We all have lots of things we want to accomplish in a given day, week, year, etc. And it’s really easy to fall into the trap of trying to work toward multiple goals at once and feel overwhelmed. We create giant to-do lists, fill our days with work, and attempt to multi-task. And wishful thinking leads us to believe that sure, we can get all of this done.
I’ve realized that working toward several goals at once just doesn’t work for me. It really just slows me down and leaves me feeling overwhelmed and without any sense of accomplishment. And if you’re like me, a sense of completion is important. But with a multi-focused approach, at the end of the day I often end up with a bunch of things half done. I glance at my mile-long to-do list and it’s overwhelming. Even when I get one or two things done, and can cross them off the list, it feels like a drop in the bucket.
But what if you could actually just have one focus?
Last week I read the book The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The premise of this book is to boil things down to a single-minded focus in all areas of your life.
Here’s the authors’ clarifying question:
What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
This concept is huge for productivity. It forces you to focus on one over-arching goal. It’s all about having one focus and avoiding distractions. Your one thing can focus around your work, personal life, spiritual life, relationships, finances, health, etc. Here’s how it plays out on all levels:
Big Picture: What’s your life purpose? What’s your mission? The one thing you feel you’re here to do?
Five Years: What do you want to achieve within 5 years?
This Year: What’s the one thing you want to accomplish this year?
Today: What’s your one thing today? What one thing, if you do it today, will make everything else easier or unnecessary?
The idea is that your one thing for today maps back to your one thing for the year, your five year goal, and ultimately your lifetime mission.
Once you have your one thing in mind, I’ve found that this concept brings huge mental clarity. It gives you permission to stop thinking about the 80 million things you should be doing and instead focus on the one most important thing.
It also clarifies decisions. This week I’ve used it several times to filter to my choices about what’s really important to do. With the lens of my ONE thing, it was actually easy to see the things that really weren’t all that necessary to do that day. There were several things I either tabled for later or crossed off my list altogether, and that felt good!
Here are three other big tips I picked up from this book:
- Do your ONE thing early in the day. The idea is that as the day goes on and we use up our energy and we lose our willpower. It becomes more difficult to get stuff done.
- Create short to-do Lists around projects. Instead of having one long never-ending list, create project based lists, so you can actually feel a sense of completion.
- Become comfortable with leaving things incomplete. In order to be dedicated to your one focus, it’s necessary to choose not to do certain things and be ok with it. This one is probably going to take some practice!