In this age of excessive information and uncountable choices, we often suffer from analysis-paralysis. We decide to do something. In the next moment, there is something else to catch our attention. And in the next moment, again something else! But being a success is all about fundamentals. All you need to do is to follow a single thing and then if you can stick to it (which is the hardest quite often), you will create massive results for yourself.
You may be wondering about that one thing which will create amazing result in your career and life. Yes, that one thing is this – your ability to focus on one thing at a time.
This may seem too good to be true. But hang on here for few minutes and you will know how this one thing can make a huge difference in your career and in your life at large.
Peter Drucker’s Story
As a kid, Management Guru Peter Drucker always strived for perfection. He learned early that if something has to be done, it should be at least near to perfection, if not perfect at all. But how would you tend toward perfection, if you don’t know how to focus? Thus he created a system for himself when he was a law student.
He decided that every 3 or 4 years he would pick a new subject and would study it with utmost sincerity and dedication. He continued his practice till his death. And guess what, he has become the father of modern management.
This is the power of focusing on a single thing.
Now, you may be thinking that Peter Drucker can do it, but can I?
The answer is – Yes. You can.
How single tasking affect your career?
If you’re a professional for few years or you have just joined an organization, your ability to focus on one thing at a time will significantly affect your career and the results you create.
As a matter of fact, you will always be advised on doing multiple things at a time. But our brain can’t work in that way. If you want to create results that you love, do one thing at a time and then go on doing another thing once you’re done with the first.
For example, suppose you’re working on few projects as of now. And your boss wants you to complete all of them as soon as you can. As there’s a time crunch, you don’t know how to deliver these three projects which you need to finish within a deadline. Here’s what you should do.
First choose a project that has the most impact on your organization. If you don’t know, go and ask your boss. Your boss may not tell you. But persist and ask that it will help you prioritize your work better. Once you get to know about which one will have maximum impact on the organization, pick that up and finish off. Don’t scatter your focus and don’t go to any other project even if you feel tempted to.
Once you’re done with first project, do the same with the other projects as well.
If you follow this simple method, you will see that your results will double and triple with just a simple tweak in how you work on projects.
Story of two news-reporters
This is a story of two news-reporters.
Let’s say the name of the first news-reporter is John. John is a news-reporter who is always pumping out news. He is always in a look-out for a piece of news and always ready to publish more news. He is kind of a motivated guy. He produces 7-10 pieces of news every week and the news-editor is so happy with John.
Now, let’s meet Mary. Mary is not like John. Mary picks up one idea to work on per week. She is motivated and pumped up too. But she knows how to keep her focus and she concentrates only on one thing at a time. The first two days she collects and reads the material about the idea/news she thought of writing. Next two days she writes the story. On Friday she edits, proof-reads and sends the news to the editor. Mary writes less and focuses on one thing at a time. But every week whatever she writes reaches a large audience and the audience loves her writing. She has not only received compliments after compliments from her readers, she has also been selected as one of the most sought-after news-reporters of the year.
You would tell that it’s a hypothetical story. Yes, it is. But if you take the main lessons from the story, you would see few patterns. And we’re going to talk about those patterns.
What do you think? What’s the difference between John and Mary in the way they work?
Here are few differences.
- First, John thinks about quantity and Mary is concerned about quality.
- John produces more, whereas, Mary produces much less.
- John can’t possibly concentrate on one thing at a time, but as Mary takes lesser things on her plate, she can focus on one thing very easily.
- John doesn’t create massive results and he is treated as a productive news-reporter like any other news-reporter. Whereas, Mary has been loved by her readers and is being recognized as one of the most regarded news-reporters of the year.
Do these differences ring a bell?
If you want to implement the habit and the focus Mary follows, here it is. In the following section, we’re going to discuss a how-to-guide on how you can too produce extra-ordinary results to be among top 1% in your career.
How to be among the top 1%
To be able to focus on one thing at a time, there are few things you should follow. Here’s what you should do, step by step.
