Arthur Guinness. J. K. Rowling with Harry Potter. Both creators have one thing in common, they learned the power of simplify and focusing on the one thing that made everything else inconsequential or non-essential. We have to start big to get to the one thing. For most people there is to much negative and fear of failure associated with thinking that way.
Don’t let small thinking cut your life down to size. Think big, aim high, act bold.
All those to-dos you have today, they’re not all equally important. Start here. As we discussed in the last post on Monday, our battle with our internal greed to think we can and should do it all is a bad impulsive approach. It creates complexity in our work, not simplification. Highly likely that list currently you have, very few will have a profound impact on what your going after. It’s noise. Prioritize your to-dos down to the few essential because they are not all equal nor deserve to be.
We get there by asking a very honest and direct focus question of ourselves. Mark Twain had this to say:
The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and starting on the first one.
I learned a great focus question you can ask yourself:
What’s the ONE thing you can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?
Asking it will help you to prioritize on two levels. On a macro scale, it helps you see the big picture mentioned above easier. You’ll see your overall goal a lot clearer. On a more practical short-term level the second thing this will do is provide a small focus. You’ll find immediately the options you can start with and prioritize immediate tasks that can be catalysts.
The discipline of asking the question above everyday is incredibly hard and like me, you’ll find some frustration in trying to keep it consistent day in and day out. This discipline however will channel the right energy as you simplify to that one thing you can do and you’ll form all kinds of great good behaviors. The simplest habit is always just to start. Once that becomes a habit, you can shift your discipline to another, and another, and another. Therefore, the not so secret answer to a disciplined and simple focus is sequential habit forming.
Time after time we’ve read and now know multitasking is horrible and bad for us. You will still find tons of articles that stress how good it is to do more than one thing at a time. In fact, it seems our culture demands it more and more. But, that’s just greed again making us think we have to do it all.
Stop multi-tasking, focus on one thing at a time with all you got, and give it your undivided attention. I use the timer function on my watch or phone, set a time for 25 minutes and focus on just one of my tasks with 100% of my attention with zilch multi-tasking. Including turning off every notification I have possible.
Scientifically speaking your not multi-tasking you’re literally dividing your brain power up and only giving a percent of your brain power to each task you add to the plate. This increases the likelihood that the quality you spit out is going to be diminished every time you pick up something else simultaneously to work on. We have to figure out what matters most and give it ALL of our undivided attention. That will produce a quality product every time.
It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.
Lastly, to tie Monday’s post with this one, we learned that saying NO to an unimportant task is absolutely critical to our focus on the ones that really matter. Learning what and how to say no has a predictable outcome on simplifying our work and clarifying where to spend the best time. Steve Jobs is a great example of this type of focus. In 1997 when he returned to lead Apple he reduced the company’s output from 350 products at that time to just ten! That’s a lot of no’s. He explained at a conference later that year:
When you think about focusing, you think ‘Well, focusing is about saying yes.’ NO! Focusing is about saying no.”
Think about implementing strategies that be effective at cutting down on the tasks you get or think you need to add. We know how much time we have everyday. It’s very limited. You have to learn to say no to the trivial and focus your energy on the one or two that are the most important to get done.
Success demands singleness of purpose.
We need to be ruthless and relentless in our efforts to get our tasks and work down to that one thing as much as possible. Less truly is more. Lesser priorities we have, must be minimized and do not deserve the same space as others. They are not created equal, so stop making them that way. They will bounce back. Our fear that they won’t keeps greed fed and alive.
I’ll end our series on simplifying with this quote from James Patterson which is a great analogy to reflect on:
Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. They are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping them all in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that the work ball is made of rubber – if you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls are made of glass.”
You’re going to learn why it’s important to cut through the clutter and chaos to get to simplicity in your work/life. It is not easy. Doing your best work where it really counts will allow your work to have room to shine and reach its fullest potential.
Enjoy the rest of the week! Thanks for reading.