In his book, The ONE Thing, Gary Keller recommends using the following question to help clarify your focus:
“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
It’s a simple, yet effective, question. It focuses on only one thing—not a few things—at a time. It focuses on something you—not someone else—can actually do. And it focuses on what is most impactful. It draws your attention to those actions that will affect subsequent change.
The main goal of the question is to help you clarify what you should be focusing on in a given context. For instance, say you’re thinking about a project at work: What’s the one thing related to that project that you could do right now that would make everything else about the project easier (or maybe even unnecessary)? Maybe it’s finishing or delegating a critical task. Maybe it’s sending the client a note. Maybe it’s having a really hard conversation with the client, knowing that it won’t be fun now, but it will make everything else better down the road.
Regardless of what you’re thinking about, the answer to the question will always be contextual, offering you an intuitive sense of where to invest your time. You could frame the question in the context of your relationships—What’s the one thing I could do to help me continue to strengthen my relationship with my children down the road? You could use it in thinking about your long-term direction as a business—What’s the one thing we should be focusing on as a company that will make things easier in the long run? It could come in handy in thinking about health or diet—What’s the one thing I could do that would make staying in shape or eating healthier easier in the future?
There will always be an abundance of things that could be done at any given moment. Pausing to ask the question, “What’s the one thing…?”, can help cut through the clutter and focus your attention on actions that will actually have an impact in the future. Granted, once you know the “one thing” that would be profitable to focus on, it will still be up to you to follow through. But clarifying where that focal point should be is a worthwhile first step.