One Thing at a Time | 2204

This is by no means a world shattering observation. But have over 50 things on my list of things to do means that I’m not finishing anything.

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One Thing at a Time

Continuing my train of thought from last week, I’ve been thinking about how I go about getting the things I’d like to do – done. My current strategies just aren’t working. 

This is a thread I’ve been pulling on for months now. Do the Things That Need Doing and Dealing With Procrastination in November. The Urgent Anxiety of December and January’s Fear of Finding Out.

In fact, I can follow this thread all the way back to Episode 18-24. Where the first point for this episode is taken from. 

In 2018 I said:

Multitasking is largely misunderstood by everyone. Multitasking is holding a conversation whilst juggling, or walking along the road whilst speaking to a friend.
Multitasking can *only* occur when one of the behaviours you are β€˜tasking on’ is so automatic that you can just leave it to run whilst you do something else.
What most people call multitasking, especially in a workplace context (or whenever we are in front of a computer screen to be honest) is actually task switching. Moving between singular tasks rapidly.


Over the last few years I’ve gotten pretty good at attending to the task at hand. Doing the things that really need to get done, on a deadline etc.

My simple strategy has been to simply fullscreen the application that I’m work in. 

Sounds silly, but if I’m writing, I’ll maximise the window to fill the workspace. No clicking away to check the chat, no sneaking a peak at the web, no exceptions. Do the thing until it’s done. 

Now, this is all very well. But my current multitasking problem begins further up. The problem lies on a higher plane of abstraction, away from the here and now.

Including my ambitions for this year that I mentioned last week, I have 27 things on my ideas list in Notion. A further 15 things are sitting on β€˜the bench’ started, and put down. Plus a whole host of other bits and bobs.

I went through my Notion and Google Drive earlier this month. I Archived anything that was both unfinished and pre-2020. Which still means as we close out Jan 2022 I have 50+ ideas swirling around. 

I mean, I DID get organised as I promised myself way back in Episode 20-18. However the problem is that I haven’t finished anything. Having 50 creative projects on the list of things to do results in a different sort of multitasking problem. It is a question of energy and where I’m putting it.

These ideas aren’t taking up mental energy as all the productivity books imply. I’m the sort of person who immediately forgets something once it’s written down. AND someone who immediately forgets something if it isn’t written down.

The latter behaviour is solved by the former. The difference between the two is that if something is written down it exists. I can manage, process and act on it. If I’m expected to remember something, well .. forget it.

I use Todoist to manage my day to day. In the app I have a daily recurring task called β€˜Push Things Forward’. I only tick it off if I’ve done either of the following things during the day. Write 300 new words or spent 20 minutes editing/noodling on something I’ve already drafted.

In order to qualify, the effort has to be in addition to all the things I had scheduled to do that day. Hence the task’s name: Push Things Forward.

The problem is – he says. And this is by no means a world shattering observation. Noodling on 15 things and having a further 27 things I could start on means that I’m not finishing anything. My behaviour is literally the lady sweeping the sea meme. I’m not making any significant progress in any direction at all.

300 words here, a new paragraph or sentence re-written there – is a total waste of my time.

I recently watched a video by someone who made a video game prototype in 30days. You know what? He did it. A huge achievement. During his lessons learned, one of the things he said was β€˜I’m glad I dedicated the whole month to it. If I’d been working on this once a week for 30 weeks I would have lost interest.

Some of the best creative experiences I’ve ever had have been when I’ve been working on something and it’s become a singular pin hole of focus. Not a Csikszentmihalyi flow state. But a pinhole, and I’ve been the pin. There’s nothing else to be done except stay in the pin hole, stay with the idea, and the energy. You have to ride it for as long as possible. It means staying up late and getting/ up early, skipping breakfast to get back to work. 

I know personally, that state only arrives once I’ve pushed past the initial stage. When I would usually put it down and lose interest. The pinhole arrives when I can visualise and sense the idea in its entirety. 

I’m not saying that everything I’d like to do this year will become a manically intense experience. But to maximise my chances of it happening I’ve decided that I’m only going to do one thing at a time.

For the rest of the year at the beginning of each month, I’m going to look at the ideas pile, pick one or two things on the list. Then work on them to completion, to the exclusion of everything else that would usually butterfly my attention away

I’m going to full screen the things that need doing, and then do them, one at a time.


The script above is the original script written for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in the edit.

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2 responses to “One Thing at a Time | 2204”

  1. […] of the things I did reflect on for a while were all the failed and abortive attempts at getting my shit together. You know, doing all the things that need to be done to resolve wider issues. These routes one […]

  2. […] years ago I made an identical show to the one I made today – pulling at the same threads, cataloguing my same […]

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