#1. Write everything down
This is an important step, so don’t skip it. The idea is to put everything down on paper. Don’t keep anything in your brain. Write everything down. But what would you write about? You need to write about all that you want to do in your career. It’s not your goals. But it’s who you want to be in 10, 20, 30 years. To be able to chunk down to one thing at a time, we need a larger perspective so that you can connect the dots and concentrate. No, it doesn’t need to be perfect one. You can change it as you go. For now, all we want you to do is to write down your ambitions, wishes, visions, career aspirations and qualifications you have. It’s your life in few pages. Take out one hour and do this exercise, before going to the next step.
#2. “Let go” list
This is the hard reality and most probably this would be the hardest thing you need to do. If you’re a writer, you may want to write about everything – fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose, screen-plays, short stories and so on and so forth. But if you want to write everything about everything, you will become like John, just another writer in the corner. But if you want to be someone who will be revered in her career, choose one-two things or subjects on which you will concentrate. This is applicable for anything and in any profession.
Constantly changing your focus throughout your career will not be good option for anyone who wants to be among top 1%. So, here’s what you need to do. You need to take a red pen and cut the things which are nice to achieve but they can’t stand out among the best. It’s tough to do and will take some time. Take your time and choose only the best ones. Best ones mean the things you are absolutely sure that you want to do. Thus, you need to let go of the good ones as well.
#3. Make a fresh list of “to do”
Once you cut back all those items on your list which are good enough, it’s time to put the best ones in a list. Make sure this list should not contain more than 10 items. Yes, 10 would be enough. The reason we’re describing this process in such a manner is because focus can’t come without having a big picture. You won’t be able to focus on one thing if you don’t know why you’re focusing. So having a big picture will help you bring in that focus on one thing at a time.
#4. Find out “why”
As you now have list of “to do” of your career, it’s time to find out why you want to achieve these things. For each item on the list write down why you want to achieve it. For example, suppose you’ve written that you want to write a book on Operations Management. On the right hand side of this item, write down why you want to write this book. What purpose it will solve? What you want it to create for you? If you can’t answer, then go to the next item and try asking the same questions. Until and unless you’re done with why of all the items, we can’t go any further.
#5. Write a period of time
Once you’re done with your why it’s time to set a deadline for each one of the items you listed. Divide the items into 1 year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years and 20 years. For example, if you think writing the operations management book will take you 4-5 years, write 5 years at the right hand side. Setting up a timeline will help you decide which one you should work on during which period of your career.
#6. Come to “NOW”
This is powerful. Once you’re done with giving a timeline to each of the items, you would get 1-2 things under 1 year. Now, choose the first thing you will start working on. Which one would it be? Start with this question – “Which one/s among these 2-3 items, I am ready to let go of, now?” And reflect on the question. If you have a pen and paper, write it down. Which one you can let go of and which one you can’t? Whatever you can’t let go, pick that one and start working on that right away.
#7. Focus on one thing
If you have done all the exercises above, you would notice that to reach to this point, you used a funnel like process. And this is the result of it. Everyone loves a great career and wants to create massive results. But very few are ready to put in the effort to create clarity in their mind. Once you’re clear about it, it’s time to concentrate on this task at hand. Follow the below steps –
- Whatever item you want to work on first from the list, chunk it down to 100 steps. You would ask – Why 100? As we always think of 100% to identify the completion of a project, it’s better to call it 100 steps.
- Write down all the steps in a separate sheet.
- Write down the steps in sequence.
- Make the steps small enough so that you can handle it in one or two sittings.
- Now start working on the first step.
Now, if you follow this step by step process, you will be able to create results that will even astound yourself.
Then what’s the one thing which will help you be among top 1% in your career? You’re right – your ability to focus on one thing at a time. But you can’t achieve that focus until you have a big picture in your mind and unless you know what would be the outcome of single tasking.
In the final analysis
In the final analysis, we can say that this is the single most important thing you can do in your career right now whether you’re starting out or you already have few years of experience in your pocket.
Follow this process and find out which is the one thing you should focus on right now. The thing you decide to focus on may not match with any other or even your boss. Thus, choose projects that you will help you achieve the focus you want to achieve. This process may take some time to do. But invest this time into your career and you would see the results just in one year if you put this process into practice.