Three Steps to Being Super-Productive (AKA The Quick Death of Multi-tasking)

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I admit it.

I have been unfocused lately.

I have been working on a million different things lately instead of focusing on the total completion of one. Even though everything I am working on is related in some way or another, nothing in particular is getting done.

Do you know what the worst part is?

Peregrine Poise has been at a small stand-still for the last month and I can’t help but feel I am letting my readers down.

I know I need to step my game up, focus, and bring it harder than ever.

Even though I have been working consistently, my general feeling towards the site is that not enough articles are being published for you guys. I finally realized that all of the work I am doing is spread out between different projects and though all the projects are related, not one of them is entirely finished. On a surface level, I feel disappointed with my overall performance in completing individual articles each week for Peregrine Poise. On the contrary, my overall research, reading, and writing skills have been growing ten-fold, but from an individual standpoint of actual completion, my lack of focus is blatantly clear. I know I need to be more productive. You guys deserve more.

So, I hope this small post will catch all of you up to speed with everything I have been working on lately as well as provide an introduction explaining my new approach toward being super-productive. It’s an approach I have known for years, but like most people, I continue to make the same mistakes in new endeavors.

Even though we know what practices work best, actually sticking to them and holding ourselves accountable is much more difficult.

When we start anything, at first, we tend to avoid what is best because we do not know any better or different. After educating ourselves on better methods and practices, we still tend to avoid them even though now we know they are better. Simply put, our knowledge hasn’t led to the creation of a better habit. Knowledge hasn’t translated to action. The information is present, but the will to act hasn’t necessarily developed. Practice and repetition are our best guides into the unknown forest of behavioral changes.

These type of positive changes often take more time than they should, mainly due to our inherent human nature and our deep-seated tendency to avoid change. Naturally, we want to keep things the way they are. Change scares us. Our tendency to fight against the natural resistance of growth slows our progress down. Allowing positive change to take place requires complete attention and acceptance of the upcoming resistance we are sure to encounter. Acknowledging the surefire difficulties ahead and making a personal commitment to work through the discomfort of growing pains is certain to build strength and character.

So, what’s the major issue with personal productivity?

Getting distracted is too easy.

Want a great example?

Take a look around my apartment:

Immediately, you will start to get the idea that a madman is at work concocting some kind of evil mess. Unfortunately, the only mess is my apartment itself. Notebooks are scattered from the bedroom to the living room to the kitchen.  My whiteboard is still full from notes and ideas from last month. There is at least one highlighter, pen, or pencil left out on every desk, table, and nightstand throughout my house in case a sporadic idea comes to mind. Talk about distractions. Three different books are sitting in the middle of the living room floor split-open up from left to right stretching their spines in order to save my reading place or spot I wish to summarize. This type of bookmarking creates visual landmarks for me to encounter throughout the day. Forcing me to navigate through the laid books was supposed to encourage me to finish them faster. Instead, my room continues to be only a mess covered by an enormous visible display of my cluttered mind.

Besides not cleaning my house, I have been busy reading Jean-Paul Satre’s philosophical-psychological masterpiece, On Being and Nothingness, which is easily one of the most difficult books (if you could call it that) I have ever attempted reading. On top of finishing this 700 page book, I still need to finish all of the journal articles still saved on my iPad that I haven’t been able to read even though I keep reminding myself that I will.

“Yeah, right….. “if my outer conditions are any bit of a reflection of my inner workings then I must admit that my mind is a complete disaster.

While I am not drowning in  a sea of literature, I stay busy writing and working on multiple unfinished projects.

So far, one of the most popular articles on this site has turned out to be my introduction to movement guru, Ido Portal. Since everyone has enjoyed this particular article so much, I figured I would share another fitness mastermind that I really admire. The article should be finished in the next couple of days and I hope all of you enjoy it. Here’s a hint on who I am writing about.

Besides researching, reading, and writing about helping people improve their life through using fitness, my creative energy has been spent trying to finish my first book. You might remember this little post about nothing. The working title has been changed slightly to metaHabits: Frameworks on Being and so far, everything is looking great. One of the major problems I have encountered is that while trying to write the book, my productivity and actual output towards content on the site has diminished little by little. Trying to write multiple chapters around the central theme of my book and keep this site’s article section diverse and entertaining is extremely challenging. On the outside, it may look like I have stopped updating the site, but there is a lot going on behind the scenes that I haven’t revealed. If I am going to be brutally honest with you then I must say I have never enjoyed being so overwhelmed with work. I’m a bit biased, but I still can’t wait to show you everything I have been working on and hear your feedback. I think you guys are really going to enjoy reading all the new surprises that I have in store for you. The best part is that all of them are FREE!

