How to Stay Focused & Maximize Your Efficiency
Have you ever read a book and were so mind blown that you had to tell someone about it? Well, The One Thing, by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan is one of those books for me. After reading it cover to cover within a week (it is a quick read which is great), I was fired up and reminded why I am so passionate about creating an intuitive product that will help people be more efficient with their time and stay focused at work.
In case your must-read list is already 20 books long like mine, or in case you just aren’t one for reading, let me give you a run through of a few of the simple takeaways that I feel every working professional should live by.
Don’t (just) create a "To-Do List”, create a “Success List”
What does this even mean? Put simply, a Success List is a prioritized To-Do List. Instead of putting everything under the sun on your To-Do list for that day, sort through it, prioritize, and only focus on the should do item(s). If you are like me and are constantly adding to your To-Do List, that’s okay. The point isn’t to not write out everything that needs to be done, but focus each day on the should do items. This new Success List will help you to prioritize your day and focus in on what needs to get done now.
How I’ve implemented it...
I keep my To-Do List in Asana. It’s a project management app that I keep close by with a list of everything that I need to get done either today, next week, or next month. This To-Do List is still important, as writing it down somewhere will allow you to let go of thinking about it. From my Asana To-Do List, every morning I pick out my Success List and write these items on a whiteboard on my desk. This short list of items that I NEED to get done today stays top of mind helping me focus in on what I need to accomplish to make tomorrow easier and bring me closer to reaching my goals.
It’s also good to remember that it’s not how many items we are checking off our list in a day, it’s making sure that the RIGHT items get checked off. As Gary Keller wrote, “Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize” (Keller 38). The Success List will help to ensure that the right things are getting done. Keller goes even further to say that you could get your list down to one, yes ONE item - but I understand that seems a bit unreasonable in our working world. Just try to stick to only a few items per day, and remember that “things don’t matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most” (Keller 42).
Willpower is a Limited Resource
Ever wonder why you are more likely to say yes to ice-cream late at night or have an extra glass or two of wine at the end of the day? It may not just be those stressful phone calls with your clients or office drama leading you to your vices…willpower is a limited resource and few treat it like that.
Imagine willpower is like a battery pack. After a full night’s rest, you wake up fully charged, the “green” light is lit and you are ready to take on the day. Every decision you have to make, like choosing yogurt over a doughnut, or deciding to stay focused on an email instead of browsing a site you just saw an ad for, slowly drains away your battery of “willpower”. Realizing this is so important because you must learn to use your willpower sparingly.
Tip #1: Do your most important work in the mornings. This is when your willpower is fully charged and you can more easily focus on your prioritized Success List.
Tip #2: Eat more complex carbs & proteins. Yup, willpower is another reason we should be sticking to a healthy diet. Research has found that eating “foods that elevate blood sugar evenly over long periods” of time helps our brain to recover more quickly after stressful decisions (Keller 67). “Food for thought” has never been so true!
Focus on The One Thing
And then of course we come to the premise of the book. Above all, to be successful you must find your "One Thing.” To find your One Thing, ask yourself, “What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary” (Keller 106)? Finding your One Thing that you can do today to make tomorrow and the next day easier will not only help you to prioritize your Success List, but will help you to plan out your day, and be more successful.
Once you identify your One Thing, time block your calendar for the morning to work on it. It is recommended that you schedule your first hour in the office to plan out your day. From there, block off 3 hours to focus solely on your One Thing. (You may ask yourself, what happens if I finish my One Thing before the 3 hours are up? The answer to that is easy. Find your next One Thing). Blocking off such a large chunk of time can be hard, especially for managers who are being interrupted constantly, but explaining the reasoning behind the block and sticking to it will lead to great things. People will eventually catch-on.
I will leave you with a final quote that I feel really sums up the importance of finding your One Thing….
“Live with purpose and you know where you want to go. Live by priority and you’ll know what to do to get there” (Keller 147).
Checkout The One Thing to learn more about your One Thing.
Keller, Gary, and Jay Papasan. The One Thing: the Surprisingly Simple Truth behind Extraordinary Results. John Murray, 2014.