Accomplishing a big goal is challenging enough, but add in the myriad of responsibilities and distractions that life throws at us and it makes accomplishing that same goal feel impossible, whether in your personal life or your business.
It was with this in mind that Jay Papasan and Gary Keller of Keller Williams Realty set out to write The One Thing, a book about cutting through misconceptions and setting things straight about what it really takes to live a productive life filled with purpose and accomplish your personal and business goals.
At its heart, The One Thing is a book that shows you how to discover the most important thing and turn that into your laser focus (and how that helps you accomplish your ultimate goal), and it does so masterfully.
If you have a big goal, especially if you aren’t happy with the progress you’re making, you can’t pass this book up.
But if you don’t have the time to read it in its entirety, or you just want some of the best parts distilled down into bite-sized chunks, we’ve pulled out some of the most useful lessons the Papasan and Keller have to offer.
Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work.
– Gary Keller, The One Thing
Here are five lessons on getting things done from The One Thing:
1. Do away with to-do lists
Most of us use a to-do list in our daily life because, without it, we feel like we’d lose all control or forget something critical.
However, according to Keller, to-do lists keep you in survival mode. Instead of focusing on making progress and prioritizing placing your energy in things that move you toward your goals, a to-do list prioritizes urgency and keeps us focusing on an endless loop of urgent but often not at all productive tasks, the kind of things you need to get done — like grocery shopping, getting an oil change, doing laundry, helping your child with their homework, etc — but don’t at all move you any closer to your goals.
Instead, Keller and Papasan suggest reorganizing your to-do list to prioritize the one most important thing, placing tasks attached to that thing above all else. In other words, make a success list.
2. Minimize distractions in your environment to maximize productivity
This is a huge one that I’ve personally worked on recently.
It’s easy to miss just how detrimental all those little distractions throughout the day can be. Afterall, you were only pulled away for two minutes to answer that email, five minutes to make a quick phone call, etc. How much damage can they really do?
Well, it turns out, those short interruptions can make a huge impact.
Twenty-three minutes and fifteen seconds. That’s how many minutes it takes to get back to full concentration on the pre-existing task when you’re interrupted, according to a recent study published by Gloria Mark, a researcher from the University of California, Irvine who specializes in the effects of digital distraction.
Every time you become interrupted, even for two short minutes, your concentration is interrupted and it becomes very hard to get back onto the task at hand at the same level of concentration you were at before.
Instead of letting distractions control your day, work to minimize distractions throughout your work environment so that you can devote long blocks of uninterrupted time to the most important tasks in your day.
3. Use the Pareto Principle
Known popularly as the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle states that twenty percent of the work you put into something is responsible for eighty percent of the results you get out.
For example, you might have four or five different things you do to acquire clients for your business, marketing efforts you use in various different ways. Well, it’s always the case that one or two of those efforts are accounting for the lion’s share of your results. It’s not an exact science but you’ll find it’s always generally true and that makes it easy to take advantage of.
This has an unlimited number of applications and they virtually all increase your productivity, having a potentially significant impact overall because it not only allows you to identify the most important effort but weed out less important ones simultaneously.
4. Multitasking is unproductive and ineffective
As widespread as this knowledge now is, I’m surprised to see how many people still multitask.
Scratch that, I’m not really surprised.
Multitasking, on the surface, appears to be something we do to be more productive. However, we actually do it to feel more productive because we believe our productivity is — and we are — inadequate. It’s a self-worth thing.
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Therefore, despite the fact it’s well-known that multitasking actually makes you unproductive and less effective at everything you do, we still do it because we’re trying to mask the feeling that we’re not living up to our own hopes and expectations for ourselves.
Multitasking provides the illusion of productivity, so it’s very addictive. And once you get that feeling you want more of it, so you go back to it time and time again until it becomes a part of your process.
However, it’s literally impossible for our brains to do two things at once, so what you’re really doing is quickly bouncing back and forth between two or more different activities, never giving your brain the time it needs to sink in to said activity and develop a deep concentration, the kind that allows you to maximize your performance.
Instead, be a stickler for focusing on only one single thing at a time and giving that thing your absolute full attention and see what a difference it makes.
5. The “one thing” isn’t always clear (find it to maximize productivity)
The central principle throughout The One Thing is given away in the title. There are many ways to apply it, but it’s ultimately the idea that you need to find the one thing that is most important for you to focus on and place the lion’s share — or all — of your energy into that to maximize results on a particular effort.
This can apply to different things such as finding what is most important in your life, the one thing that will get you most or all of what you want, and laser focusing on it or finding what you or your business does best and ceasing to waste your time with other processes.
We often make things far more complicated than they need to be, however, by creating a laser focus we can dramatically shift our results without any additional work. It’s up to you to find what that is for you.