Here’s a note I wrote to myself a couple years ago. I read it when I’m exceptionally busy—so busy that I’m not sure I can actually get everything done (like a week before the semester begins, for instance). If you’re anything like me, this will sound familiar:

When you get busy, you start spending your “doing” time thinking about how much you have to do and trying to decide what you should do first (causing you to be less productive than usual).

Do not allow this. Start anywhere, and move ruthlessly through your list, taking no prisoners and hearing no cries for mercy. Most of your tasks will take less than 10 minutes, and you will be amazed at how much time you really have when you act.

It’s a nasty paradox: the busier we are, the more we’re tempted to spend our precious time and energy freaking out about how busy we are. Now we’ve got even less time and energy to actually do the things that are worrying us.

It’s worth planning our day, of course. But once we’ve done so, we need to trust our plan and focus our minds on the task in front of us. There’s no point in lamenting the pile of things we have to do, because no matter how massive our pile of responsibilities, we can only do one thing at a time.

So do one thing at a time.