Doing only one thing each day increases productivity, satisfaction, self-awareness and lowers stress
Doing one thing at a time helps productivity and stress
For the last three months I’ve been measuring my productivity and stress levels against the number of goals and tasks set. The results showed an inverse relationship between them.
- Each new task or goal set increased stress by a factor of 1.4
- Productivity (the time taken to complete a task) decreased by 11% for each extra task added to the list
More goals equals more stress and less productivity. Interestingly, I also felt that I achieved less, despite doing more. Having multiple tasks to complete at once led to me feeling each was unsatisfactorily finished.
Self-awareness was also measured. After each day, my to-do list was destroyed. After seven days, I then had to re-count what I had achieved on that particular day. As tasks and goals increase, memories lapse and many times I could not remember at all what was completed.
The most satisfactory days with a 100% self-awareness score were those with only one goal or task
Yes, on a Sunday my only goal was to make the best Banoffee Pie mankind had ever tasted.
Daily work tasks were also tested. As expected, longer todo lists increase stress – but they also decrease productivity and accuracy. As you work on one task, you’re thinking about the other and constantly switch between them, wasting time.
Furthermore, the more life goals I had outside of work led to less satisfaction and productivity all round. For instance, there was a particular week where I was especially busy at work, and I had set myself the goals of daily exercise, meetings with startups during and after work, consulting individuals with PR, writing blog posts and progressing things with a certain Italian girl.
This was simply too much, and results showed I only completed two-thirds of the goals, productivity fell by 18%, stress more than tripled and satisfaction fell into the pits.
How to measure goals, tasks, productivity, stress, satisfaction and self-awareness
- 42Goals – Web-based task-tracker where you can also record scales i.e. from one-to-ten choose…
- Lift - iPhone application to help achieve goals, track progress and receive automated reminders
- RescueTime – Monitor productivity on the computer
- iHealth - Measure blood pressure and store health data on Evernote (indicator of stress)
Stress, satisfaction and self-awareness are qualitative measures (although blood pressure is one quantitative metric) and here are the questions I asked to measure them:
At 6pm each day, I asked the following questions to myself:
- Would I rather listen to: Dance music (0 stress points), Jazz music (1 stress point), no music (2 stress points)
- If I were invited out tonight, which would I prefer: Nightclub (0 stress points), Wine bar (1 stress point), no where (2 stress points)
On a scale of 1-to-10, with 1 being not at all satisfied, and 10 being I’m bloody proud of myself, how do I rate each task completed?
At the end of the day, I would destroy my to-do list but write down the number of goals completed. Seven days later, I’d try to remember as many as possible. If I didn’t remember the total number, it was a negative self-awareness score.
Less is more. Do one thing at a time and do it well. Don’t delay tasks, delete them. Create another goal only when the first one is finished. If more tasks come in, finish them immediately so you can return to your main goal. Remove all distractions. Big life goals (like flying a plane) are more satisfactory than smaller daily routines e.g. exercising. Outsource chores. Always have one life goal and one work goal to keep moving. Monitoring productivity is not being productive. Make change where necessary. Ask others to do things.