Doing Just One Thing Makes You Better At Everything

Posted on August 2, 2018


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Right Now with Nick Smith (Linkedin/Twitter)

What I’m reading: It’s the new fiscal year! What am I NOT reading? But, mostly social media analytics and insights about social media analytics.

What I’m watching: I’m really into this Bon Appetit series where a pastry chef sciences out ways to make gourmet versions of guilty pleasures, she’s amazing: Twinkies | Cheetos | Gushers

What I’m listening to:  I’ve recently begun correcting a punk rock knowledge gap of mine by going through NOFX’s back catalog.


Okay, so let’s get two things out of the way right off the top:

One, you probably got clickbaited and I’m #sorrynotsorry. And two, there is no “one thing” you can do to make you better at everything. It’s a pun — and for that I am deeply sorry.

What I meant is that doing just one thing at a time is going to save your life by saving you time.

I’ve been giving this talk about timesaving social media tools and tricks for the past couple years, and a lot of the information – as you probably expect – is specific to social media. But of the things I preach, single-tasking is nearly universal, and is uniquely transformational.

I always preface it by asking if you’ve ever gone to work and worked all day and not gotten anything at all accomplished. Why? Because we all have.¹

The cure to that feeling is single-tasking.

You see, multitasking is a beautiful lie. You can’t do it. Try it the next time you’re running late for work, and wash your face while you brush your teeth and see how much time you save.

Or when you need to get dressed in the middle of the night because a pipe burst and your ground floor is flooding, here’s what I want you to do: put your pants on part of the way, then stop, get your shirt, put it on part of the way, go back and finish your pants and one sock and shoe … you get the point. I hope you get the point.

A great way to ease your way into this is the Pomodoro Technique, which is something that I use quite a bit. Essentially, you pick one thing and do it and only it for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Four of those is a pomodoro, which earns you a longer break of ~25 minutes, which I use to answer emails, eat, whatever, and then three pomodori is what you call a VERY solid day at work.

I use a free app called FocusKeeper. Heck, I’m literally using it right now.

And before you start to get sore about “Well what about meetings,” or “I’m a first responder and you’re naive,” I realize that it’s not a panacea, nor is it perfect for every person or every minute of the day. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I had an entire week’s worth of gran pomodori without any external interruptions or internal distractions. Some days just don’t work out. That’s life.

But there are ways of mitigating distractions. And that’s why it’s just 12 sets of 25 minutes. That’s only 5 hours of actual work time. If you can pull 5 hours out of an 8 hour day to dedicate to this system, that’s phenomenal. If you can’t, you can’t, and as long as you did as many as you could, that’s great, too, because it’s better than aimlessly flailing.

Truly, the constant presence of distractions just makes my point for me: any time in your day you can control, you absolutely must, and single-tasking can make you feel superhuman by allowing you to utilize your full focus to solve complex problems. Enjoy this very relateable, very illustrative comic:

Image result for programming interruption comic

I guess my challenge to you is just to try it. Turn off the notifications on your phone, close your door, and just do one thing for 25 minutes. After one, evaluate. I’d bet you feel good about it.

At any rate, if you want to hear more timesaving social media tips and tricks, I’m going to be hosting a webinar next Friday for ArchiveSocial where you can cop some of the other insights I’ve gleaned over the past couple years of being a professional communicator. Or ping me on Twitter if you want to talk about the Pomodoro Technique, because it is a fantastic ideal that I’d love to discuss in more detail. Or Bon Appetit. Or NOFX. Or whatever else. I’ll probably reply in about 25 minutes.


¹Especially me. Sorry, Amy.

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