And if reading and writing for my professional life hasn’t kept me busy enough, my personal life has been even busier.

One month ago, I started my new teaching job in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I teach over 400 students! Then, I celebrated my birthday with some new friends from work. My girlfriend Sarah tagged along for a fancy dinner and a couple of drinks. She had the kindest words to say about me on her blog. We both have been busy celebrating our birthdays during the month of  May and I decided to respond with a little (mushy-gushy) love letter of my own. The best writing comes from the heart. Even then during my most focused writing, the desire to try and multitask writing Sarah’s letter and this post crept up on me.

For the past two months, I have been enthusiastically exhausted. Nothing could be better.

Of course, the problem still lies that nothing is really being accomplished as fast as I would like it. Isn’t this always the case?

As you can see, I have been doing a lot lately. Still, I have been unfocused and my results should be better. In light of this recognition, I hope to dissect the main problem with being productive and help shine some new light on how to begin fixing it.

The overall consensus is out: trying to be more productive does not mean doing more things.

More distractions equal more distractions.

Multitasking doesn’t work.

This is the main problem people encounter while trying to increase their productivity is a balancing act between time and attention.

The question that constantly arises, “How can I do more things in less time?”

The truth is we can only manage so much effectively.

The funny part is that I have known that multitasking doesn’t work for over a year now, but as you probably know bad habits don’t break easily. Changing any habit requires tremendous amounts of energy, attention, and willpower. Believe it or not, focusing on one task at a time is harder than it seems. In the 21st century, people are more surrounded by distractions than ever before. The information age is becoming an all encompassing marketing plan while at the same time the Internet presents the ability to truly educate the world on an unprecedented scale. The choice remains: How do we devote our time? And, how do we do so effectively?

What we choose to pay attention to is the most important decision of our day. One of the most common distractions we encounter on a day to day basis is computers. The computer screens of our PC’s, phones, and tablets project steady streams of illuminated words, pictures, and videos all waiting for our decision as to how we want to attend to them. Our choices of attention matter.

During the process of staring at the bright screen and trying to interpret each and every image, our minds are screaming inside us, “Read this article that your friend just posted on Facebook! Check out this new blog you just found through your recent Google search! Listen to so and so’s new album on Spotify! Watch this free Youtube documentary about The Pirate Bay (maybe even take some time to support them with an illegal download)! Learn Italian for free on this website! Or just decide to find a new recipe to make for dinner tonight.

All of it seems so important.

The possibilities are endless.

Our attention spans are shorter than ever. Attention deficit is turning out to be the disease of a century.

Multitasking is dead. It’s been dead. Look around you at how distracted people are. Ask yourself, “Who is really paying attention to what is happening at this moment?”

For the past twenty years or so, people have known that multi-tasking is ineffective and unproductive.

So, why do we continually try and do a hundred things at once?

Mainly, we lack focus. Switching from task to task becomes an escape outlet. When we reach a mental threshold in what we are doing, it is easier to change tasks than work through the mental plateau in front of us. It is easy to convince ourselves that we will come back later to the difficult problems and face them at a different time.

It is only then that a much bigger problem presents itself: instead of working completely through one task, we find ourselves stuck at the plateaus of ten different tasks leaving us the difficult decision of choosing which wall we want to climber higher up. The reality is we don’t want to climb higher on any of the walls. That’s why we starting climbing new ones in the first place. By climbing new walls, we manage to continually get stuck at roughly, similar plateaus on all of the walls. The process continues to repeat with each new wall we attempt. Of course, we never reach our goal of completion.

As we dig ourselves into a deeper hole, our sporadic ideas, the constantly-changing tasks we feel the need to accomplish, and the new business schemes are piling on top of us like loose dirt being thrown from a shovel above. Looking up from the bottom of our pit, we realize that we are the only one holding a shovel showering ourselves below from above with dirt. Metaphorically speaking, we are burying ourselves alive.

From here, it seems best to drop everything we are doing and start something new. The vicious cycle continues its course, and we still haven’t changed any of our bad habits to enact our own progress.

Eventually, we will all realize that multitasking has its limitations in producing quality work.

Until this realization, how do we put down the shovel and pull ourselves out of the hole?

How do we stop multi-tasking and become the productive super-men that we think we should be?



