The first quarter of the year has already come and gone and hopefully you are feeling great about your progress so far. Unfortunately, you are far more likely in the 90% of people who feel like they are falling behind on their goals – if they have managed to find the time to set any at all. Do not despair – You are not alone!
The majority of people who set goals at the beginning of the year do so with such gusto that they create a huge (and mostly unrealistic) to do list for themselves with no real focus or priorities. This list gets attacked with great enthusiasm for the first few weeks, but without taking the time to think about how all of these extra projects are going to fit into your real life/work, it is difficult to sustain this extra effort.
The good news is that you don’t need to do everything on your list in order to make major leaps forward in success and fulfillment this year. All you need to do is one thing. It just needs to be the right thing.
Finding this one thing is easier than you might think. Simply ask these two questions:
What is the one thing I could accomplish this year that would do most to move me forward in the direction I want to go? It might be implementing a regular exercise or healthful eating routine. For entrepreneurs it might be putting performance development systems in place, hiring a key person, or investing time and money to improve marketing systems. For leaders, it could be figuring out how to spend 20% more time on your peak performers and 20% less on your poor performers. A teacher might take the topics you find most stressful and/or frustrating to teach and find ways to make these classes more fun for you and more effective for your students. If you are unsure what you want to do with your life once you leave Japan, it could involve taking the time to figure this out.
What one thing is the biggest source of frustration, stress, angst, and/or resource drain (financial, time, or energy) for me? How much extra time, energy and/or money would you have available if you were to find a way to correct this? One of my time-starved clients had two properties to look after that were draining her time and energy and adding little value to what was really important in her life. Her one thing this year is to sell these properties and buy one that requires minimal maintenance so she can have more time and energy to focus on growing her business. Another client who is a teacher but doesn’t enjoy it, realized just how drained he gets from teaching – especially certain topics. His “one thing” was to find ways to enjoy his teaching more while he figures out a way to earn his living doing something else. (Yes, technically this is two things….but let’s not get hung up on technicalities! The point is that he has a very clear, simple and narrow focus of his highest leverage area for action this year.)
Of course these are not simple one-item actions that can be put on a to-do list. Each “one thing” is made up of several steps. This is precisely the reason most people are starting to feel like failures by now. They have several “one things” on their list, each with multiple steps involved to achieve them. When you add these all together it is a recipe for overload to try to move them all forward at once!
Once you identify your “one thing”, create a realistic strategy for integrating it into your schedule to ensure you achieve it. Resist the temptation to put three “one things” on your list and start working on them all. Put the other items in a “parking lot” to work on once you complete your first goal. You will be able to leverage the confidence and learning that you gain from creating success on your “one thing” to get far better results on these other items when they become your focus. Even better, it is likely that many of these other items on your list will either get taken care of or become irrelevant as a byproduct of focusing on your “one thing”.
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