The One Thing for Extraordinary Results

“The ONE THING” is about taking the shortest path to achieving extraordinary results. It 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 make a difference and that have a real impact.

Finding the Shortest Path to a Big Goal

The lead domino

1. Identify your long term goal

This process is about achieving a long term goal as quickly as possible. But you need to have a goal in mind.

2. Identify your one year goal

Ask yourself: “What is the ONE THING I can do THIS YEAR such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary in achieving my long term goal?” That ONE THING is your goal for the year.

3. Identify your goal for THIS MONTH

“What is the ONE THING I can do THIS MONTH such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary in achieving my one year goal?” That ONE THING is your goal for the month.

4. Identify your goal for THIS WEEK

“What is the ONE THING I can do THIS WEEK such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary in achieving my one month goal?” That ONE THING is your goal for the week.

5. Identify your goal for this TODAY

“What is the ONE THING I can do TODAY such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary in achieving my one week goal?” That ONE THING is your goal for today.

6. Work on TODAY’s goal for the first 4 hours of your day

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.

Meaningful Days

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 and 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 didn’t 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 often “work” related goal. That usually 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…

More About this Topic

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

How I Plan my Week

This is an archive and record of how I used to plan my week back in November 2013. My ritual has changed since then, but the information is still relavent.

What is “Balance”

I don’t like the term “Work/Life” balance because it implies that there are only two areas of importance: Work and Life. The reality for most of us is that “Life” is actually composed of several important roles: Parenting, Homeownership, Friendships, Community, “Me” time, etc….

Most of us already spend at least half our waking hours at work. This does not leave much time for the other important areas in your life.

How I Plan My Week

Every weekend I go through the following ritual to plan the coming week. The goals are to ensure that important things get done, but also to ensure that some time is devoted to each of the roles you play.

1. I review my Personal Mission Statement

A personal mission statement gives you guidance and is a reminder of what is important to you.  If you don’t already have one, take some time to write one. Every week I review my mission statement and update it if necessary.

My Personal Mission Statement

To find happiness, fulfillment, and value in living I will strive to:

  • Make a positive difference in the lives of others;
  • Spend more quality time with friends and family;
  • Simplify my life; work less; have more “perfect days”; and keep an open mind;
  • Do great things; strive for excellence; and inspire others.
  • Apologize sincerely when necessary.
  • Remember that life is short; be grateful; relax and enjoy the moment; Memento Mori.

2. I review my Roles

Achieving “balance in life” isn’t about getting a 50/50 balance between “work” and “life”.  You play many more than just 2 roles in life: Individual, Father, Husband, Friend, Employee, Homeowner, Artist, World Traveler, Adventurer, etc… You should try to devote some time to each of the roles you play.

Although they rarely change, every week I review my roles and occasionally I add a new role or remove a role that no longer applies.

My Roles

  • Individual
  • Father / Husband
  • Family Member (son, brother, cousin)
  • Friend
  • Employee / Entrepreneur
  • Homeowner

3. For each Role, I review my Long Term Goals

For each of my roles I try to define some long term goals. I review my goals weekly to make sure they are still important to me and that they align with my personal mission statement.

What are some big things that would make a tremendous difference if I could accomplish them? I try to make the goals as specific as possible and not too vague. Each week I want to try and get a little closer to reaching those goals.

Some of my Goals

  • Individual: Resume Painting; Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro; Visit the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Father / Husband: Weekly date night; 10 year anniversary trip; Build swing set;
  • Family: Help my father lose 50lbs; Family cottage trip; 
  • Friend: Help my friends identify and achieve their goals;
  • Homeowner: Renovate garage; Build a pool; 

4. I schedule time in my week for each Role

Every week I make an effort to spend some time on each role. I identify the most impactful thing I can do for each role and schedule time in my calendar to do it. Sometimes this is something that gets me closer to some big ambitious goal, other times it’s something simpler like buying flowers or a date night.

For each of my roles I choose 1 to 3 important priorities/tasks to work on that week.

5. I schedule time for Personal Renewal & Growth

In addition to spending time on each of my roles, I try to devote time each week to become better physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually:

  • Physical: Eat healthy, exercise, etc…
  • Mental: Read, learn, etc…
  • Social: Strengthen existing relationships, form new relationships, networking, etc…
  • Spiritual: Meditate, nature, music, religion, etc…

Related Posts

The Four Quadrants of Time Management

Everything you do in life can be classified by its urgency and by its importance. We often spend our lives focused on the Urgent things instead of the Important things. It is important to learn to distinguish between the two.

Four Quadrants Time Management Matrix
The Time Management Matrix: Everything you do in life can be classified by its urgency (Urgent or Not Urgent) and by its importance (Important or Not Important)
Important and UrgentCrises and Emergencies
Important but Not UrgentPrevention, Planning, and Improvement
Not Important but UrgentInterruptions and Busy Work
Not Important and Not UrgentTime Wasters

We often spend our lives focused on the Urgent things instead of the Important things. In business as in life it is extremely important to ask yourself: “Am I doing this because it is truly important or am I doing this because it is simply urgent?”

