The One Thing for Extraordinary Results

“The ONE THING” process is about taking the shortest path to achieving the most impactful results. It is not however just about getting stuff done and being more productive: It’s about having meaningful days; being motivated and happy; working on important things that have a real impact; on things that truly make a difference.

The Process

tot_dominos_trim1. Have a clear long term goal

This process assumes that you have a goal that you want to achieve at some point in the future.

2. Identify the ONE thing that will produce the biggest results

If you could only do ONE thing this year to get you closer to your goal, what would that be? Ask yourself: “What is the ONE THING I can do THIS YEAR such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” That thing is your goal for the year.

3. Identify your ONE thing for TODAY

  • MONTH: What is the ONE thing you could do THIS MONTH to get closer to your one year goal?
  • WEEK:What is the ONE thing you could do THIS WEEK to get closer to your monthly goal?
  • TODAY: Finally, what is the ONE thing you could do TODAY to get you closer to your weekly goal?

4. Work on TODAY’s ONE THING for your FIRST four hours

Spend the FIRST HALF of your day working on your ONE THING. No interruptions, no distractions, no emails, no phone calls, no meetings. Just laser focused work on your most important task. Your morning is spent on your most important thing. The afternoon is left for emails, phone calls, and meetings. By working on your ONE THING first, you are sure it will get done. Things left for later have a chance of not getting done.

“Until my ONE THING is Done –Everything else is a Distraction”

Why this makes me happy

This process is not just about getting stuff done and being more productive: It’s about having meaningful days; being motivated and happy; working on important things that have a real impact; on things that truly make a difference.

Since I’ve started to use this process I’m more engaged at work, more motivated, less stressed out, and happier. I get to devote uninterrupted time to important meaningful projects that will have a huge impact. If I “run out of time” during my day, it’s the unimportant things that get dropped.

The Productive vs The Unproductive Day

Do you ever feel like you’ve been SUPER busy all day, yet did not get anything accomplished? Those are the days where you DID NOT work on your one most important thing.

The difference between a PRODUCTIVE day and an UNPRODUCTIVE day is how much time you spend on your ONE THING. If you work on your ONE THING first, your day is already productive and rewarding by the time lunch rolls around. It doesn’t matter what happens the rest of your day.

 

The Myth of Multitasking

It is a myth that you get more done by doing many things at the same time. If you want huge success, you need to be very narrowly focused. If you try to do two things at once you won’t do either well. Chasing too many rabbits leads to catching none.

“Do fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects”

Multitasking is a form of self distraction. When switching between two tasks, there is always a reorientation phase, and that’s wasted time.

tot_interruptions

The 80 / 20 rule

Not all things matter equally. Not all tasks are created equal. You need to focus on those that matter most and that produce the biggest results: If 20% of you activities result in 80% of your results, then you should be spending more of your time on those activities.

tot_8020

 

The Importance of Only ONE Thing

There can only be one most important thing. Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important. Not a few things… Not two things… ONE THING!

What is my ONE THING?

If today you (or your company) don’t know what your ONE THING is, then your ONE THING is to figure that out.

Family, Friends, and Life Outside of Work

Following this process means spending a large amount of time focused on a single usually “work” related goal. That often means less time for your family, friends, and other priorities. It is very important to ensure you are spending quality time with your family and friends during your evenings, weekends, and vacations.

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called  work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of these in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends and integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”

Chaos!

Following this process tends to cause some chaos. Since you have less time to do “maintenance” work, you will tend to experience a messy desk, a messy email inbox, etc… Either clean it up in the afternoon, or live with it. Those are the costs of narrow focus and great results.

“It’s not that we have too little time to do the things we need to do, it’s that we feel we need to do too many things in the time we have.”

