If you've been keeping up with me, you are probably aware of my read 12 books this year goal. It is going well and I am thoroughly enjoying it. My latest read was 'The ONE Thing' by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, a book so practical and perfect for anyone seeking increased productivity and/or loves personal growth.
Now this blog post is not going to be a review of The ONE Thing, but that book is a huge inspiration. The ONE Thing is unlike (and superior) to many other books in the sense that it has a very clear and unmistakable message. A theme that runs prominently throughout every single page of the book. And that theme is focus. Deliberate, purposeful focus.
Even before reading The ONE Thing, I have really started to appreciate how vital finding focus is. Going back into 'work mode' after the summer comes with the reality that there are a lot of things to do. And I'm sorry, but no matter how much we try, we cannot do them all.
And that is OK, because we should really stop trying.
There is a quote I heard a while ago that really resonated with me: "You can do anything, but you can't do everything." How true that is. We have a lot of potential to achieve a wide range of goals and aspirations. But that does not mean we can do everything at once. There may be a lot of things on your to-do list, but there is only one of you. Moreover, your health, well-being and sanity matter, so trying to do everything just will not work.
Find the appropriate area to direct your energy and do not stop until you do it well. You cannot be perfect at everything, but you can be really, really good at something. This is where your priority comes in.
In the past I've tried to do everything at one go. And wanting to be fantastic at each and every one of my endeavours, I have experienced the associated stress and at times disappointment. It even seems to be a natural tendency we have, to want to cram a lot of things in our lives. It is almost as if we love the chase, as if we get a thrill from keeping up with never-ending demands.
Sometimes we just want to check everything off on our to-do list, including everything from the very important to the utterly trivial - just because they are on the list. But doing many things does not making you productive. Doing the right thing at the right time does.
Maybe you only realise what your priority is when you run out of time. You planned to do so many things, but for whatever reason you can only choose one thing off the to-do list. You previously thought everything mattered equally and had no real plan for the order in which to execute your tasks.
"As long as they are all done, it shouldn't matter, you thought". But, when you realise that you simply cannot get them all done anymore, what do you do? Why, then you are forced to prioritise. With the limited but valuable time you have left you've only got one choice: you have to put the first thing first.
When you are forced to find focus, you know what to do. You know that figuring your priorities is about balancing urgency, importance and your long-term vision. When you really think about it, you know the most weighty item on your to-do list. You just don't do anything about it until you've got no choice but to.
Starting to see how it all ties in? You cannot afford to just do the first thing that comes to mind. Your time is valuable. Even when things are relatively calm you need to have your priorities in place so that when they become intense, you are using your energy where it is most needed.
An interesting point that The ONE Thing brought out is that you should not expect every aspect of your life to be in balance all the time. Sometimes you will need to shift more focus on one thing, and let another go for a while until you can come back to it.
What you need to focus on today may not be what need need to focus on in a month's time. The point is that you devote yourself to what is most crucial at each point, and that you are flexible. Not everything will be in a state of balance at the same time, but you get to decide when to start something, and when to leave it.
So instead of trying to do everything, why not explore ways you can focus your energy on what will bring the greatest return. Set your priorities and start your day with the most weighty task.
Doing 'more' is not the solution. Finding your focus and staying dedicated to what matters most, is. 'The ONE Thing', the amazing book that inspired this post, can be found on amazon, here.
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I recently read a short excerpt by Alain de Botton that made really reflect and think: Can we blame others for not understanding us? Let me explain:
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