The Power of Sequencing Your Work

4 Guiding Principles That Help Me Focus on Sequential Work

Hi friends,

This week I want to dive into the idea of the power of doing sequential work, instead of parallel work.

💡 Today at a glance

  • What is Parallel vs. Sequential Work?

  • The Pitfalls of Parallel Work

  • The Benefits of Sequential Work

  • The 4 guiding principles to help me focus on sequential work

This topic was inspired by a recent video from Ali Abdaal (link in the noteworthy below).

It’s a simple yet powerful strategy that ties perfectly with slow and peaceful productivity.

What is Parallel vs. Sequential Work?

This idea that tasks, goals or projects can be done in parallel or in sequence can be illustrated in the circuit board diagram.

I’m no electrical engineer or physicist, so I’ll be keeping this analogy super simple, visual and non-technical.

An electrical current can flow through a system (circuit) in 2 ways:

  1. Series Circuit: A one-way flow through the circuit pathway. The same level of power flows through each section.

  2. Parallel Circuit: The current splits into different pathways. Each pathway only gets a portion of the original power.

We’re more likely to achieve slow and peaceful productivity if we strive to work in a sequence, where we give each task, project or goal we pursue the maximum “level of power” and focus.

If we do work in parallel, each task, project or goal only gets a portion of our “power”.

Sequential work is:

  • Less stressful

  • More efficient

  • More strategic

  • More rewarding

Lets dive deeper.

The Pitfalls of Parallel Work

Think of parallel work as juggling multiple goals and projects at the same time.

Often, we think (and feel) working this way is more effective, as we’re making progress on multiple priorities at the same time.

But what we’re really doing is splitting our attention, focus and time across multiple areas. This means it takes us longer to complete the goal or project. We feel more stressed or frustrated as we’re not making progress as quickly as we would like to.

Working in parallel has also has a cognitive cost—task switching.

It takes us just that bit longer to “get back into” the right headspace and context to work on a particular goal or project, every time we jump to another one.

Each goals or projects also has an amount of admin or overhead work that we can’t avoid—adding more work onto our plate and fragmenting our focus.

The Benefits of Sequential Work

The power of sequential work lies in helping you focus on one or very few things simultaneously.

Sequential work means you’re pacing yourself and arranging your tasks, projects or goals in a logical and sequential order.

Even better if you can sequence things in a way where completing one thing makes the next thing easier to complete (Compounding effect).

By focusing on one project or goal at a time, you’ll be more efficient at completing it. Then once that’s completed, you’ll experience the rewarding feel-good hormones (dopamine). This gives you a boost of energy and joy to move on to the next project or goal in the sequence.

Also, if you feel like you’re making progress, and at a good pace, you’ll naturally feel more at peace with how you’re working and what you’re working on.

Cue Peaceful Productivity.

I get it though. When you’re feeling busy and overwhelmed with tasks, it can feel like you have no time to take a breather to strategise on the sequence of work.

But if you do, you’ll likely get a 10x return on that time you invested.

Because you’ll be working on the right things, in the right order that turns your flywheel in the right direction.

“What would this look like in sequence vs. in parallel?”

How I’m Thinking About Sequential Work Right Now

If you’re an ambitious 9-5er, side hustler or solopreneur, it can feel really hard to focus on just one (or a small handful) of goals or projects.

There are so many competing priorities and opportunities that you want to chase.

I know the feeling too.

The 4 guiding principles to help me focus on sequential (instead of parallel) work

So I try to remind myself of this when it comes to pursuing any tasks, goals or projects:

  • Saying no now doesn’t mean no forever.

  • Make the one decision today that eliminates all other decisions.

  • Apply the 80/20 rule to determine the work that really moves the needle.

  • Get crystal clear on what “done” looks like, then work backwards to identify the steps that needs to be happen.

I’ve been carving out strategic thinking time to ideate on next phase of my sabbatical and part time solopreneurship journey—Working out the “sequence of work” that I need to do, to turn the flywheel in the right direction.

If you’re interested, here’s a sneak peak into my current thinking…

In the last couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to do some Notion coaching and consulting. And have been really enjoyable, challenging and rewarding.

Education, project management and leadership training has formed a big part of my 9-5 career in health care.

And I’ve come to realise there are a lot of transferable skills that I can take into building a part time consulting and education-focused business.

📌 My current goal is to build an educational business at the intersection of Notion coaching and consulting, and peaceful and slow productivity. 

This serves as the north star for decisions I make and how I spend my time (in relation to the building the business).

It guides the courses I consume next, the kind of lead magnet or resources I should build next to serve others and the products/services I should offer.

Working backwards from the goal, here are a few key projects that I’ll be sequencing in the coming months:

  • Completing a course on building a consulting service business.

  • Create my offer(s) as a consultant, coach and educator.

  • Create a value-focused lead magnet that is helpful in and of itself (e.g. a mini case study, a 5-day email course on working clean in Notion).

  • Building a simple website as a point of reference for people who are interested in my consulting or coaching services, or my writings around slow and peaceful productivity.

  • Growing this newsletter.

  • Upgrade and evolve the Mini-Course: Writer’s Hub OS in Notion, based on feedback I’ve received to make it an even better version 2.

Life is layered.

It would be unrealistic to expect that we only have one area of responsibility, or a single project or goal to focus on.

Instead, find the right number of goals or projects that fits your current season of life (profession and personal).

Remember, less is often better.

The focus you experience and peaceful feeling you get from sequencing your work, doing one thing for a block of time (whether it’s 3 hours, 3 days or 3 weeks) is more efficient and effective that working on multiple things in parallel.

That’s it! Thanks for reading.

Hit reply and let me know what’s the 1 struggle you’re facing with using Notion right now—I will send you link to book a 20 minute call where I’ll give you some specific advice or suggestions.

See you next week,

Janice CK

📌 Note Worthy

A weekly roundup of interesting or noteworthy resources in the space of Slow Productivity and Notion.

  1. Kevon Cheung’s case study: building a $100k creator education business

    I’m a student of Build In Public Mastery and he’s one of my favourite online educational creators. The case study is an honest, inspirational and lesson-driven guide that I guarantee will teach you a thing or two, if you want to build a business in a genuine way.

    Download the 45 page PDF

  2. Ali Abdaal’s 7 Mistakes to Avoid While Building Your First Business

    My favourite insight from this video is the idea of sequencing your work, and my second favourite is scheduling thinking time in your week. Your best insights and ideas come when your mind isn’t busy thinking of other things.

    Watch the video on Youtube

  3. 7 Ways to Slow Time and Savor Your Life 

    Do you feel like time seems to speed up as you age? That’s dubbed The Holiday Paradox. In this article shares some practical tips on slowing down your life.

    Read the article

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