When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.
“The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.” — Bob Hawke
Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority.
Most to-do lists are survival lists—getting you through your day and your life, but not making each day a stepping-stone for the next so that you sequentially build a successful life.
Instead of a to-do list, focus on a success list—a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.
If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.
The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do. Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize.
No matter the task, mission, or goal. Big or small. Start with as large a list as you want, but develop the mindset that you will whittle your way from there to the critical few and not stop until you end with the essential ONE.
There will always be just a few things that matter more than the rest, and out of those, one will matter most.
Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.
When you try to do two things at once, you either can’t or won’t do either well.
It’s not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it’s that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have.
When you switch from one task to another, voluntarily or not, two things happen. The first is nearly instantaneous: you decide to switch. The second is less predictable: you have to activate the “rules” for whatever you’re about to do.
Task switching exacts a cost few realize they’re even paying.
You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.
Every time you try to do two or more things at once, you’re simply dividing up our focus and dumbing down all of the outcomes in the process.
In your effort to attend to all things, everything gets shortchanged and nothing gets its due.
When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover.
No matter how hard you try, there will always be things left undone at the end of your day, week, month, year, and life. Trying to get them all done is folly. When the things that matter most get done, you’ll still be left with a sense of things being undone—a sense of imbalance. Leaving some things undone is a necessary tradeoff for extraordinary results.
To achieve an extraordinary result you must choose what matters most and give it all the time it demands. This requires getting extremely out of balance in relation to all other work issues, with only infrequent counterbalancing to address them.
When you act on your priority, you’ll automatically go out of balance, giving more time to one thing over another.
“I was truly beginning to think that the secret to success was to get as tightly wound up as possible each morning, set myself on fire, and then open the door and fly through the day, unwinding on the world, until I literally burnt out. And what did all of this get me? It got me success, and it got me sick. Eventually, it got me sick of success.”
We overthink, overplan, and over-analyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives; that long hours are neither virtuous nor healthy; and that we usually succeed in spite of most of what we do, not because of it. We can’t manage time. The key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well.
Success comes down to being appropriate in the moments of your life. If you can honestly say, “This is where I’m meant to be right now, doing exactly what I’m doing,” then all the amazing possibilities for your life become possible.
Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question. Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer. Ask the right question, get the right answer. Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer can be life-altering.
Voltaire once wrote, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.”
One of the most empowering moments of Keller’s life came when he realized that life is a question and how we live it is our answer.
How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.
The Focusing Question is so deceptively simple that its power is easily dismissed by anyone who doesn’t closely examine it.
The Focusing Question can lead you to answer not only “big picture” questions (Where am I going? What target should I aim for?) but also “small focus” ones as well (What must I do right now to be on the path to getting the big picture? Where’s the bulls-eye?).
Extraordinary results are rarely happenstance. They come from the choices we make and the actions we take.
The Focusing Question always aims you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success—make a decision.
To stay on track for the best possible day, month, year, or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question.
The Focusing Question collapses all possible questions into one: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
Most people struggle to comprehend how many things don’t need to be done if they would just start by doing the right thing.
The Focusing Question is the foundational habit Keller uses to achieve extraordinary results and lead a big life.
The Focusing Question can direct you to your ONE Thing in the different areas of your life.
You can also include a time frame—such as “right now” or “this year”—to give your answer the appropriate level of immediacy, or “in five years” or “someday” to find a big-picture answer that points you at outcomes to aim for.
Say the category first, then state the question, add a time frame, and end by adding “such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” For example: “For my job, what’s the ONE Thing I can do to ensure I hit my goals this week such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
When moving toward a goal, the first thing to do is ask, “Has anyone else studied or accomplished this or something like it?”
Short of having a conversation with someone who has accomplished what you hope to achieve, in Keller’s experience books and published works offer the most in terms of documented research and role models for success.
The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.
How circumstances affect us depends on how we interpret them as they relate to our life.
Once we get what we want, our happiness sooner or later wanes because we quickly become accustomed to what we acquire.
Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.
Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the American Psychological Association, believes there are five factors that contribute to our happiness: positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning.
To be financially wealthy you must have a purpose for your life. In other words, without purpose, you’ll never know when you have enough money, and you can never be financially wealthy.
Happiness happens when you have a bigger purpose than having more fulfills, which is why we say happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.
“Maker” time requires large blocks of the clock to write code, develop ideas, generate leads, recruit people, produce products, or execute on projects and plans. This time tends to be viewed in half-day increments.
“Manager time,” on the other hand, gets divided into hours. This time typically has one moving from meeting to meeting.
To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.
Block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.
Achieving extraordinary results through time blocking requires three commitments. First, you must adopt the mindset of someone seeking mastery. Second, you must continually seek the very best ways of doing things. And last, you must be willing to be held accountable to doing everything you can to achieve your ONE Thing.
Accountable people achieve results others only dream of.
Highly successful people are clear about their role in the events of their life.
Anders Ericsson observed that “the single most important difference between these amateurs and the three groups of elite performers is that the future elite performers seek out teachers and coaches and engage in supervised training, whereas the amateurs rarely engage in similar types of practice.”
At any moment in time there can be only ONE Thing, and when that ONE Thing is in line with your purpose and sits atop your priorities, it will be the most productive thing you can do to launch you toward the best you can be.
A life worth living might be measured in many ways, but the one way that stands above all others is living a life of no regrets.
When you know what matters most, everything makes sense. When you don’t know what matters most, anything makes sense.