When you ask the elderly what kept them going, most of them will say “routine”. While that’s true for elderly folk, it may not be so when you’re trying to achieve something extraordinary. I have curated some of the key learning from the book, ‘The One Thing’ by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan and my thoughts and experiences around this wholesome productivity book, to give you pointers on how you can alter your lifestyle to become more productive.
As a budding freelance writer, figuring out my routine has been the biggest challenge. I am my own boss, which is great, but it also means I have to do everything on my own, baring all kinds of costs. Over time, I found that no matter how many bullet journals I fill, white boards I scribbled on, and to-do lists I scattered around my room, the one thing that gets me doing my job is purpose.
‘Purpose’ means something different to everyone and it goes beyond choosing what job to apply for. It has more to do with your values – like health, money, family, inner peace, self-expression, a particular experience and so on. Finding a job that accommodates those values is a process of trial and error, at least for me. In order to determine what your values are, you must be conscious of what YOU want (not the society version of success), and the more you concentrate on those values, the more it will become who you are.
“When you have a definite purpose for your life, clarity comes faster, which leads to more conviction in your direction. When you make faster decisions, you’ll often be the one who makes the first decisions and winds up with the best choices” – The One Thing
Read Part 1 of this series on choosing your career path. In case you’re satisfied with the road you’re on, the next important thing is – priority.
Definition of priority and “the one thing”
‘Priority’, according to The One Thing is a single task, “there is no such thing as “priorities”, there is only priority. Whatever that task is, it should be the first thing you do when you wake up, and only when it’s complete, should you move on to other tasks. With this small change to my daily routine, I began feeling so much more productive and in control of my work. I realised that if I broke all my tasks down to literary one important thing a day, and did that one thing first, I was getting closer to my goal. If you’re unsure of what your priority is for the day, ask yourself this focusing question – “What’s the one thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else is easier or unnecessary?”
“Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing…” – The One Thing
There is a scientific reason behind why we should do our priority task first thing in the morning and it has most to do with your will power.
“Will power has a limited battery life”
Our will power is not something we can call upon at any time of the day, it is strongest when we first wake up and dwindles by nightfall. That’s why doing your most laborious tasks in the morning (or your One Thing) is what they recommend.
“the more we use our mind, the less minding power we have.”
Try this out and let us know if it works for you in the comments. I’m genuinely interested to see if this works for other people, because I absolutely swear by it! I love working at night, I think most people work best in silence, but if you have a gnawing task that just doesn’t seem to get done, do it first thing tomorrow morning, and see how far you get with it.
If you start your day by reading for leisure, scrolling through social media, watching Netflix, or having long chats in the pantry, you’re exerting a lot of your (limited) energy on these tasks, that will be lost on your one thing.
Work-life balance lie: “magic happens at the extremes”
‘Flow’ is the state your body goes into when it is concentrating on a single task with almost no strained effort. When in this state, it would be wrong to force yourself to go to bed or eat in a timely manner. Though those things are immensely important for your health, which comes before any other priority – occasionally we must push ourselves for the sake of our craft.
“the problem with living in the middle is that it prevents you from making extraordinary time commitments to anything. In your effort to attend to all things, everything gets short-changed and nothing gets its due”
When it comes to your professional work, putting in “focused time (entering flow state) over time”, is how you are going to achieve extraordinary results. The authors of, The One Thing debunk the concept of “work-life balance” and are of the opinion that if you want to achieve something significant, it “requires getting extremely out of balance in relation to all other work issues” and how you, “must choose what matters most and give it all the time it demands”.
I have worked within the confines of a routine and also pursued the extremes. I find that when you have to personally show up somewhere to present or give an exam or interview, it is not wise to throw your schedule out of whack during the days leading up to it.
“knowing when to pursue the middle and when to pursue the extremes is in essence the true beginning of wisdom”
The idea of working on a Sunday may seem unthinkable to you. It is however, how Michael Phelps won his accolades in swimming. It’s called, “the Sunday advantage” – he figured that by training every Sunday he got a 52 day training advantage in the competition. This is a simple idea and one that has probably been in the productivity manual for a long time, but I had to include it here.
The food you eat is a big part of your lifestyle and productivity. Here, the authors of the book talk about feeding your mind as our brains consume 1/5 the calories we burn for energy. We should eat foods that, elevate blood sugar evenly, over long periods of time, like complex carbohydrates and proteins. This includes, whole-grains, green veggies, fruits, legumes etc. They don’t go into too much detail about this subject, let us know in the comments if you’re interested in a post dedicated to food and productivity.
The next and last post for this productivity series covers mindset, so look out for that in the coming weeks!