Several months ago, I had the good fortune of spending five wonderful days at a yoga and meditation center called Kripalu located in western Massachusetts. I try to go at least once a year – time and money permitting – to unplug and rejuvenate my body and mind. I spent my days taking yoga classes, walking, reading, napping, dancing, and eating healthy foods.

I didn’t carry my phone with me (they discourage any phone use in public places) which was incredibly freeing. Though in the first few days I felt the regular twitch of “gee, I should check my phone”, I let it be until I came back to my room at the end of the day.

When I returned to work, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself amazingly and naturally focused on one thing at a time with no interest in multi-tasking. I felt more thoughtful, in the moment and focused on the task at hand. This act of doing one thing at time allowed me to get a project done, an email written, or engage completely in a phone conversation with feelings of incredible calm, satisfaction and accomplishment.

This lasted almost a month before I became distracted by the “bright shiny objects” again that allowed other things to enter my workflow at the same time. Since then, I have been constantly working on spending time on those one thing at a time projects. I have had some success but have to honestly admit I haven’t been able to quite get back to that constant state of calm and oneness.

Here are a few ideas that have worked well for me:

1 – At the end of the work day, make a list of 3-5 things I really need/want to get done the next day that was either left over from today or really needs to be done tomorrow. So when I come into the office tomorrow, I have my “marching orders” and focus for the start of the day. Without that list, I flounder and don’t manage my time or projects as well.

2 – DON’T check email first thing in the morning! That list I just spoke about? Forget about getting anything done on it! Email derails all good intentions with more to-do’s that seem more pressing than the ones on our list. If I spend the first hour of my day working on a project or doing other creative work BEFORE opening my email, I feel more satisfied at the end of the day because I actually got something important done.

3 – Use the stopwatch or alarm on my phone (or computer) to limit how long I spend doing email, surfing the internet or checking social media. Without a timer, I can get lost for much longer than I intend.

4 – Create space in your schedule. I recently read a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown where he uses this great analogy. He talks about when you drive a car, staying several car lengths back gives you wiggle room in case the car in front slams on their brakes or someone cuts you off. Without that space, you are doomed for an accident if the brakes are slammed or someone cuts you off. Scheduling space in my day is like like breathing room between the cars. I resist back-to-back appointments and try keeping a 15 minute window between appointments for restroom breaks, getting a glass of water or finishing a to-do from my last meeting or project. A much calmer workday results.

I’m already planning another trip to Kripalu to get the infusion of calm and focus I need. What do you do to remember one thing at a time?? Please share with me!

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