Other Applications…

In your non-work life

The “One Thing process” can also be used at a smaller scale in your non-work life: What is the ONE thing you can do for your family that will have the most positive effect? What is the ONE thing you could do for your spouse that would make your relationship better? What is the ONE thing you could do for your parents or friends? What is the ONE thing you could change to improve your health? What is the ONE thing from a personal standpoint that would bring you the most happiness? Etc…

In your company

Your company should use this process to be laser focused on it’s most important, most impactful goal. And at a smaller scale, each department and each employee should have their long term goals with work backs to what their ONE THING for today is. If you have weekly status meetings, they should be used to help identify everyone’s ONE THING. Employee performance reviews should be about their ONE THING. Etc…

one_thing_merchBuy the Book

If you like the One Thing as I’ve described it here, and want to learn more about it, then I highly recommend you purchase the book or visit the Official One Thing site (non affiliate links)

 

Why Business Owners should help employees find their next job

Fresh Air Educators is a small company with a tight knit team. Turnover is low, but over the past 15 years we have had our share of layoffs.

Most businesses that operates long enough will eventually be in a situation where a team member is let go. Lay offs are a relatively rare occurrence for us and it’s not something we are particularly good at doing. Every situation is different and very stressful.

A decision to lay someone off usually comes after weeks or months of deliberation and after looking at all possible alternatives. It’s hard to do and we hate doing it.

We generally give a good severance package to give the employee more time to land on their feet (selfishly, it also helps relieve the feeling of guilt in letting them go). We also give letters of reference and offer to help in anyway we can.

But we are not great at pro-actively finding them a new job.

We often unconsciously think: “We gave them a good severance package, we gave them a good reference, we reached out to our contacts, now it’s up to them. Our job is done. Our responsibilities to the employee are done.”

Not quite. I believe that our responsibility to the employee isn’t done until they find their next job or career. When an employee leaves, we should proactively help them find their next job.

Besides being “the right thing to do” here are some specific business reasons why this is a good idea:

  • Build goodwill for future opportunities: Your past employees will have a more positive attitude towards you and your business if they feel that you genuinely did your best to help them. They are less likely to hold a grudge and more likely to help you in the future when an opportunity presents itself.
  • Strengthen relationships with current employees: Current employees will look to how you treat your past employees as an indication of how they will be treated when they leave.
  • Reduced risk of harm to the business: The faster a past employee finds a new job, the less likely they are to get into a desperate financial situation, and the less likely they are to do something for financial gain that is against your best interest.
  • Reduces the risk of violating a non-compete or non-disclosure agreement (NDA):  If you help a former employee find a new job, the risk of them working for a competitor is reduced (since they already have a job). No need to try and enforce strict non-compete or NDA’s in place.

If you are a business owner and are laying someone off, consider going the extra mile to help that employee find their next job — I think it will have long term benefits for your business.

Creative XMas Presents to Delight Your Staff

Over the past few years, we’ve made it a tradition at Fresh Air Educators of giving unique Christmas gifts to our staff for the holidays (this is in addition to a great Christmas party and 2-3 additional days off between Christmas and New Year’s). Here is a run-down of some of the gifts we’ve given in the past to give you some inspiration if you are currently trying to think of a good gift for your staff.

2007 – First Gen iPod Touch

This was very cool and well received as the iPod Touch had only been released in September of that year and it was still a ground breaking product when we gave it to all our staff 2 months later just before our Christmas break.

1st Gen Apple iPod Touch

PROS:

  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology

CONS:

  • Becomes obsolete relatively quickly

2008 – Canada Goose Parkas

Ottawa, Canada is a cold place in winter. What better way to keep our staff warm by giving them an iconic (and stylish) arctic parka by Canada Goose.  This gift had/has great longevity — come winter time our office turns into a Canada Goose showroom.

Canada Goose Chilliwack Parka

PROS:

  • Awesome top quality product that our staff will continue to use for years (if not decades)

CONS:

  • Tricky to get the right sizing for everyone while still keeping the product a surprise

2009 – Bose Headphones

This gift was a little bit low on the wow factor, but the utility factor was high, as most staff continue to use these daily at work to drown out coworkers around them, as well as used for watching movies while on the plane.

BOSE Noise Cancelling Headphones

PROS:

  • Useful at work to drown out noise from co-workers

CONS:

  • Lack of WOW factor
  • Not everyone will use them

2010 – First Generation iPad

This gift was definitely a bit of a recycling of our 2007 gift, and lacked a bit of the wow factor because the iPad was already available since April, but it still made a great gift (in particular, since our mandate was to make our products more mobile friendly, and putting an iPad in everyone’s hands was a good start).

