The One Thing: How to focus on the things that matter

What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

It is one of the best questions to improve effectiveness.

It was coined by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan in their book The ONE Thing.

Effectiveness or efficiency?

Effectiveness is your ability to do the things that actually matter and leave out the tasks that do not add value.

Efficiency is your ability to do very quickly and intelligently a given task.

The problem with efficiency is that you may be very good at doing things, but not all of them add value or are important. 

In such a case, you’ll be efficient to do things that do not matter.

Focusing on effectiveness first is critical.

The power of the ONE thing

The beauty of the ONE thing is that it is far easier to prioritize one thing than two or three.

When you ask yourself the question “What is the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”, you’ll immediately know what it is.

And it works with the various aspects of your life: spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, or finances.

Fig. 16, My life and the areas that matter most in it, book The ONE Thing, by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan.
Fig. 16, My life and the areas that matter most in it, book The ONE Thing, by Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan.

Cascading the objectives

The second power of that question is that it helps you tying your long term objective to your daily tasks. 

It is usually hard to link strategical thinking with day-to-day work. And it works both days.

But strategy without execution is pointless (top-down). Having a beautiful plan is no good if it never becomes a reality.

However, doing daily tasks without any long term planning will be ineffective (bottom-up). It’s like a headless chicken, wandering around without any goal.

So ask yourself, today: 

  • What is the one thing that I must do this quarter, and that will make everything else easier or unnecessary to achieve my yearly objective?
  • What is the one thing that I must do this month, and that will make everything else easier or unnecessary to achieve my quarterly objective?
  • What is the one thing that I must do this week, and that will make everything else easier or unnecessary to achieve my monthly objective?
  • What is the one thing that I must do today, and that will make everything else easier or unnecessary to achieve my daily objective?

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