There exists one simple word that all uber successful subscribe to: Focus.
Somehow, they’re masterfully able to focus on their priorities. And set everything else aside. To do something later. Or to delegate and remove something from their plate altogether.
It sounds simple, right? To focus only on one thing?
But in today’s digital, fast-paced world of constant technological distractions like emails, texts, notifications, and social media… combined with the busy juggling of multiple life concerns – a career, the kids’ soccer games, groceries, cooking a healthy meal, so on and so forth. Well something so simple can become harder than ever.
How do the successful combat the reality of the times?
First, they operate under a different philosophy. Most people believe that success means accomplishing the greatest amount of “things” in the shortest amount of time. An old school definition of productivity. Today’s successful people believe that accomplishing the fewest number of (important) things is the real secret.
The prerequisite is that you have to know what’s most important. And the answer can’t be everything. Or even lots of things. It can only be One Thing.
I’d like to introduce you to Jay Papasan. Jay and I have known each other for almost 20 years. We started our careers at the same time at the same company, mentoring under the same leader and entrepreneur. We were both just kids in our late twenties. Reflecting back, it’s interesting to note how that one mentor shaped our thinking, which has had a direct impact on the success of both of our careers.
Jay now works alongside that mentor, Gary Keller. As a co-author of many books and as a partner in several businesses. I love seeing Jay’s amazing success since our early days.
Most prominently, his success with the New York Times best-selling book: The ONE Thing. Jay co-authors the book with our old mentor, Gary Keller.
The ONE Thing is amazing, and it lives on my bookshelf as one of my definitive Top 10 favorite reads.
I consider myself a voracious reader. So it’s no small feat to make it on the top of my list. Those that do, however, do so because they have quite literally changed my life. One way or another.
Before I read The ONE Thing, I would have said I was pretty darn focused. But it exposed the fact that I didn’t actually know my One Thing. And as a result, I was doing way too much (I’m constantly coming up with new ideas), which was ultimately slowing down the success of my business. Not to mention the additional stress of having to deal with more things, more people, more projects, and more headaches.
I strongly urge you to listen to my podcast interview with Jay. And read The ONE Thing. I’ve linked you to both of them to make it super easy.
But if you’d like to know my biggest takeaways from the interview, keep on reading…
Success is getting what you want.
Jay defines success as getting what you want. And he defines productivity as giving 100% of your effort to your top priority. Which, in turn, should most quickly and easily get you closer to what you want.
It sounds simple. And can be. As long as you know what you want!
What is your One Thing?
What is it exactly that you want? Can you answer that question?
If not. That’s your next One Thing. Stop everything else and determine your “why.”
If you can answer the question “What do I want?” then this is your one thing. Your first domino. Everything else you do needs to be a strategic move toward that dream, goal, objective, intention… however you might define it.
When considering a new idea or project, stop! Then ask yourself the question “Is this my top priority that will help me get one quantifiable step closer to the goal?” If not, ditch it. Say “no,” or at the very least, say “not now.”
Bottom line: you can be as successful as you want to be as long as you know where you want to go. Otherwise, you’ll just zig-zag or drift around aimlessly. And that’s where the initial feeling of lack of success stems from in the first place.
According to Jay, if even just half of our time was devoted to our biggest priority, we’d start to see unbelievable results.
Learn how to move from priority to priority. Rather than try to tackle several priorities at once.
How do you get there?
Once you know what your One Thing is, the next step is actually implementing the strategies that will keep you on track. Which includes both action and non-action.
You must adopt practices for keeping your priority top of mind – for the year, the month, the week, and even the today. Here’s an example… I keep a journal. So does Jay. To note down what the One Thing is today. Something where if nothing else got done, it would still be a productive day.
In the non-action category, you must protect yourself from the outside world, which has it’s own agenda. Jay calls his protection method his “bunker.” He shared how he protects himself from the bombardment of emails, meeting requests, and other interruptions that pull him away from accomplishing his One Thing.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to commitments of time and action. How do you commit? Well here are three helpful tips from Jay…
1. Create a list.
Start by focusing on small chunks. Take one business week. At the beginning of the week, create a list of all of the main tasks that you’d like to get done that week. And order them in order of priority from number 1 all the way down the list.
That’s easy enough. But here’s the trick. Identify your priority, and commit to it! Rather than thinking or worrying about numbers 2 down to the bottom, focus all of your time and effort on number 1. When numero uno is crossed off the list, take a break. Then, and only then, move on to number 2.
2. Limit distractions.
Once you’ve created your list and made the commitment to only focus on one item, create a bunker for yourself where you can truly honor that commitment to yourself. If you have a tab with your email account open on your browser, or if your cell phone notifications are switched on, you’re limiting your chances of actually being able to focus on just one thing.
You have to intentionally protect yourself from distractions. Why? Because our brains are biologically wired to notice distractions. As hunter-gathers, the ability to notice many things at once was a survival instinct. Whenever we were walking through the woods picking berries, our brains were wired to notice something as subtle as a rustle in the trees, which could be a life-threatening saber-tooth tiger.
Today, we don’t have to worry about the saber-tooth. But our paleo brain still notices all of the distractions. And in metaphorical terms, email can be just a dangerous to our survival as the tiger’s teeth.
3. Keep practicing.
It can be discouraging to fall off track. But that’s okay! We can always be better, but we never have to be perfect. Once you’ve figured out your One Thing and you’ve created the space to focus on that One Thing, you just need to keep going.
Resiliency is the last piece to the puzzle here. And it truly distinguishes those who have achieved great success from those who haven’t. Just like any skill, productivity can be honed. It’s like a muscle in that way.
Here’s to dumping “busy-ness” off of the back of the bus. And staying focused on what truly matters. Right here. Right now.
What’s your One Thing? I’d love to know.