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You’d Get More Done If You Stopped Doing This
(This’ll make sense in a minute.)
For reasons passing my understanding, the builder of my house decided to include 4 bathrooms. The house is not that big. I have no idea who would think it needed four toilets, but I’ll save my thoughts about excess for another time.
Anyway, I tend to clean all four bathrooms at once. It takes long enough to get my hair up, gloves on, cleaning stuff out, sponges wet, and then to put it all back when I’m done – that if I had to do that four separate times, I would go nuts. I’d rather just declare every other Tuesday “Bathroom Cleaning Night” and tackle them all.
So I’m jamming to George Ezra, scrubbing away, when I realize – I always work like this.
I like to work in long stretches on one single task. In every area of my life.
Some people would clean one bathroom at a time because it’d be less overwhelming. Others might do regular cursory wipe-downs as they go, and deep clean once every other month. All fine – I just prefer to marathon it.
Then I thought about my to-do lists.
For some reason I have it in my head that I should do a little bit of everything every day.
That the “good” thing to do would be to do a little reading, a little writing, a little web maintenance every single day. And if I did a little of each every day, everything would always be done, wrangled, sorted. Ahhh, that’d be magic!
Except this “a little every day” never works for me. When I try to just write for an hour every morning, I end up either writing for three hours or not at all. Then chastise myself severely for either a) not writing, or b) not leaving time for the other five things on my list.
And I realized shoot, with these lists, I’m trying to clean one bathroom at a time.
I’m just not good at switching tasks. The energy required to put something away and get something else out – even if only mentally – is HIGH for me.
But I CAN pay attention to one thing long past when most people would get bored. So why am I scheduling six different things every day? Why not schedule one thing per half day?
When I started doing that, my productivity doubled. And that’s a conservative estimate. I do one thing for a long time, and don’t think about it again until I have another chunk dedicated to that thing.
This brings me to you.
You might get bored when you work on one thing for too long.
But maybe in college you saw other people studying for long marathons, and you had it in your head that “good” workers can just keep working. So you try, but run out of productivity juice.
But you make yourself sit there, even though all you’re doing is looking at Maru the cat videos, because sitting there is the right thing to do.
Or maybe you have some other way of working. The point is:
Are you trying to shoehorn your natural productive patterns into some idea of what you “should” do instead?
Have you ever asked yourself why?
I have a working theory that explains part of it:
I think we’re bumping up against social proof.
You know, social proof. The idea that when we aren’t sure how to do something, or whether something is “right,” we look at what others are doing. We all know that as business owners, adding testimonials from clients gives you that social proof of “hiring me is the right thing to do!”
But we underestimate how powerful and pervasive that concept really is. For us.
We absorbed a lot of rules from others a long time ago. Like when you showed up at college and saw the smart people studying all night. Or the cool people studying for an hour, heading out to three parties, then coming back to study for another hour (yes, I had friends who did that).
So we think man, THAT’S how to get stuff done!
But those ‘rules’ might not work for us, even if others following them were successful.
Sometimes we hold onto those ‘rules’ until they’re stale leftovers in the back of your mental fridge.
Is there something that you want to do one way, but feel like you “should” do it another – and it’s just not working? But instead of changing, you just keep beating yourself up that you’re not doing it ‘right’?
It could be anything: Your work schedule, the things you write about on Instagram, the products you offer, the locations for your photoshoots, how you organize your office, how you go grocery shopping.
The next time you try to do something and your mind says “no, you should do this…” – especially when it results in unhappiness and getting less done –
I want you to stop and ask yourself – “Why?” Where is the should coming from?
Do you feel like it’s just the way it’s done? Did you see a cool or smart person you like do it that way? Did someone make you feel guilty for doing it your way?
You might surprise yourself with the answer.
(Another place to look for patterns: How do you work when it doesn’t “matter” and few people will see the end result? How do you write on social media when it’s just your own page? The way you tidy the bathroom might be the easiest way for you to maintain your blog. Just saying.)
Then: Just try it your way and see what happens. You can always go back to the way you did it before.