One question to rule them all

I just finished a re-read of the book  The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

This book dares you to define your #1 priority (in one area of life) and then do that “ONE Thing” for as much of the day as you possibly can.  

How do you define your #1 priority?  By asking yourself “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”  

As a musician, I struggle with this question every day, all day long.  What IS my one thing? There are so many of them.  What’s my ONE thing for today? (Do I practice scales? Learn a new piece?  Review something I already know?  Do I transcribe something?  Will any of this really make a difference in the long run?)  What’s my ONE thing for my next project? (Do I work on writing a new song today?  What DO I need to be doing to move this project along?)  What’s my ONE thing for my career overall?  (What is REALLY going to make a difference in my music career?  Being a better player or writing more songs or both?  How do I do both when I feel like there isn’t even time to do ONE thing well each day?)  It’s easy to get overwhelmed.  Something about working on priorities and getting super serious about focus cranks up the mental chatter.  

Time to stop, take a deep breath, and schedule time to answer the ONE thing question in systematic way. To me, there are at least three ways to go about it.  

Way #1:  Ask and ask and ask ...

One way to create the answer is to keep asking the question “What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” over and over until you really, truly, to-the-best-of-your-ability, at-this-moment-in-time can pin-point your ONE thing that will make the most difference in your life.

Way #2: Hack (away at) your to-do list until you’re left with a success list

We all have to-do lists.  The problem is there is rarely any order to them.  As Keller and Papasan note, “Most to-do lists are actually just survival lists—getting you through your day and your life, but not making each day a stepping-stone for the next so that you sequentially build a successful life.”

Take your to-do list and whittle it down to the few things (four? six?) that will make a tremendous difference in your life.  This will be your “success list”—a list that is purposefully created around your most important goals and dreams.

Then, keep whittling.  Find the ONE thing that will make the most difference for you in your life.  Keller and Papasan sum it up by saying, “There will always be just a few things that matter more than the rest, and out of those, one will matter most.”

Way #3: Use your gut

This might be the quickest way to figure out what your ONE thing is.  I tried it out after reading the book for the second time.  Make a list of your top five or sixgoals in life.  If you already have a list like this, then use it.  Next, step back and ask the question, “What’s the ONE thing on this list I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

I’ll be writing more about my ONE thing in the months to come.  I am doubling-down on my ability to focus this year.  That’s what the 2 Songs A Month challenge is all about. 

Are you game to find your ONE thing?  Want to hear more about it?

Like the idea?  Hate it?  Let me know in the comments below.