I’ve struggled with analysis paralysis for years. Should I be cold calling new clients, or working on my novel? Should I be blogging, or working on my book launch? Should I be pitching guest posts to sites my clients read, or pitching my novel to review bloggers?
It was excruciating! No matter what I was doing, I felt like I should be doing something else. Plus, at any given point I had a half-dozen creative projects I was halfway working on. I was totally overwhelmed.
But over the past few months, I’ve discovered an easy(er) way to help me choose what needs to happen in any given day.
It’s all about identifying the One Thing you can do to achieve your overall goals. The One Thing to Rule Them All.
You might hear this referred to as the Most Important Task, or Most Important Thing (MIT).
I discovered that because my business essentially is content-driven, my One Thing is creating content: if I’m not writing novels, blog posts, and books that contribute to my body of work, I’m on the wrong track.
On any given day, my priorities suddenly become crystal clear.
Sounds simple, right? But it’s amazing how many people (myself included) operate without their One Thing clearly defined.
Why one thing?
I can already hear you saying wait up, Jessie, I have way more than one thing that’s most important to my business. Can’t I pick a half-dozen priorities?
(The voice in my head is saying the exact same thing.)
In response, I invite you to think about that sentence for a minute. The word prioritydidn’t even have a plural form until sometime in the 1900s — it simply meant “the thing that came before other things.”
By default, you could only have one priority!
Of course, word meanings and dictionary definitions change over time. But even though the English language now allows us to have priorities, forcing yourself into restrictive thinking helps you come up with stronger solutions.
In a recent podcast, Ed Gandia talks about this principle. In his list of questions to ask himself during his yearly review, he includes “What would I spend my time on if I was forced to spend only two hours a week on my business?”
Clearly, you can’t get much done in two hours a week. But if that’s all you had, you’d be forced to choose the most impactful tasks, rather than noodling away your time on non-critical things.
That’s why I’m asking you to get seriously brutal with your priorities and pick the One Single Thing that will make the biggest impact this year.
It can shift over time — it might not always be to create new work. It might be to hone your skills. Write that business book. Get a degree. Build your network. Land awesome assignments. Start a nonprofit. Pivot yourself to a new market. Develop a new course. Solve a pressing societal problem.
Whatever it is, let it be your number one priority. Let it guide you when you choose what tasks to prioritize today, and what obligations to say yes to tomorrow.
Have you always been guided by your One Thing? Or are you still warming to the concept? Let me know in the comments.
Ready to tame the chaos in your life so you can get your best creative work done? Sign up for the Monday Morning Blast-Off. Each week I’ll send you one quick, actionable tip to help you start the week off right.
(Originally published on LinkedIn.)
(Cover photo by Evan Dennis, via Unsplash)