Doing One Thing at a Time

I am almost finished.  Wait!  First, I need to respond to this e-mail.

Following my recent blogs/posts about meeting inefficiency and smartphone over-use, I read a related Harvard Business Review blog posted by Tony Schwartz, President & CEO of The Energy Project, titled “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time”.  Mr. Schwartz’ point?  25% to 50% of employees report feeling burned out at work not only because of working too many hours, but also because of working too many continuous hours.  Because of all of this great new technology, our lives are interrupted frequently enough to the point that we take longer to finish anything.  Mr. Schwartz writes, “Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive.  It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse”.  Makes sense, and it is time to adjust.  Mr. Schwartz recommends:

For the Manager:

  1. Maintain meeting discipline
  2. Stop demanding instant responses at every moment of the day (see “Predictable Time Off” or PTO from my post  Employees Happier with Less Smartphone Activity)
  3. Encourage regular breaks

For the Individual:

  1. Do the most important daily task first
  2. Set aside time to think
  3. (Really) Disconnect on vacations (regularly)

The downside of not making adjustments is reduced productivity (up to 25% less) and increased burn out.  But this is easier said than done.  Even the HRInsights team remains glued to their smartphones, but at least now we’re cognizant of its impact on job performance, and plan on making small, baby steps going forward.


  1. Jim says:

    Good article. Managers need to recognize this as true. If we could get past he myth of multitasking and the heroics of activity equals results it would measurably improve productivity.

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