First, being super-productive starts with simplification.

Drop everything you are doing. No, really, stop everything you are doing.

Pause and reflect. What is working for you? What is working against you?

Before any type of correction of doing can be started, all doing must stop.

In an instant of reflection, we can indentify our areas of strength and weakness.

What is working for you? What is working against you?

Action follows non-action. Start your day with non-action. Pause and reflect.


After stopping everything and reflecting, begin writing a tiny to-do list. Write down three goals for the day. Don’t organize, prioritize.

Write down your priorities first. In this way, you will self-organize what is most important for today and focus on only that which needs to be done.

Ask yourself: What are the three most important things that need to be finished today?

Write down your three priorities. Stop writing your list and immediately begin doing the first one.


Do each priority, one at a time. Make sure you are only working on the first priority you have written down. Remember, the word “priority” means you do one thing before starting another. You must start the first task and complete it before moving on. After finishing the first item, simply, cross it off your list.

Enjoy marking off your first priority on the to-do list. Take ten seconds to relax. Breathe. Relax. Enjoy it. Take another deep breath. Now, look at your list again, do Priority #2.

Once you have officially gotten started on your to-do list, your non-action has transformed into action. You are now doing things in order. You have organized how they need to be done.


Creating a to-do list may be a lot more important than you realize.

It’s a plan of your priorities, something you can trust and follow through with. It also helps you hold yourself accountable. We believe we can trust ourselves to remember everything that we need to accomplish but sadly, our memories serve us poorly. There are too many distractions fighting for our attention and as soon as we open the Internet our attention can be lost.

It’s too easy to listen to your favorite artist’s new album that probably just came out today and …wooooooom… you are listening to it, reading album reviews, and seeing if they have any featured artists on the album you like. We end up turning to everything besides what really matters to us and before long it’s too late. For most of us, listening to our favorite music doesn’t pay the bills. Instead, we allow the process of reprioritization to kill our attention span.

Most of the time, we know what is really important and what we need to do, but, in the heat of the moment we find something easier or more enjoyable that strikes our curiosity grabbing our attention. In the heat of the moment, we convince ourselves reading this or that article will only take 30 seconds out of our day and we will be back to working on whatever it is we started with. Rarely do we ever spend the amount of time we intend. Anyone who has spent time browsing Reddit will understand exactly what I am talking about.

The to-do list is crucial because it provides us with a visual outline of the work we need to do. It is a map for our attention. The map has a clear starting point and final destination of what we need to accomplish, where we are going, and everything that is crucial for us to complete for today. Without an outline, multitasking turns into a multiplayer free-for-all, where everything eventually dies and there is no clear winner except who has killed the most projects.

Multitasking is dead. Let is be. The day it dies for you will be the most productive, meaningful day that you will have had in a long time. To be honest, we can only focus our attention on one thing at a time and clearly, we cannot even do that very well. Concentration remains our biggest weakness and opportunity for improvement. This is one reason why people cannot stand the thought of meditating, writing a book, or committing to any type of long-term project based on long-term reward.

We want to achieve short-term success. We love to take shortcuts. Convenience is a favorite commodity.

In the big scheme of things, none of these beloved time-savers turn out to be our closest friends and we never gain the advantage over others we seek.

Multi-tasking fills us, but it is not fulfilling. Multi-tasking is like McDonalds. A lot is done very quickly, but it leaves us malnourished and underfed. Too much can be dangerous for our health. And of course, just because you are working on something faster, does not make it necessarily better for you or others.

I encourage you to stop multi-tasking and begin with a small daily to-do list. Try monotasking at least once this week and see if your results improve.

Productivity starts with one step at a time.

Ask yourself:

What will you stop doing?

What will you start doing?

Set your priorities. Write them down. Begin.

Let me know what your first priority is in the comments section at the top and maybe I can help.

For those interested in living a more mobile lifestyle and eliminating paperwork, check out this great list of digital to-do managers so you prioritize on-the-go.


**Now that you have reached the end of this article, how many links have you opened from within this article that you are planning on reading afterward? How many of these really deserve your attention? Are you starting to see how easy it is to get distracted?


Now choose what’s really important and focus on doing that.

Picture Source: Flickr

About Stephan Stansfield

Stephan is the owner, creator, and editor of Peregrine Poise.
He is currently traveling and teaching around the world. When he is not helping others discover their true potential, he finds time to surf, read, and reflect on the important issues of living a good life.

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