How to get more things done that matter Posted by: | July 6, 2014

Being a woman with two businesses to run which are wildy different by nature (one in merchandising, one in F&B), I am forced to become the master of multitasking. On a daily basis, I settle Kitchen Art issues in the morning, then go to the KAfe to observe and settle service/food related matters in the afternoon. I also go to gym 3 times a week and do dancing class once a week to dance the hell out of my stress! That’s not all, I also plan my daily menu as I am sort of following a low carb diet and that means I have to cook my dinner (and lunch boxes) most of the time to make sure I eat right – thankfully Mom helps a lot with groceries and cooking too! Each day when I go to bed, I feel like I have just gone through 48 hours instead of 24, because I got so much done! 


 One of my healthy home-cooked dinners: roast chicken drumstick with vegetables 


On a larger scale, say in the first half of 2014,  I have published 2 cookbooks (one in Vietnam, one in Singapore), started to set up KAfe 2 (which involves working on the design, menu, style and construction etc), started on producing our 3rd cookbook, while working on a big commercial project, planning for my company’s long term future, restructure my organization, plus started on my own house renovation and planning for my wedding at the end of the year. 



Me at our Kitchen Art Open House event on 5 July with 20 wonderful ladies who came to appreciate baking and listen to my kitchen stories! 


The first question that would come to anyone’s mind reading the above: is she even human? How many cores does her processor have? Answer is, I have only 1 core – made of muscles (lol) and I am often too human I wish I was more like a robot. Working with feelings can be frustrating sometimes because emotions gets in the way of getting more things done. The only thing I seem to be doing well is juggling. So here I shall give you a few tips to “juggle” better in life, be in between work and personal life, to get more things done that actually matter to you and your career: 


1. Know what multitasking truly means. Multitasking is actually a myth. Humans, or even computers, are not physically able to do multiple jobs concurrently. Computers seem to run many programs at the same time, but they are merely switching between tasks to allocate resources very fast between one program and another, so fast that it seems concurrent to us (ah, my IT degree does come in handy). So before learning to multitask, first of all, drop the illusion that you are actually able to do different things at the SAME time. You will end up completing none properly. It is, in fact, all about the art of resource allocation (resource here being your time and mind space). More on that below. 


 The madhouse called the KAfe – where I spend a good half of my time besides Kitchen Art. It’s maddening but also exciting and fun! 


2. I cannot stress enough how important this step is: Every morning when you wake up, with a very clear mind, define the most important things for you today – in other words, find your “true intentions” of the day. Do you want to reply all your emails and take all those calls, or do you want to write a kick-ass proposal? With your true intentions clearly defined, write down your to-do list of the day, all involving steps to realize those true intentions. If today you want to get fit, then hell yeah, write that down: 30 minutes cardio after work. Remember, these tasks you just wrote down are NON NEGOTIABLE and you will spend at least 50% of your day on executing them. That means, no matter what gets in the way at work later, you are going to assign them lower priority, unless they have something to do with your true intentions. That way, at the end of the day, you are a few steps closer to your goal, and you still got some other easy passive work done (i.e. replying emails, assisting other colleagues…) once you are tired of your brain-consuming “true intentions tasks”. In short, own your day instead of letting the day own you. 


Here is a real example of how I did it: in the first 5 months of 2014, I set my mind on finding the next location for my second KAfe outlet. Every morning I woke up, I would envision how the next KAfe outlet would look like and make it a point to look out for that space whenever I am on the road or talk to real estate agents. It may not be a daily task, but it is always on the top of my mind while I get through the day. During the day, while I am working on other tasks, if anything related to this comes up, I would drop everything to pursue it – be it a call from agent about a location or a tip off from a friend. When I get that call, I would literally take my bag and just dash out to view the location. This went on for a good 5 months with countless viewings and several times of almost closing the deal, until I finally found the perfect spot - a big, spacious French villa within a quiet and historical neighborhood in the central district town. I just love it and knew it was special the moment I saw it! So, I didn’t put my job in danger by dropping other tasks to pursue this mission - because  business is still running fine – and I am now setting up my second KAfe outlet within a year after my first one. 



The KAfe Village – our second KAfe outlet in Hanoi, opening soon in August! 


3. Give every task your 100%. Be it a trivial one or important one. Because if you do, you get them done faster and better, to move to your next task. Sure, you may get interrupted in between, or be tempted to check your FB, but the moment you realize you are floating off, look at your checklist again and remember how much time you are spending on items NOT on the list and quickly readjust to gather your focus back to the ongoing task until the next interruption or distraction comes along, which you don’t necessarily should block out, see below…


4. Don’t always try to block distractions or interruptions. Unless your tasks requires intensive focus for a period of 1-2 hours to catch a deadline, always leave room for small distractions and interactions with your colleagues. Not only does it make your working hours more enjoyable, sometimes the most random conversation or headline you see will spur a brilliant idea for the proposal you are working on. Once you hit that light bulb moment, stop everything and write down the idea as fast as you can on a notepad (or Evernote, in my case). You will get to the idea later, but for now, it is in your idea vault. 


A great example of how a “notepad idea” turned true – my Kitchen Art studio concept scribbled in late 2011 on my notepad


5. Don’t be greedy with your to-do list. If you set out 15 tasks to do a day, you will soon feel stressed out and frustrated if you can’t do them all. Write down all tasks you can think of, then move them around into different categories. Maintain only 1-3 top “true intentions” tasks in your daily to do list, while you move the remaining tasks around and get them done at a more flexible time, after you have spent enough time on your top tasks. 


6. Read your to-do list at least 3 times a day. Review your progress, tick off things that are done (I love the high from checking off a box in my to do list), or break tasks into smaller tasks to tick off sub-tasks that you have settled in the progress (mini highs, why not?). While you review your to do list, you will realize which tasks are taking more time than it should, based on its priority in the list. Wrap them up, or temporarily abandon them to invest more time on your top tasks again. 


Repeat all above steps the next day. And I mean ALL. Then you will be a true multitasker who does not lose his eye on the prize even during the busiest hours. Good luck! 



Chi Anh





2 Responses to “How to get more things done that matter”

  1. Phuong says:

    Chi Anh
    Thank you for these great tips. Do you use any mobile apps for task lists?

    • Chi Anh says:

      I use Evernote religiously on both my iPhone and my laptop! It’s great for organizing tasks and clipping notes/ideas!

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