Amazeballz Stories Day 11/100: On being less busy and getting more done

I have prided myself on my ability to multitask. But the truth is, it’s all a sham. Smoke and mirrors. Trickery.

Because I’m a flipping mess.

I am a woman — so we’re supposed to be great at multitasking. Right?

Plus I’m a mom and I have a busy full time job. Oh, and I have my own online business. So, getting a lot done is a must.

My to-do list is EXTENSIVE. I am constantly working on many things simultaneously and wearing many different hats. I am juggling all the time.

I read books about efficiency and process. I read article with “life hacks” to get more done. I find ways to say no to more, but even so, there are so many things I WANT to say yes to. Hell yes even.

There is the stuff that HAS TO get done. Then there is all the other stuff swirling around and confounding me.

I AM organized. I swear. I have lists and plans and methods. I use software and systems.No matter what I do, things just fall to chaos.

My day looks like a circus act. I leap from an intense conversation to trouble shooting a crisis, to answering some email, to running a vital errand, a quick copy edit, a coaching call, then somehow get lost on facebook (the very worst), get back to work, am immediately interrupted by a phone call (phone calls!? Who DOES that? Just text me for fuck’s sake so I can reply when I can think!!) When it gets REALLY nuts (which is at least twice a week) I miss workouts, proper meals, and sleep.

Here’s the really ugly truth. When I do have a moment of unstructured time, I tend to either get lost on social media (the very worst habit) or scramble into “guilty hustle” mode where I attempt to GET SHIT DONE so I can stop feeling like such an asshole. But guilty hustle does not make for my best work. It’s like working out with a hangover. I go through the motions but it is pitiful.

So how do I make progress? How do I get from overwhelm to do the things that matter most and will help me build the future I dream of? What to do?

The author, Cal Newport, proposes that the solution to much of the hustle and crazy scramble of today’s world is a return to DEEP WORK.

Deep work is holding space for a long time frame where we only do ONE THING. And I mean really, JUST that one thing. One task until it is done. Staying present with one project. ONE THING.

Deep work is HARD, like meditating is hard. Our mind likes to jump around like a toddler on frappuccinos. Doing little tasks gives us a quick jolt to the reward centers of our brains and we feel like we are “doing good” — but that good feeling is so fleeting. Because deep down, we know - we haven’t really accomplished anything.

Cal Newport says that every time we switch task, our brain has “attention residue” which is stuck on the last task for awhile. Modern life has not trained our brains to focus deeply quickly. It takes time to get there. Every time we get interrupted we more or less have to start over. Deep focus is like a flow state and it does not happen in minutes or sometimes even in hours.

We need to train our brains to be able to find that deep state and ONCE we are in that deep work state, we can learn complex new things, innovate, solve complex problems, and do the WORK that we are longing to do.

We need to train our brains for deep work. We train our brains by clearing time for deep work and then PRACTICING it.

Start with two or three hours (one hour is NOT ENOUGH). Pick ONE THING. Do that thing and only that thing. Turn off your phone. Lock your door. Do not look at your email for “one quick thing.” No social media. Just do that task, that project, that thing you always want to work on but never find time for. Yep, that thing you never get to because it is too complicated, too hard, too much. THAT is your deep work.

My deep work project list keeps getting longer. But the tactic of deep work IS working for me when I manage to stick to the rules.

Deep work is HELLA hard to make happen. It takes serious discipline. And door locking. And retreating (ie booking time and location AWAY from all the people and stuff.)

Deep work. Try it. It’s worth it.


Hi! I’m Mary — a chiropractor, a writer, a marketer, and a teacher.

I am the founder of The Art of Story Project, an online business which coaches speakers and content creators to use story to become more powerful influencers.

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