Be the type of person whose values, priorities, and actions always agree with one another.
Why is it that over 50% of our new course students tell us they feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted in their personal and professional lives?
The answer may surprise you: It’s not the number of minutes they spend awake and working hard each day that’s the issue—it’s that they often spend 99% of those minutes juggling too many things at once.
- Do you check social media apps on your phone when you’re sitting in meetings, or when you’re spending time with family and friends?
- Do you eat lunch at your desk, or while you’re on the run?
- Is the TV often on in your home, even when you’re busy doing other things?
- Do you send the occasional text message while driving?
The biggest cost of doing multiple things at once like this (assuming you don’t crash from the texting and driving) is a gradual, long-term decline in your productivity and happiness. When you get in the habit of persistently dividing your attention, you’re partially engaged in every activity, but rarely focused on any one. And this dizzying lack of focus eventually trips you up and brings you down to your knees.
I learned this from firsthand experience. I used to be overwhelmed and burnt out almost every day. I felt like I was spinning in sixth gear 24/7, and yet I was making zero progress in my life (I was actually moving backwards). Things changed for me after I started blogging back in 2006, when I progressively noticed that I could get 2x to 3x more quality writing done when I focused without interruption for a set period of time and before taking a real break, away from my laptop. I’ve since applied this strategy to every relevant area of my life, and I challenge you to do the same…
FOCUS. FOCUS. FOCUS.
On one thing at a time.
Then give yourself a short break, and repeat.
Doing so will change your life!
No seriously, it WILL!
If you hold a magnifying glass over a small pile of dry leaves as the sun shines bright on the hottest afternoon of the whole year, NOTHING will happen…
…so long as you keep moving the magnifying glass quickly from one leaf to the next.
But as soon as you hold the magnifying glass still and FOCUS the sun’s rays on one single leaf, the whole pile of leaves will ignite into flames.
That’s the power of focusing on one thing at a time.
Your opportunity right now is to realize that you are the magnifying glass in your own life, and that you can intentionally focus the energy you get from the world on one single leaf at a time. When you do so, you will ignite incredible “flames” that move your projects, your dreams, your relationships and even the world around you, forward. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
Please leave a comment below and let us know:
What’s the ONE THING you are going to focus on next, after you close the window on this post?
(Reminder: If you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign-up for our free newsletter to receive new articles like this in your inbox each week.)
Photos by: Stephen Kraakmo and Dave Gough
Thank you for emailing me the link to this post today. Funny thing is I just finished the part of your course that had me build a 10-minute daily ritual with uninterrupted focus. So perfect timing!
Anyhow, the one thing I’m going to focus on is spending time with my daughter. I work from home and I’m a busy-brain – always trying to do four things at once. And I often see the inefficient side effects of doing so. So right now, it’s time to make the most of the time I have with one of the most important people in my life. 🙂
Laura, I’m glad the timing worked out so well. And I absolutely love your sentiment. Every single day I dedicate at least two full hours to QUALITY time with my son.
Thank you for this reminder! I find myself tumbling down the social media rabbit hole and losing my precious life moments. Today I will choose where to place my focus more wisely. In gratitude.
Megan Hoffer says
Thanks for the reminder….closing my email browser now…. ? lololol.
Jose Alvarez says
YES! Marc, as you said in one of your recent emails…
“Do one thing well, not ten things badly.”
Next up for me: Two hours of focused studying.
Sharon O'Banion says
Do one thing well, not ten things badly. Great Wisdom.
I have been feeling extremely overwhelmed, overworked and pushed for time in my professional and personal family life for sometime. I was in a bit of a panic yesterday night as I went to bed thinking to myself, something has got to give, tossing and turning wondering how I can change things for the better, wondering am I going to make it?
Then I saw your post and reading through it has helped me to put things back in perspective. Your posts are always on point, really keep me focused and truly help me on my journey to become a better version of myself. I have been following your blog since 2013. Such inspiring words of wisdom.
I’m going to focus on savoring my (second) cup of coffee this morning. 😉
I’m going to focus on the steps of my day rather than the entire day as a whole.
