Here’s the thing about multi-tasking: it never gets all those tasks done any faster or more effectively. In the process of trying to achieve more by doing multiple things at the same time, we actually achieve much, much less. A well-designed day (and by extension, a well-designed life!) happens when we harness the power of accomplishing ONE task at a time. It’s called the One Touch rule.

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

You’re sitting down to get some work done, and you decide to tackle email first thing. Gmail is being a bit slow today, so you pop open Instagram on your phone. You notice that Taylor Swift’s purse looks especially cute in her most recent post, so naturally you have to Google it right away. After losing 13 minutes and $150 on Amazon, you click back over to your email. You power through a couple of them, but then you get hung up on something that requires a larger time commitment than you have right now. Just then, you hear the dryer buzzer go off. You push back from your desk and hurry to pull the clothes out, but on your way to the laundry room you catch sight of a pile of orders you need to ship out on the kitchen table.

Before you know it, half the morning is gone and nothing has been checked off of your to-do list.

So, how do we tap in to the power of the One Touch rule? It’s simple, but hard. When faced with a task (whether it be opening an email, tidying up your kitchen, or completing a client’s request), just touch it once. You’ll make one of three decisions each time you touch an item or task…

  1. Take care of it! You’ll accomplish the task quicker and more efficiently when you see it through from start to finish in one sitting. By completing one task at a time, you give yourself the mental bandwidth to do your best work on the task at hand.
  2. Put it away, file it, or sort it into the appropriate spot. If you don’t have enough time to complete the task at the given moment, put it away until you do. Put the dirty dishes in the sink, sort your email inbox into the appropriate folders, organize the invoices to be tackled at a later date, and file the incoming mail instead of tossing it on the counter.
  3. Trash it. If you don’t have enough time and it’s not important enough to work on later, then trash it and move on.

The art of the One Touch rule thing takes willpower, but it’s far from impossible. Have the chutzpah to go against the grain of our busy culture and practice the discipline of doing one thing at a time.

Take the One Touch rule to the next level by tackling your “Today’s Top Three” first thing each day. As Mark Twain said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Knock out your hardest and most important tasks in the morning, and the rest of your day will feel like a piece of cake. Read this post for five things successful people do right away in the morning.

And that cake tastes especially sweet after frog legs.

What are ways YOU can implement the One Touch rule in your life?