The Charles Emerson Winchester III character on the sitcom M*A*S*H used to say, “I do one thing at a time, I do it very well, and I move on.” Now Charles was a total pompous ass on the show, but his approach is very applicable in this day and age of business.
In modern times, when people can’t even have a normal face-to-face conversation without being interrupted by phone calls, text messages, pagers, and other such nonsense, the principle of doing one things at a time is a very useful maxim when it comes to work productivity, especially for small business owners.
Why Doing One Thing at a Time Works to Increase Work Productivity
Multi-tasking is so 1990s, don’t you think? Aside from the fact that it’s old hat, here are some things that you may not know about multi-tasking. Multi-tasking:
– has been shown to decrease productivity. People waste more than 30% of their time when switching focus between tasks.
– is one of the prime causes of adrenal exhaustion, which causes fatigue, food cravings, decreased metabolism, insomnia, and a generally poor quality of life
– does not make for quality time, for you or anyone you interact with
Aside from the science that demonstrates how multi-tasking wreaks havoc on our productivity and our health, consider whether that kind of working situation is really helpful to you or your small business. Are you really that much better off when you try to juggle 7 tasks at the same time? I’m not. I just talk faster, not better.
Increase Work Productivity: How to Do One Thing at a Time
Of course, achieving the Winchester approach to business isn’t at all easy, especially during business hours. The phone rings constantly, we are barraged by emails, and then there are our office-mates. So what’s a busy workaholic to do? Here are three ideas to consider:
1. Set aside “chunks” of time where you can do one thing at a time. I often start work at 3 am because no one is likely to call me at that hour. I do a lot of my writing, thinking, and planning at that hour, and my work productivity is often triple.
2. Set business hours for answering voice mail and email. This was popularized by Tim Ferriss in his 4-Hour Work Week concept. It really does work … trust me, I’ve tried it. Tim answers voice mail and email twice a day.
3. Get some help. If you want to run a small business and not be run by your small business, get some good help. It’s worth paying for. I have two gals who are super efficient and handle all my order processing, customer service, and front-end communication. That frees me up for business development, heavy client work, and strategizing.
Come to think of it, maybe Winchester had more going for him than just the “one thing at a time” maxim. Maybe his pompous attitude is worth copying, too. After all, if you want to increase your work productivity and fend off people who want too much of your time, being a pompous ass can be an effective strategy.
What do you think?