I often wished I have 48 hours in a day – the reality is, we don’t.

Multitasking is a virtue as many people advocate. We are expected to handle requests from different directions.

Overwhelmed and stressed

I used to feel overwhelmed as a young executive and got extremely stressed with multiple demands hurled my way.

I had difficulties  concentrating on writing a simple call report, because of the nagging thought of the others things I had to attend to.

Sometimes, it would take me a whole day to finish a report because I got distracted many times.

Break down to focus

My manager advised me to start breaking my day into 30-minute pockets. I was to only focus on doing one task well within each time pocket.

That turned out to be one of the most useful tips that I had received in my life. I continue to adopt this ritual today.

Here’s how it works
  1. I would start the day with a list of to-do’s. I would mentally outline, or just jot down on my note pad during my commute to work.
  2. Once that’s done, I would allocate the tasks into small pockets of time, around deadlines and meetings.
  3. 15-minute segments are for making a call, dropping off a document at my colleague’s desk or reading emails.
  4. 30-minute segments are for writing a report, drafting a document, short discussions, or replying an important email.
  5. I would be totally attentive when I am on the job.
  6. To make that possible, I would retreat to a quiet corner, hide in the meeting room just to get away from any potential distractions.
  7. If for some reasons, I couldn’t finish the task within the designated time slot, I simply extended it for another 15 minutes.
  8. There would instances where I had to put down everything and attend emergencies. Wisdom and judgement are needed to discern these moments.

Over time, I trained my mind to focus, and be accountable for every minute at my disposal. I found that I was able to accomplish more in a day.

Practice makes perfect

It felt good to be striking off the to-do’s and knowing that I have done them well. I realized that I got better with each practice and I was eventually able to complete my tasks in shorter time.

When you can commit yourself to 15-minute segment, you can commit yourself to meeting deadlines.

Try it.

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