I just want to do One Big Thing

Spring is in the air and everyone wants to “Get Things Done.” It’s exciting, it’s motivating, but it’s also overwhelming. Where to start? So many things to do.

There’s a quote by Greg McKeown I read recently that’s really helped me figure out how to prioritize:

The word priority came into the English language in the 1400s. It was singular. It meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for the next five hundred years. Only in the 1900s did we pluralize the term and start talking about priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality.

That’s a refreshing way to look at things. To actually get things done, you first need to tackle that one big thing for the day, then a few small things, and maybe some other smaller stuff.

It has to be simple

There’s an organizational system that embraces a singular priority called the “1–3–5 Rule” (1 big task, 3 small ones, and 5 others). I started using it a few years ago using a simple post-it note:

That worked well, but I wanted an iPhone app that would remind me to do it, make it easy to keep it in my pocket without getting crumpled, and wouldn’t require me to remember to keep a post-it + pen with me at all times. So I tried all of the 1–3–5 apps out there, but quickly got burnt out. They were way too complicated, had high-pressure priorities and reminders, and were too over-built with features that only got in the way. I wanted the clarity of my post-it note but on my phone.

So I made my own: One Big Thing. It’s a no-bells-and-whistles 1–3–5 app that doesn’t also try to become your personal-assistant and solve all of your organizational problems. Just get things done. And be happy about it!

Most importantly, I actually use it. Every day.

Choose from eight different themes!

It has to be fun

When I get a task done, I get a little endorphin shot of satisfaction. It’s wonderful. I’m so weird that I’ll even make sure to write the task down just so I get a chance to cross it off. One Big Thing nurtures this love affair with productivity — you get a little surprise every time you complete a task (try the app out and you’ll see what I mean). It’s not a game, nor should it be, but it sure is cute!

Fun sticker sets to delight and surprise!

Start by getting One Big Thing done

My list of things to get done in the New Year is intimidatingly long. I want to give a conference talk, get better with my Mamiyaflex camera, learn to snowboard, and about a hundred other things. Instead of feeling paralyzed by it, I’m distilling it down to a single priority to focus on, and doing it. Today I’m going to dust off my camera and shoot a roll of film — it’s today’s big thing.

One Big Thing, three small things, and maybe some other stuff — every day. Let’s do this!

Check it out on the Apple app store. Kick the tires and let me know what you think.

* I have plans to eventually make an Android release if there’s enough interest. Email me if that’s something you’d like to see.