Jenna Hermans blog Chaos to Calm One Thing at at Time

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Calm Is: Doing One Thing At a Time

Mothers are known to be badass multitaskers. But multitasking can backfire. Here's how to get stuff done, and done well, one-item-at-a-time.
As mothers, we are some of the most badass multitaskers around. I’ve been right there with you— responding to emails on my phone with one hand while cooking dinner with the other and shouting out homework help over the mound of half-folded laundry I call, “Tim.”
Then, we face-plant into bed, feeling defeated and like we didn’t get anything done.
The solution to this feeling of lack of accomplishment is to complete one task fully before moving to the next. 
Studies, including insights from the books “Indistractable” by Nir Eyal and “Deep Work” by Cal Newport, show that shifting gears mid-task makes the task even longer to do when you return to it. It takes more mental energy and causes much more stress to juggle ten things at once than focusing on one thing at a time.

How to do one thing at a time

But how, when emails are piling up, the phone is constantly buzzing, there’s a constant “mom… mom… mom,” and everything seems most important?
  • Brain dump. Write down all the thoughts, to-dos, tasks, and responsibilities that are taking up space in your mind.
  • Prioritize. Organize your brain dump in order of what is most urgent and important.
  • Environment. Put your phone and computer on Do Not Disturb. Physically move away from an easily distractible place, and stay put.
  • Get it done. Start with the first item on your prioritized list. When that is fully complete, move on to the next item. If an item requires multiple steps or follow-up, make those their own items. 
“But what if an email/text/call comes in that I need to get to?”
Consider the Pomodoro Technique, a method where you work in focused, 25-minute intervals followed by a short break. By setting timed intervals, you can control when to shift your focus, thereby guarding against the drain multitasking can cause. And, you can rest assured that you can check your phone and inbox during the break.
This approach has been a savior for me over the years. Even recently, while working on a new project—a deck of cards for calm (Order here!)—I found myself bogged down by switching tasks too frequently. Only when I dedicated uninterrupted time to this one project did I make real progress. Similarly, when handling the end-of-quarter financials for Be Courageous, I turned on “do not disturb,” powered through, and found the task to go so much more quickly.

The argument against multitasking

The more tools and conveniences we have at our disposal, the more we feel compelled to multitask. But this often leads to a scattered approach where tasks take longer than necessary. Remember that just because we can multitask doesn’t mean we should.
So, whether you’re seasoning chicken for dinner or drafting an important email, I challenge you to focus solely on that task. You’ll likely find that this single-tasking approach clears your mind and allows you to complete your to-do list more efficiently.

Calm Is: Doing One Thing at a Time.



To read more on staying calm in a stressful world, pick up my book, Chaos to Calm: 5 Ways Busy Parents Can Break Free From Overwhelm, and sign up for my Own Your Calm newsletter

Reach out, I’m here for you.

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