And as I do so, I’m going to practice self forgiveness during those times I may get caught up in the rush-rush-multitasking mentality of modern everyday.
I truly believe acceptance of ourselves when we may swerve our path is just as important as focusing on what we truly know to be best for us.
Sharon O'Banion says
I am a new course student. Before getting this email I was focusing on physically decluttering, my first course goal. I found in a short amount of time I was decluttering here and there…..now I am focusing one area.
Marc you are so correct: multi-tasking reduces productivity. I was in a high stress job for 20+ years. I had responsibilities pulling me every way. I was “demoted”. I had far less responsibilities and one central focus. I rocked! Making the business the most financially stable it had been in years.
Multi-tasking in our personal lives gets us no where. Thank you so much for this great blog.
(assuming you don’t crash from the texting and driving)
Sorry, but as someone who is fervently against the dangers of distracted driving, this makes light of the situation. Non-motorist deaths on the RISE in the U.S. because of cell phones and distracted driving. It should be – assuming you don’t crash into another person and kill THEM because you overvalue your own importance.
We all are probably against drunk driving and wouldn’t make jokes about drunk drivers crashing. So, I don’t think it is okay to take texting and driving so lightly. It should be U.S. national law that texting and driving is illegal. It’s deadly!
As someone who chooses to not drive a car on a daily basis, my life is constantly threatened by people messing with their phones, instead of driving.
I enjoy the work you do with this site, but please, please don’t make it about their own safety, it should be about the safety of everyone else who you choose to endanger by deciding a text is more important that proper operation of a deadly machine. Thank you.
You are so right about that. I am sure that the attempt to be funny was ill thought out, but with no malice intended. These guys revere life, in every way.
Thank you for this important and timely reminder. I have been trying to focus on one person/task at a time both at home and at work, although work can be challenging as I work in a law office and sometimes am interrupted for meetings and phone calls which I have to take. I spent many years being a multi-tasker and can see now that it didn’t serve me well, though I thought I was doing great at the time. Now I need to remember that it’s progress, not perfection – and focus, focus, focus.
Love love love this article
One day at a time sweet Jesus is all i am asking of you, was what my mum wanted played at her funeral, to teach us something,
be more intentional, i observed someone at work who never rushed, never did things erratically and her work was far more superior than anyone else, everyone admired her standard and people like that bring a sense of calm, thanks again guys for bring us top quality advice
Lynn Fabia says
Marc, I teach Aikido and the principle of doing only one thing at a time stands true. We practice having four students coming towards us fairly fast and with strikes and grabs. I tell them you can only deal with one opponent at a time.and it works. When you become scattered trying to multi-task, all four of them are on you. So as the attacks are coming, you don’t go toward the opponent, you find the spaces between them. In those spaces are the time for yourself and your family. Thank you for this timeless reminder.
I so needed to hear this today. And it’s not just this one time that this has happened. Your emails have had this perfect timing time and again. And the fact that each email is as relatable as the previous one has always kept me coming back for more.
I subscribed to the mailing list in 2014, in the darkest period of my life and I am very glad to say your words have been really, truly, incredibly life changing. Your blog is the one I have subscribed for the longest time.
Thank you so much for all the love and wisdom that you put out into the world.
My best wishes to you. ??
Thank you for emailing me ..I’m ready to challenge myself about being focused
Another point for developing and cultivating a daily meditation practice.
Tomorrow I will focus on a relationship change. I am distracted by documents. I will deal with each, one by one until all are finished. Then, I will file them and walk away with a clear mind and heart.
Khadim Dieng says
Very very interesting, beautiful writing. <3
Great article Marc. A powerful message in lives which are increasingly dictated by distraction. Love the leaf analogy!
Kevin Flannery says
This was exactly what I needed to hear ! Put so profound yet simple. I think
Sometimes that is exactly why I’m tired, my mind never stops. One thing at a time is easier said then done but I’m on it !!
Kevin Flannery says
Great article! I love this concept of one thing. At a time. Highly missed as a simple enhancement to owning your life ! You’re article has inspired me !