This post is inspired by a book called The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. It’s all about focusing on what really matters to cut through the clutter in your life and get more done in less time.
It’s one of my favourite productivity books and I’d highly recommend it if you struggle with procrastination, confusion and frustration when working.
There is a section in the book that focuses on asking yourself questions in order to change your mindset towards productivity. A quote used to introduce this section is one by Indira Gandhi: ‘the power to question is the basis of all human progress.’ He is right. Take any person that has changed the world; Elon Musk for example:
As I mentioned in a previous post, not only is he an incredibly curious guy, making him a quick learner, and he is also a big thinker. And what do these traits require? Questions.
He asks himself what the purpose of his life is, he asks impossible questions like ‘how can we become a multi-planetary race?’ But he also leverages other people by asking them questions, like he did when he met Tai Lopez.
He is on a never ending quest to achieve the impossible, and he does this through his own independency, but also interdependency by leveraging other people’s knowledge.
Okay, so you get the gist of why questions are so important. We’re going to focus on the questions you should be asking yourself that will provide life altering answers. As Keller states, ‘life is a question and how we live it is our answer.’ So be prepared for big questions.
They key is to keep in touch with your values, your principle and your vision. You’ve got to stay on track and continue to grow and we do this through questions. Here’s a few examples and how they will change your life.
Let’s start with Keller’s question, The Focusing Question:
“What’s the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
This is more of a day to day question, and focuses on productivity. If you get the right answer, however, the results can be profound. So, whenever you feel confused and lack direction, ask yourself this question, go to your to-do list and narrow it down to your one thing. It’s almost a more extreme version of Warren Buffet’s method of narrowing your 25 to-dos down to 5 and ignoring the other 20.
The key here is to find the one task that is most inline with your vision (we’ll get to that in a sec), is the highest leverage task that will produce the most results aimed towards your vision, and is something that must be done in order to continue to grow.
Anything else can be ignored for now, because by focusing solely on this one results-producing task until it’s completion, you are putting in 100% of your effort into achieving your vision, so right now it is the only relevant task. This question is perfect to ask yourself first thing in the morning, because by doing the biggest task first thing, the rest of the day will be a breeze (it’s called Eat That Frog, probably the most influential productivity book of the past 10 years).
Before you can figure out what task is most inline with your vision, you need to ask the life-altering question…
“What is my ONE thing?” – In other words, what is my purpose:
Keller believes your current one thing, as mentioned above, should be perfectly inline with the bigger picture you’ve created for your life. To figure that out, you must ask yourself what the one purpose of your life is.
That’s a pretty big question to ask, so let’s make it easier through visualization, with an exercise taught to me by Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Here’s the exercise in his words:
“In your mind’s eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. Picture yourself driving to the funeral parlor or chapel, parking the car, and getting out. As you walk inside the building, you notice the flowers, the soft organ music. You see the faces of friends and family you pass along the way. You feel the shared sorrow of losing, the joy of having known, that radiates from the hearts of the people there.
As you walk down to the front of the room and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All these people have come to honor you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.
As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended —children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.
Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?
What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?”
With his exercise, if visualized correctly you’ll have honed in on your values: who you want to become, the difference you want to make, how you want to affect the lives of others, what you want to achieve personally, etc.
This visualisation can be turned into a mission statement. Write down everything that you visualized into a speech that you can read out to yourself after asking the question, “What is my ONE thing?”
Ask yourself daily what your one thing in life is. Read your mission statement so you are in touch with your purpose and your vision every day; it will provide a sense of clarity and conviction. Your path will become clear.
And don’t forget to ask the focusing question whenever you set out to take action. To be at your most productive you should only be doing the highest leverage work that will push you forward as much as possible.
Armed with this question, you will never have to feel confusion or self-doubt again because you will be able to simply get on with what matters, knowing that it is guiding you in the right direction.