The Power of One Thing

Every day
as a leader you have to cut through the fog and noise of the immediate to keep things focused on what matters most. There is no place where that challenge is more important than in managing the tasks and priorities swimming in your head.

Trust me, I understand. I am wired to see and want to accomplish the 17 things I think are important right now. And, when I achieve some modicum of success on those, my juices get flowing and I start thinking “carpe diem,” seize the momentum and bring up those 37 other things I have been ruminating on. Bad idea.

To that end, I offer this simple discipline: Identify the ONE THING. In every situation, every day, identify the one thing that matters most right now. And do that.

Of all the things on your “to do list,” ask yourself, “what is the one thing that will make the biggest difference today?” If your plans for the day collapse because of some unforeseen crisis, what is the one thing that is non-negotiable?

Do the same thing in planning your week and your month. Ask yourself, “what is the one thing I can or should do that will move the ball furthest down the field?”

For every appointment, identify the one thing that is most important for you to address, contribute, leave behind, celebrate, etc.?

For every meeting, what is the one thing you want every participant to walk away with?

For every presentation, what is the one message, insight, action point, principle, etc. that you are going to talk about?

It is simple. Simple to understand, but a courageously contrary discipline to execute. I dare you to try it. Instead of fixating on how to get more done, focus on the one thing that will bring strategic progress in this moment and do that thing.

#1: Momentum. If you do this consistently I believe you will find that every day, every meeting, every communique will find these incremental steps add up to significant momentum. And, momentum is exciting.

#2: Impact. The depth of our impact is directly proportional to the narrowness of our focus. The broader your focus the more you dissipate impact. So, imagine that every conversation, every day, every week had greater impact. How good would that be?

What’s your one thing for today?


FYI. For a future post: “How to approach the one thing question for your life.”

Inertia and the Boogie Man

Remember being scared of the “boogie man” as a kid.  Far from the fuzzy lovable “Monsters Inc.” version, the real boogie man spooked a lot of kids. Lurking in the closet or under the bed, he was there to pounce—whatever that means.

For you conspiracy-nuts, I’d suggest someone look into the possibility that the boogie man was invented by the night-lite industry—just a tip.  The point is that all you need to destroy the death grip of a boogie man is a small amount of light. Turn on your Lightning McQueen night-lite or poke a flashlight into that foreboding closet and poof, the boogie man is history.

OK, now make a leap with me. I’d like to suggest that inertia is like the boogie man.  When you postpone something that needs to be done, allow the backlog of unfinished tasks to accumulate, fail to make a decision, or procrastinate the start of a new initiative, the gravity of inertia grows geometrically.  Self-defeating self-talk starts to swirl in our heads and before we know it, the size of the task feels paralyzing. That project feels more like Mt. Everest than a freeway on-ramp. We begin to convince ourselves that success is not possible. But, here’s the deal, inertia has no real power, it is all in our head. It is the self-defeat of inaction.

It doesn’t take much effort at all to replace inertia with movement. Just like the power of a tiny night-lite, in the realm of self-leadership all it takes is the first proactive step. Make that phone call. Write that note. Make a first decision. It doesn’t have to be the perfect first step, and it doesn’t have to be a big step, any first step with do. Just take one and instantly you are “unstuck.” Instantly you have emasculated the boogie man of inertia. He has no more power over you. You have unfrozen the situation and poof, inertia is history.

So, where are you feeling the oppressive gravity of something unfinished, unstarted, undecided, unresolved? Pick the biggest scariest boogie man of them all and do ONE little thing right now. Take one first step today. Open the closet door and shine a light into the darkness.

The freedom you will experience is exhilarating.

In one first step you will begin to replace inertia with momentum. And, momentum is a great experience. What are you waiting for? What is that step you need to take today?