Do one thing at a time. The idea is so simple, but the execution is so difficult. I always have a lot of things I want to get done. However, I do not always get a lot of things done.
I think the appeal of “multi tasking” is twofold. The first reason is the following broken logic: Very successful people are often doing many things. They must be able to balance them all at once. If I want to be successful, I must posses the same super power of multi tasking. The second appeal is that when I hit a speed bump in one activity, I can switch activities and find more low hanging fruit there. I can work on 5 activities and go at “full speed”. Eventually, I will go back to my first activity and go through the time consuming and slower moving process of sorting out whatever road bump caused me to do something else.
The first point is not valid. Simply, it is not necessary to do many things at the same time. The ability to be involved and successful in many things is about doing each activity as efficiently as possible and not necessarily simultaneously. Multitasking is not efficient, which leads me to my second point. If I have to produce 3 papers and each is 10 pages, I need to write 30 pages. If the background for each paper is the easiest section to write, then I can write the most pages in first two hours by just writing the background for each paper. Then I go back to the paper that is the easiest and write until it gets hard enough that I switch to an easier part of another project. I am optimizing for highest impact first, as measured by pages per hour. However, my end goal is to optimize for tasks completed per day or, getting meta, goals per life. My multi tasking method makes sense if I all I want to do is move as fast as possible for as long as possible.
In high school, I had a friend who took a very long route to school, but it was empty highway the whole way. He got to drive very fast and he never felt like he was wasting time. Of course, if he took a more direct route and just spent some more time in traffic, he would have gotten to school faster and burned less gas. Consistently, I am the most productive when I start a task and do not stop until I reach completion or a preplanned milestone, regardless of how difficult it gets.
And yes, I simply sat down and refused to get sidetracked while I wrote this post even when I hit bumps or saw push notifications for an activity with less friction.