotta go more places, have more things, see more people. We’re frantic, exhausted, and stressed. You know the scenario. I know it, too. Here are some recent examples.
I’m finishing the dinner dishes while starting a load of laundry, taking out the trash, setting up a lunch date with a friend on the phone, and baking super-chunk chocolate chip cookies. (We can’t forget the importance of chocolate in our daily lives!) End result: bits of tissue from an unchecked pocket all over the “clean” clothes, a spilled glass of milk, a lunch date mis-entered on the calendar, a sticky, stinky mess on the floor from dropping (and spilling) the trash, and two broken dishes. Oh, and I burn the cookies, too, and hurt my friend’s feelings by not paying attention to her. All in all, apologizing, cleaning up the mess, straightening out the confusion, and redoing the jobs I was trying to do all at once take more than twice as long (and create about twenty times the stress) as if I’d done things one at a time.
Or I’ll be putting laundry away while tidying house, having a yelled conversation with my daughter, and thinking about an article to write. End result: My daughter thinks I’m angry because I’m yelling, I can’t ever find the stuff I’ve put away (and two months later end up buying replacements, only to have the original turn up the next day), and half my clothes fall off the hangers and have to be picked up and rehung. Or even ironed, if I don’t catch them for a couple of days. Then I forget to write the article.
I’ve been known to (accidentally) leave my sunglasses in the refrigerator and my car keys in the bathroom sink because I was thinking of what I had to do next instead of paying attention to what I was doing at the time.
What I – and everyone else caught in this rush-rush trap – need to do is just slow down. Do one thing at a time and be fully present for it. We’ll end up saving time, money, and energy in the long run.
By slowing down, by concentrating on one thing at once, you’ll remember tomorrow what you did today. You’ll know where you put your car keys. You’ll remember that you bought a loaf of bread yesterday, and you don’t need to buy two more. You won’t burn your cookies and have to start from scratch. And in the long run, you’ll save time, money, and stress.
Now, we don’t need to swing too far the other way. My beloved husband, the official cookie maker in the family, will put a batch of cookies in and actually sit and watch them as they brown. Of course, he also watches paint dry and glue set. (Really!) And while what he does he does well, that extreme would drive me crazy. So I compromise. I do two things at once, or even three, but no longer four or five. I put the cookies in to bake, then settle in on a chair in front of the oven with a magazine (or a telephone) and keep those cookies company. Then I’ll sample one as soon as it’s out of the oven and cool enough to handle. That’s a reward I’ve been missing out on.
I’ve been too frantic, too busy, doing too many things at once to enjoy the fruits – or cookies – of my labors. I don’t get the satisfaction of a completed job, much less a job well done when I’m doing so many things at once that none of them are well done. So a vague sense of dissatisfaction builds up, along with the frantic stress that’s also a by-product. Between stress and dissatisfaction, I get the feeling I need to do more – when actually, that’s the cause of the problem. The answer may seem counterintuitive: I need to do less.
After a certain point, multitasking is no longer efficient. Sometimes (take cell phones and driving, for example), it can be downright dangerous. I’d like to challenge you to notice how much you really accomplish when you multitask. Are you saving enough time to be worth the stress and the worry? Or if you did one or two things at once, instead of four or five or six, would you end up with more energy and less stress, more satisfaction and less time expended?
It’s up to you – only you can escape from the rush-rush, multitask, be-more-productive trap that American society is caught up in. Only you can choose to do more by doing less all at once. The reward? Finding your car keys exactly where they are supposed to be and eating a perfectly baked chocolate chip cookie.
About The Author
Chocolate-loving Life Coach Lynn Cutts’ mission is to change the world for the better, one person at a time. At www.ManageYourMuse.com, she shares free tips, articles, games and newsletters to help you realize your dreams. Lynn offers one-on-one coaching, group coaching and self-guided programs to help you create your own boundless life. Lynn is certified by the Coaches Training Institute, and is a member of the International Coaches Federation.
NOTE: You are welcome to use this article online in electronic newsletters and e-zines as long as it remains complete and unaltered (including the “about the author” info). If use of this article is desired in print, you must first contact Lynn Cutts at Lynn@ManageYourMuse.com.
Copyright 2005 Lynn Cutts
This article was posted on March 26, 2005