Important and urgent things, such as crises and emergencies, should not be ignored. However, the more time you can spend on the non-urgent but important things (prevention, planning, improvement) the less crises and emergencies you will experience..

Below is a more detailed explanation of each quadrant along with some examples:

Quadrant 1: Important and Urgent

Important Urgent Quadrants 1

Fire fighting mode: Crises, real hard deadlines for important project, health & family emergencies, etc…

Quadrant 1 is the urgent important quadrant: Things that you should definitely NOT ignore. However, spending too much time in fire fighting mode will lead to stress and burn out. You will be caught in a never-ending cycle of crisis management.

The only way to reduce the time spent in this quadrant is to be proactive by spending more time on the important things BEFORE they become emergencies (see Quadrant 2 below).

Quadrant 1 Example
Dealing with a heart attack is an Urgent and Important problem that cannot be ignored (but perhaps by living a healthier lifestyle such health emergencies can be reduced or avoided all together).

Quadrant 2: Important but not Urgent

Quadrant 2 Tasks - Prevention and Planning

This is where you should spend most of your time.

Quadrant 2 tasks are all about planning, prevention, capability improvement, relationship building, recognizing new opportunities, etc…

Spending time on these important things should lead to a clear vision and a balanced life, discipline, control, and fewer and fewer crisis situations.

Quadrant 2 Examples

  • Frequently buying flowers for your significant other “just because”
  • Eating healthy and exercising to avoid future health issues
  • Preventative maintenance on your home or car
  • Reading, learning, and education
  • Forming bonds and strengthening relationships with your friends and family
  • Self renewal and spending time on things that inspire and uplift you

Quadrant 3: Not Important but Urgent

Quadrant 3 - Interruptions

Many of us spend a big portion of our time in this Quadrant confusing the Urgent things for the Important things.

Interruptions, ringing phones, most emails, etc…  Spending too much time on the unimportant urgent things leads to a very short-term focus with continual crisis management.  Your plans and goals will seem increasingly useless since you are unlikely to have time to devote to them.  Your relationships and reputation will suffer and you will feel victimized with no control over your life.

Quadrant 3 Example

You have scheduled an important meeting with a coworker 2 weeks ahead of time. This person has very limited time and so you carve out a 30 minute window to deal with a very important matter. As you sit down and start the meeting, your phone rings.

The phone is screaming: “Pick me up! Pick me up! Pick me up!” Most people will pickup the phone and sacrifice the very important meeting for the likely not important but urgent ringing phone.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent and Not Important

Quadrant 4 - Time Wasters

These are the time wasters in your life.

Spending too much time on non-urgent and not important things can lead to dependence on others for your basics, loss of jobs, irresponsibility, etc…

Quadrant 4 Examples

  • Trivial busy work
  • Mindless web surfing
  • Watching too much TV
  • Lots of pleasant activities

How do I use this to make my life better?

quadrants 1,2,3,4
How do we transition from Quadrants 1, 3 & 4 and make more time for Quadrant 2 activites?

A. Identify Quadrant 2 activities.

  • Write down all the Quadrant 1 and 3 activities you routinely do (all the Urgent stuff)
  • Write down how you can prevent these things from reoccurring or from becoming emergencies in the first place: These are your new Quadrant ii activities.

B. Free up time for Quadrant 2 activities

  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 4 and STOP DOING THEM!
  • Look at all the things in Quadrant 3 and stop doing them too.  This is more difficult as it involves saying NO to people.
  • You should now have time to spend on Quadrant 2

C. Schedule time for Quadrant 2Schedule Time for Q2

  • Schedule time to do Quadrant 2 activities.
    (Put them in your calendar just like a meeting).
  • DO THE THINGS YOU SCHEDULED!

D. Reduce Quadrant 1

  • The beauty with spending more time in Quadrant 2 is that it should slowly chip away at all your Quadrant 1 activities.
  • As you reduce your Quadrant 1 activities you have more time for Quadrant 2, creating a fly-wheel effect.

Simple, right?

Not quite.  The Question “What is important to me?” usually does not have a simple answer.

What Quadrant Am I?

Example 1: Going to a Sporting event
(Hockey, Baseball, Football game, etc…)

Which quadrant does this fall into?  The answer is it depends on YOUR priorities and what is important to YOU. On the surface it looks clearly like a Q4 item – a time waster.  Not urgent and certainly not important.

But, it could be a Q2 event (important) if you consider the event to be an opportunity to spend quality time building relationships with your parents, children, or friends .

Example 2: Watching TV

Clearly another Q4 item: A time waster.  Or is it?  If watching TV is a stress reliever for you and serves as a way to wind down and chill out after a hectic day, it could very well be a Q2 activity.  Just as long as you frame it correctly and consume it in the right way.

To be successful with this method you must have a very clear understanding of what is important to you, what your long term goals are, etc… For more information about how to plan your week around this framework, see my blog post on How I Plan My Week.

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