I’ve been reading self-development books for many years now, but lately, I haven’t encountered any real paradigm shifts or breakthroughs anymore. I picked up a few ‘nice’ lessons and tips here and there, but nothing truly groundbreaking.
Until a few weeks ago.
You see, a few weeks ago I finished reading ‘The One Thing’ by Gary Keller. And since then it has profoundly changed the way I work. In fact, I completely overhauled my work process because of it.
Gary proposes a counterintuitive way of thinking about productivity and success, which is highly necessary for today’s work environment.
Today, the message that you have to do more, take on more projects and put in more hours is being fired at you 24/7. Whether it’s through inspirational quotes on Instagram or through YouTube videos — we’re being bombarded with the notion that we need to be doing more in order to achieve more.
These messages turn into a belief system that people grasp on to, while in fact, it’s a very limiting belief system that only hinders your progress and your success. As Gary proposes, there’s a different way. A much better, productive and less stressful way.
Less Is More
As we’re taking on more tasks & projects, set more goals and work more hours as we strive to become more successful, we’re actually spreading ourselves too thin. And thereby, we’re actually decreasing the odds of achieving the very success we seek and desire.
“Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Rather, if we narrowed our focus on just a handful of tasks, goals or projects — or maybe even just one — we would make sure it gets the time, attention and energy it requires in order to get us maximum results.
Steve Jobs understood this when he returned to Apple in 1997 and killed 70% of Apple’s product line in order to focus on doing just a few things well. Really well. Eventually, this philosophy helped Apple to become the most profitable company on the planet.
The truth is, not all tasks, goals or projects are created equal. If we spend our valuable resources such as our time, attention and energy on tasks or goals that aren’t highly valuable and mission-critical, we’re taking those resources away from the very things that are the most valuable and have the most impact on our careers or lives.
Rather what we need to do is become ruthless at identifying our most important goal and it’s corresponding most valuable task(s) — and eliminate or outsource everything else.
“The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus.”
— Alexander Graham Bell
In other words, it’s all about identifying the ‘One Thing’. And to help us do so, we should ask ourselves ‘The Focusing Question’ as often as possible.
The Focusing Question
In order to determine both your one goal (long-term) and your one task (short-term) that you should focus the biggest proportion your time, energy and attention on, Gary proposes ‘The Focusing Question’:
What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
I ask myself this question every single day before I begin working. It helps me reaffirm what my priority is and I can immediately see whether or not I have scheduled enough time for this task in my day.
Right now, my One Thing is writing self-development posts on Medium. It’s what gets me the most views, email subscribers and earnings. It makes creating other types of content unnecessary, as focusing all my efforts on Medium has a much higher ROI in terms of views.
Furthermore, it makes earning money with my own courses and e-books much easier because of the fact that I’m able to reach a large audience through Medium. In other words, Medium is my number one source of potential clients.
Exactly those two words that I highlighted are what you want in your ‘One Thing’. It must make other activities, goals or projects either unnecessary or much easier.
Apple’s One Thing is the iPhone, which contributes to more than 55% of their revenue for many years now. Focusing the majority of their efforts on designing and marketing the iPhone is what made Apple so highly successful.
Starbucks’ One Thing is their coffee, which earns them roughly 74% of their revenue. This is what made Starbucks so highly successful.
So, if you would look at yourself as if you were a business (and as an entrepreneur, this question is relatively easy to answer), what would be your one thing that would make everything else easier or unnecessary? What would be the one thing that could make you highly successful?
What one skill do you have that creates the most value to your company or to your audience? What one task creates the most value towards your goal? And what one goal creates the most value for your life?
These are all powerful questions that have the potential to transform your productivity and, thereby, your life.
Getting clear on your ‘One Thing’ and directing the majority of your resources towards that one thing is the key to achieving better results while not spreading yourself too thin or getting overwhelmed.
Your ‘One Thing’ Is (Almost) Never Fixed
Keep in mind that your one thing can change over time as trends and opportunities shift, and as you grow as a person or business.
Take Tim Ferriss for example. For a few years now, his one thing is podcasting. It’s how he connects with high-level individuals, generates revenue and gains new followers & email subscribers. Podcasting is what Tim is known for nowadays.
In fact, he even used his podcast interviews to write Tools of Titans. In other words, Tim’s one thing that makes everything else easier (such as writing a book or email marketing) or unnecessary is podcasting.
But a few years ago, however, his one thing was writing ‘The 4-Hour Work Week’. Writing that book made everything else easier or unnecessary for him. It’s what put him on the map and made launching and growing his podcast much easier.
So, as you can see, your one thing is almost never just one thing for eternity, especially in today’s fast-changing landscape. But that doesn’t really matter. As long as you get clear on your One Thing and focus the majority of your time, energy and attention on that one thing. It’s what will help you accelerate your results, earn more money and make a bigger impact.
Now Do It
Ask yourself the Focusing Question ‘What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?’ every single day before you start working. This one question will help you to skyrocket your productivity, as you’ll clearly identify your priority and can schedule your time accordingly.
Preferably, schedule a self-reflection session once a month in which you ask yourself this question with a broader perspective. What’s the One Thing I can do in my life such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
To Your Personal Growth,
Founder Personal Growth Lab