1st Gen Apple iPad

PROS:

  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology

CONS:

  • Becomes obsolete relatively quickly

2011 – DNA Art / Canvas Prints

Our friends at DNA11 / CanvasPop helped hook up all our staff with either a unique DNA portrait or allowed our more artistic staff to take their own photographs/digital artworks and print them on canvas.  A very cool, unique, and conversation starting gift.  Although this gift received mixed reviews (as it was much less utilitarian than our previous gifts) it was still well received and supported/encouraged arts and creativity.

DNA Art and Print to Canvas by DNA11 / CanvasPop

PROS:

  • Unique conversation starter
  • Supports art & creativity

CONS:

  • Not inherently “useful”
  • Some staff did not see benefit of “art”

2012 – Google Nexus 7

Each year it becomes tougher and tougher to come up with new ideas. This year is a bit of a recycle from previous ideas (similar gift to the iPad) but we have moved away from Apple and exposed our staff to the Android OS (and it is a mini tablet which seems to be the cool “in” thing these days).

Google Nexus

PROS:

  • Cool Factor
  • Cutting Edge Technology

CONS:

  • Similar to previous gifts
  • Not everyone is familiar with Android

The 4-Day Work Week

A few years ago Fresh Air Educators performed an HR experiment: We offered all our full time salaried employees the option to pick between 2 work schedules:

  • Status quo: 5 days @ 7.5hrs at current pay
  • 4-day work week: 4 days @ 7.5hrs – Every Friday off
    Work 20% less but take  a 10% pay cut

Here are some of the learnings:

Myths

You Will Be 20% Less Productive

Working 20% less DOES NOT mean 20% less productivity.  The 80/20 rule kicks in: The most important things will still get done while the 20% dropped will be the least important things (which probably only account for 5% of weekly productivity). By only working 80% of the time, you will still reap 95% of value.

Lazy Friday Afternoons
become Lazy Thursday Afternoons

One challenge I thought we would have is lazy Friday afternoons shifting to lazy Thursday afternoons. In our case, this does not appear to have happened.

Benefit

Obvious Employee Perk

Offering an optional 4 day work-week to your employees is an obvious perk which leads to the following benefits for your business:

  • Easier to hire of top talent
  • Less employee turn over
  • Optional cost savings: If you are looking to save costs, you can offer the optional 4 day work week in exchange for a 10% pay cut.  (Employees work 20% less, but only take a 10% pay cut – so they are coming out ahead by 10%)

Happier, more rested, more productive staff

Your staff will have a long weekend every weekend.  That’s 52 extra days off a year.

Remove Yourself as the Bottleneck

As the business owner, you will receive 20% less requests and e-mails to answer.  Which means that your staff will be spending less time waiting on you.  Although *you* should really also work a 4 day work week,  your 5th day can be spent catching up and doing longer term “quadrant 2 activities” that you normally can never find the time to do.

Negatives

No Work Gets Done on Friday

This applies more to specialized departments like Customer Service, QA, etc… Ie: If a bug is reported late Thursday afternoon, and QA does not have the time to fully investigate it, then we will often get delayed until Monday mid morning before the bug is officially reported to the dev team.

Related Articles

Actionable Takeaways from the Business of Software Conference, Boston 2012

Here are some actionable insights and take-aways from the Business of Software conference (2012, Boston)

Make your Customers Awesome (aka Badass)

To encourage your customers to spread your product via word-of-mouth, your product should make your customers “badass”. Don’t focus on making your product awesome, focus instead on making your customers awesome. This may seem like a small semantic difference, but what triggers the word-of-mouth snowball is when your customer can impress his/her friends because of something you did.

This is one of the powers of Instagram — it allows average people with no photography skills to start taking awesome pictures that can impress friends and family. Spend some time thinking about what your customers are doing AFTER using your product, because that’s when the word-of-mouth happens.

One exercise to figure out features that can make your customers awesome, is to write a fictional product review WITHOUT mentioning your product or company. Write it solely with a focus on what your product allowed your customer to accomplish.

The Power of Simplicity
+ Scarcity of Cognitive Resources

Cognitive resources are scarce and are easily depleted. If you present multiple choices to your users early on, they eventually run out of resources at a later date. Simplify the things that are not important and save the complexity only if the task is critical.

