“The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at a time.” – Richard Cecil
I’m very lucky to have a job that I love. Working with clients, teaching classes, speaking for industry groups, and traveling to some beautiful parts of our country. But as the saying goes, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing.
Because of my hip surgery in May, I had to take 6 weeks off to recover – which meant no travel. That led to booking a lot of work in the last few months of the year. It also meant visiting a lot of cities in a brief period of time. So, my schedule since the week after Labor Day was a little bit challenging:
Home to Omaha to home to Chicago to Washington DC to home to Atlanta to Des Moines to home to Chicago to home to Wisconsin to South Dakota to home to Philadelphia to home to Lake Ozark, MO to home to Rhode Island to Chicago to home to Des Moines to home to New York to Connecticut to home to Chicago to New York to home (snowstorm drive) to Wisconsin to home to Cape Cod (Thanksgiving break) to home to Washington DC to Des Moines to home to Omaha to Charlotte to home to Albany NY and back to home.
Another way to look at the last few months is by the numbers:
- 14 weeks
- 15 cities (several more than once)
- 13 presentations to over 500 people at 7 different events
- 45 flights
- 2,000 miles of driving
In the midst of all that travel were several client engagements reviewing operations, writing reports and recommendations, and preparing proposals for prospects. Plus writing this blog, The Berkshire Company blog, and even being a guest on the Postal Hub podcast.
Looking back, it seems crazier in writing than it felt while doing the work, speaking and travel. There were a few moments of concern, when the amount of work to be completed and the amount of time needed to do the work, seemed to conflict with the time available. But I have a wonderful team supporting me, and together we were successful.
An important key to our success – to focus on one problem at a time.
A harmful myth about productivity is the idea of multitasking – doing several things at once. Neuroscientists have proven that we can’t multitask, as the brain handles one thought at a time. We can shift from one idea to another quickly, but that’s not the most efficient way to accomplish anything that requires concentration.
A better approach is to start with a list of our challenges, and then break that list down into tasks. Next prioritize the tasks, delegate whatever can be done by someone else and put together a schedule.
Dedicate more time than you think you’ll need to accomplish any one thing. Two reasons – first, the unexpected will happen, forcing you to change the schedule; and second, if you finish earlier than expected, you’ll gain a few moments to relax. Remember – don’t forget to schedule some downtime.
We’re capable of accomplishing more than we think. To be successful, we have to understand the work in front of us and the resources available. The most valuable resource is our time, which we must allocate wisely – taking on one challenge at a time.