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.

TWO PROMISES
#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.”

Rhythms of Self-Care

 

What got you here won’t get you there!

It’s a leadership principle I’ve thought a lot about over the years, but never saw how apropos it was for the rhythms of self-care. That is, until two months ago.

I was giving a presentation to a group of high caliber ministry leaders on what I’ve learned about the rhythms of life and work that my soul needs in order to thrive. As we dove into some Q&A, one of them made this comment: “As I sit here listening, it dawns on me that I am practicing the things that served me well in the past. But, as my role has changed and grown, those rhythms are simply not robust enough to sustain me in the present.”

That’s when the a-ha hit me:

When your role changes, your responsibilities grow, and the demands on you increase,
you need to adjust your rhythms of self-care if you are going to thrive. 

There is no one size fits all and there is no way for someone else to simplistically prescribe  a plan for you. You can probably easily identify what’s not working, but you’ll need to explore and experiment until you find what fits you.

Here are some areas to consider and literally toy with until you land on what serves you.

 

Managing Your Workflow?
… when are you at your best for the different types of work you need to do?
… when do you block time for creative and deep thought shaped work?
… when are you unavailable?
… what would an ideal day or ideal week look like for you and what are you doing to create as much of that as possible?

Thinking Time?
… I read a comment by Buffett saying he spends 80% of his time thinking. What you do in public is shaped by what is addressed and conceived in private. So, where is thinking time blocked into your schedule?

Exercise?
… internal well-being and physical well-being are inseparable. So, what are you doing these days? Is it enough?

Altitude/ Long-Range Perspective?
… What are your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual practices that help you look beyond the horizon for perspective and fresh priorities?
… When do you work on long range goals and dreams?
… How clear are you on your calling or unique contribution and how have you linked your calendar to that calling?

Spiritual Disciplines?
… what are your best practices for entering into and lingering in the presence of Christ?
… what disciplines do you practice that take you beyond the simple notions of quick daily devotional?
… Where is there space in your life for regular reflection, listening prayer, journaling, etc.

 

My personal game plan

You’re not me, so I make no assumption that what I need mirrors what you need. But, for the sake of an example, here are a few of the things that I am learning to practice. I devote my mornings until noon for my big four: Reading, Writing, Exercise, and the deep-thought-required tasks that are usually Quadrant II stuff. In fact, these days, I start my mornings earlier than ever so that before diving into anything else, I have unhurried time reflection and communion with Christ. On a weekly basis, I don’t do any appointments on Monday’s—I actually call it Monk mode—and use the day to gain perspective, do some writing, and get ahead on the creative deep thought related projects on my plate. If you’d like to see more, on my broader rhythms, CLICK HERE.

But, the real question is what do you need?

Do a little evaluation. Begin to experiment. Toy with doing things a different way. And, keep at it until you find the practices, rhythms, and self-management disciplines that will empower you to thrive, for the long haul?

 

 

 

 

For More, See these Related Posts:
Perspective
My “Pirates Code”
Elasticity and Time fore Reflection

A Pirates Code for Greater Focus

I just finished one of my favorite weeks all year: my personal prayer and planning retreat. It’s not vacation per se, although it is radically refreshing. It is a focused week where my primary agenda is to meet with the Lord and invite him to speak to me about the patterns, priorities, and plans of my life.

Over the years, I have done a variety of things during this retreat, but a couple fundamental components are non-negotiable. One is that I will read through my journal of the past year in one sitting looking for lessons, patterns, and the longings of my soul. Another is that as I pray over the year ahead, I will identify the primary goals and plans I need to achieve.

This year, I had a breakthrough I hadn’t sought. I recognized the linkage between annual, monthly, and weekly rhythms that are key to maintaining perspective and focus as a leader. Being a “P” and not a “J,” I think I’ll call it “the Pirates’ Code for Greater Leadership Focus.” If I wanted more grandiose phrasing, I might call it, “Keys to Strategic Life Management for a Leader.”

Borrowing from David Allen (GTD fame,) as well as my good friends Tim Cahill and Steve Hudson, I propose the following pattern and practices of self-leadership. Each offers perspective from a different altitude. Each component makes a specific contribution to the ability of a leader to chart their way forward. The point is that a leader needs all four.

50,000 ft  ::  CALLING

Calling is best captured as a guiding document that describes your best understanding to date of your biblical purpose, unique values, and vision for the impact you believe God wants you to make. There are a handful of tools and approaches that can help you with this.

WHEN COMPLETED: as soon as possible, if not done already. It is something to be reviewed annually.

TIME HORIZON: the foreseeable future

25,000 ft  ::  COMPASS

Your compass is an annual strategic plan that articulate goals and/or key objectives for each of your core life and work/ministry roles.

WHEN COMPLETED: annually during personal planning retreat of some kind.

TIME HORIZON: 12-18 months. (Often a major goal can’t be completed within a 12 month time frame. So, think beyond if needed.)

15,000 ft  ::  CALENDAR

Your Calendar is a game plan for the coming month. The point is that every 30 days we need to assess progress and re-align our lives with our compass. The core practice is time-blocking: blocking time to work on the next best action steps essential for progress on your goals and plans.

WHEN COMPLETED: every month during a personal planning day.

[People have variously called this kind of day a personal retreat day; a personal summit; a personal planning day; a day with God; or my own favorite, a “Day on the Mountain.” (Perspective requires altitude, getting above the fray, and mountains are a metaphor for that.)]

TIME HORIZON: the next 60-90 days. (it is not uncommon to find the next 30 days fairly booked. Therefore it often helps to look further out and block time accordingly.)

5,000 ft  ::  CLOCK

The Clock refers to specific plans and action steps for this week. It was Drucker who said, you cannot manage time, you spend it. However, you can manage appointments. One hidden gem: on a week by week basis it is essential to allow buffer time and flex time. If you over-program your schedule, you cannot respond to the unexpected.

WHEN COMPLETED: Typically early in the week. Monday morning, even Sunday night for some. The point is take 30-60 minutes to review and refine the detailed activities and plans of your week.

TIME HORIZON: one to two weeks. (Priority is the current seven days, but sometimes you see needed adjustment another week out.)

It’s a Pirates Code, guidelines not a new legalism. So give yourself room to be human. But don’t dodge the obvious question: at which altitude are you really clear and at which are you a bit fuzzy these days?