For example, a complex registration process can impact the ability of your user to successfully accomplish tasks later on in your workflow (payment?).

Another very interesting item related to this, is that your Willpower resources share the same part of the brain as your Conginitive resources. By depleting cognitive resources, you are also depleting willpower resources. This theoretically means that if you are selling Vices or guilty pleasures, there may be an evil strategy where you hit your customer with complex tasks in order to weaken his willpower in order to then push them into one-click buying a guilty pleasure.

Gamification

Although “gamification” is hot right now, it is generally NOT the type of behaviour you want to encourage. It is a behaviour that triggers similar brain functions to those experienced during slot machine use and is not something that promotes long-term loyalty in your customers. Gamification works only in very narrow verticals and in general will not produce sustainable or desired results.

A/B Testing

When running an A/B Test, ALWAYS start with a theory and then use the A/B test to try and prove or disprove that theory. Don’t just run random A/B tests that show and hide various elements, hoping to stumble upon a magical winning combination.

To find out if your test results are statistically significant, don’t trust your A/B Tool. Instead use this formula:Don’t trust your A/B testing tool to determine if your test is statistically significant. Instead use the following formula:

  1. Define N as the total # conversions in A + B
  2. Define D as the difference in # conversions between A and B divided in half
  3. The test result is statistically significant if D squared is bigger than N.

Thanks to Jason Cohen at WP Engine for this formula

The Idea Factory:
Nurture Entrepreneurship in your Organization

This is a framework (un-polished and in need of improvement) to nurture entrepreneurship in an organization (mainly geared towards developers, but not necessarily):

  • Allow employees to submit an idea for a new product
  • Allow employee to work on this “Alpha” version during nights/weekends. No company resources are allocated.
  • Every 2-3 months, employees get to demo/pitch their Alpha product (in various stages of completeness)
  • If a product is “promoted” to Beta, then the employee becomes CEO for that product and is “fired” from his real job in order to work full time on his product.
  • Once the product is “launched”, then the parent company becomes a VC investor in that product and provides funding, resources, etc… (in exchange for ownership)

Company Culture

As an owner, if you don’t “design” your company culture, your employees will do it for you. You shouldn’t let your employees do this, because they usually suck at it.To design your own company culture:

  1. Decide what you care about
  2. Hire people that care about the same thing
  3. Remember the things you care about.

In terms of scaling company culture during rapid growth, “transparency” is a big help. A by product of transparency is that it is very difficult to do stupid things because everyone will call you out on it.

Profit Sharing

Here is the profit sharing strategy that is implemented at Balsamiq.com

  • All employees have a base salary that is better than market value
  • 10% of all profits are shared with employees
  • 25% (of the 10%) is divided equally among all employees
  • 75% (of the 10%) is divided based on seniority (with the more senior employees receiving more)
  • Additionally, 2% of all profits are divided equally among employees for them to donate to the charity of their choice

Customer Service

Customer service should be like a “par 3” golf course:
  1. A problem is reported / collected
  2. The perfect answer is developped
  3. Customer says thank you

If there are more interactions than this, then you are not spending enough time either understanding the problem or finding the perfect solution for the problem.

How our jobs are killing us

Sitting down for more than 3 hrs a day decreases your lifespan by AT LEAST 2 years on average. Try to stand up and move around for a few minutes at least once every hour, or consider getting a standing desk.

Salesmen and the Art of Selling

Turns out that contrary to popular belief, the best sales people are NOT extroverts. They are NOT introverts either. They are “ambiverts” — which is the majority of us: those that are not on either extreme of the scale.

Interesting Sales Pitches

The Question Pitch: If you ask your customer a question, and you know what answer they will come up with in their head (and it’s a favorable answer), then this is much more compelling than just telling them in the first place. (Should landing page headlines be questions to our customers?)

The Rhyming Pitch: Rhyming messages trigger a cognitive part of the brain that makes them more memorable and seem MORE TRUE. “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit”

The Pixar Pitch: All pixar stories are fundamentally structured like this:

Once upon a time __________________
every day ________________
until _______________
because of that ____________ and because of that _______________
until ___________________

(think of Saving Nemo or any other Pixar movie). Apparently a sales pitch like this is very effective. Should you consider a story like this on your About Us pages? Or perhaps below the fold on your landing pages?