I have discovered the secret to your highest quality productivity. If you’re reading this then this one thing is guaranteed to affect your life. It makes your contribution to any project 100% easier, less stressful, and exponentially improves the final result.
Racing thoughts erode our productivity as each thought demands our attention in such rapid succession that we are unable to make progress on anything.
The solution is to focus on one thought at a time. It sounds simple, but it is actually quite challenging and the key to reaching your peak productivity.
The truth is, most of us are attempting to carry an unmanageable amount in our heads. On top of that, stress causes everything to take longer than it should and often impact our end results. There are so many responsibilities and emotions spinning through us that we become unbalanced, fragile; even tiny setbacks can overwhelm us.
Creativity and growth are impossible under these conditions because there’s simply no room for them. As a result, our stressful, repetitive thought loops continue to expand.
I know that sounds stressful and hopeless. It’s an uncomfortable way to live. Honestly that’s been most of my life. But I learned something recently that has helped me get to one thought.
One thought, one moment
The difficulty in getting to one thought is about prioritizing. Which thought is most important? How do I choose and what if I choose wrong? This anxiety keeps our rapid thought loops spinning. That’s why one thought at a time is such a powerful stress reliever. It is immediately relaxing when you can do it and improves the quality and enjoyment of everything you do.
There are five steps that anyone can use to get to one thought. This information is adapted from ideas presented in David Allen’s Getting Things Done© course, which ADHD GO is not affiliated with.
You might feel like you know everything that’s going on, but until you put effort, it can’t be resolved. Like looking at a bookshelf versus taking a book down to read. We need to engage with our thoughts to get them off our mind. Let’s look at the five steps.
Pay attention to what has your attention
First, you need to identify all the things that are tugging at your attention.
Capture it by writing down all of the big thoughts that are dominating your mind. Everything you currently feel responsible for. This will take an hour or more for most people.
You need a reliable place to record these thoughts. Not in your head. “Your head is for having ideas, not for holding them,” Allen says. Use an external tool like a notepad, whiteboard, or app.
What do these thoughts mean to me?
Determine what sort of attention each thing demands in order to resolve it. You have a list of big thoughts. Look at each one and ask “Is this actionable?” Is it something you need to do something about with actions you take? After all, these broad ideas or projects are really just collections of actions.
What is the next action?
If the next action can be done in 2 minutes or less, then do it now. It would take longer to put it away and remember to resume the task than to complete the task now.
If the action will take more than 2 minutes, then delegate. Are you the best one to do this? Is there someone else who could handle this right now?
If you can’t do it quickly now or delegate it, then defer it. That means put it on your calendar for an appropriate time.
Do it, delegate it, or defer it.
Put everything where it belongs. Both the tasks themselves and the resources you will need to do them.
There are two kinds of tasks; those with specific times and those that need to be done as soon as possible. Use your calendar to organize tasks with specific times, like appointments, but most of your actions will fall into the other category. These are the tasks which will fall in and around your calendar events.
Make context based lists for next actions. For example,a list of things to do at the computer, in the yard, on the phone, around the home, for your social life, etc. This way you’ll be able to more easily divide your time and ensure that each area of your life gets the right amount of attention.
Review what these individual tasks mean in terms of the bigger picture. Do these tasks relate to your values and get you closer to your ultimate goals? Which are most important? This allows you to discard tasks that waste your time and put more focus into the ones that will create the greatest improvements in your life.
Schedule a recurring time to review the things that will need your attention at least once a week.
This will allow you to do the most important things without the anxiety that you’re forgotting something.
Now that you can see your priorities more clearly, you can decide what needs to be done without second-guessing your decision. Where do I need to focus and put my attention now?
Of course, you won’t always choose the right tasks. Even after determining your highest priority and focusing on it, you might still execute the task poorly. However, you will do it with less stress and greater intention than if you had begun your work without any mental preparation.
You can start this process right now, but keep in mind that these changes won’t come easily. It could take years to arrive at the point when you are able to automatically screen mental noise and focus on one thought at a time.
The important thing is to start this process in order to begin finishing projects and resolving some of your loops. Prioritization is about what’s on your mind. Once you can get the short-term stuff taken care of, then you can apply these techniques to your pursuit of self-actualization.
The biggest obstacle to getting things under control and getting things done is our own addiction to stress.
Don’t work on everything at once. If you constantly are thinking about a dozen projects, then everything will feel like an interruption. That’s a very aggravating way to live. Start small. Choose one or two habits to change that will affect everything else.
Set the weekly review on your calendar and continue to reflect on the steps listed above. Start with the first step. Or simply remind yourself, “One though, one moment.” When you recognize you’ve been swept up in a tornado of thoughts and tasks simply take a breath, and get back on track. No matter how many times you screw up, you will never go back to square one.