How on earth can we do everything on our to-do lists? We can’t. But we can do the most important things!
I recently wrote about my enthusiasm for the book, The One Thing by Gary Keller, in a post on getting organized to blog or have a business while homeschooling. But this approach to productivity has the capacity to help anyone get more done.
A friend asked how I used the approach. I explained how I am using it to improve my marriage and work with my digital task list. She mentioned that she wished there was a good paper list to be used with this approach and I was inspired! Read on for what I shared with her and what I ended up using to manage my own tasks.
JUST WANT THE TO-DO LIST? Click here to download a blank PDF of the 1-Thing To-Do List or Click here to subscribe to productivity posts and get an editable form.
First, what’s The One Thing?
Gary Keller urges his readers to determine the one thing that would make the biggest impact in their lives (usually that will be the thing that makes the biggest impact in others’ lives, too). Once we know that, we can determine the one thing that would have the biggest impact on our lives in the next five years, next year, and so on. The great way he defines the one thing is:
the one thing you can do that will make everything else easier or unnecessary.
If you don’t yet know what you want to do with your life, I urge you to spend time praying and thinking about it. The book itself may help your thinking. Once you know your ultimate goal, deciding the one most important thing to do becomes easier. As a busy homeschooling mom with many interests, I loved the concept of choosing the one thing in every area of my life. I can’t possibly choose only one important area of my life to focus on! If you get stuck choosing one thing, remember that choosing doesn’t mean you can’t do anything else–it just means that you have chosen what you think is the most valuable use of your time for now. Perfectionists, take note: choose what appears to be the one thing. That’s good enough!
For inspiration on using a one-thing approach, listen to Jeff Sanders’s podcast on the subject.
How I’m Using The One Thing to Build My Marriage
I realized from interviewing Dr. Don McCulloch, author of Perfect Circle, that I longed for my husband to ask me what he could do to make the marriage of my dreams a reality. The problem was, like most men, he was inclined to guess what I needed and would give me that instead. Inspired by The One Thing, I asked my husband what the one thing was that would make his day easier (that I could do) and he told me. He was very open to hearing the one thing he could do to make my day easier, too. In fact, he is asking me this question on his own now. Wow!
I recommend asking your spouse what s/he needs first and then telling your spouse what you need most and make it a daily habit. Morning works best for us. Before you know it, your spouse will be asking you first!
How I Use The One Thing to Get More Done with ToDoist
Because I already have my tasks sorted by life area (colored categories) in ToDoist, it’s easy for me to review these and choose my one thing each day. I have tasks dated (something I accomplish during my weekly review) for the week, making choosing one to make top priority quick and easy. Rather than work from the Today view, I keep my list open to Top Priority tasks until they’re complete. I take all of this one step further by scheduling time for each “one thing” in Timeful. I explain more about this in 6 Important Habits for Getting More Done.
How To Use The One Thing with a Paper To-Do List
I’m absolutely crazy about digital task solutions like ToDoist, but I’m also crazy about pretty paper lists–the more colorful, the better. When my friend mentioned a paper list, I had to create a weekly form that would work for 1-Thing Productivity. Each life area has a color and a space for one monthly and weekly thing that will make everything else in that life area easier. What do I mean by life areas? The best way to explain is with examples. My life areas are church/faith, marriage, kids, homeschooling, blog, business, relationships, organization, personal, and scrapbooking.
The beauty of this list is the linear connection between your monthly and weekly 1-things and your daily 1-things. Every day, you list a new 1-thing per life area and check it or cross it off as you complete it.
Click here to download a blank PDF of the 1-Thing To-Do List. You will hand write up to ten life areas in the colored boxes. An editable Word form is a subscriber freebie. (Subscribers, you’ll find yours in the subscriber freebies folder.) Click here to subscribe to productivity posts.
A few notes. Sometimes your 1 thing won’t correspond with your weekly and monthly 1 thing. That’s ok. The form exists to keep your longer-term things top of mind. You may also have days when you don’t need to do anything in a particular life area. That’s ok, too. The form serves as a reminder of all the important aspects of your life and where you’re devoting the most time. If I don’t complete an area’s “one thing,” I rewrite it for the next day IF it’s still the one most important thing I can do.
Finally, you may have other must-do’s for a particular life area. You can approach this in a few different ways. First, list the rest of your must-do-today’s on the back of the form under today’s date. You could work on them as you complete the various 1 things. Second, you could keep these other must-do’s on a separate list that you only tackle once all of your 1 things are done. Lastly, you could schedule your “one things” and everything else you want to accomplish today on your calendar or datebook or using an app like Timeful. I use the latter approach.
Whatever method you choose, the 1 Thing approach to getting more done is really powerful. What 1 thing could you do right now that would make the rest of your day easier? Let me know how this works for you.
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Just filled it out (well, in my own format) for today, and for each day next week, and next week as a whole.
I made a quick grid, one column per day, extra column for week, one row per goal. Room for only a word or two in each square.
A very good exercise! Many mosquitoes dropped off, and many areas that were getting short changed now get equal space, at least on the grid. Shifted a few things between days to balance the load, something I keep trying to do but then drop.
Cricket, great to hear from you and so glad you gave it a try using your own approach. I don’t think perfect balance is the goal, but I do like to be reminded that other areas of my life are important too. The thing I like most is focusing on one thing. It’s amazing how much peace of mind and clarity that gives me.
How funny that I should read that this week. I’m just about to finish this book. Great book. My current challenge–narrow life down to my ONE THING. Ugh. That is sometimes really hard to do. 😉
I love the book. And remember it’s one thing per life area. It really provides a lot of clarity and peace when I use this form. I hope it’s helpful to you!
I love this one thing approach. God has given me one thing as an
overarching thing for my life. Sort of like a life verse, except that
it’s not a verse, it’s a chorus. Of a Jason Gray song lol. “Bring your
heart to everyday and run the risk of fearlessly loving without running
away.” Sounds kind of vague, but it has helped me evaluate the things I
choose as priorities. Eating meals with the kids has become a priority
(I used to use that time to “run away”), sticking with my plan has
become more important, just basically being more intentional and plugged
in. Some people use the word present, but I like plugged in better 🙂
I can see how this could work with the one thing method in this post.
Thanks for helping this become even more practical for me!
I love it too, Debi, and I really relate to your life chorus. I was just thinking that I want to be careful to ask God what my 1 thing should be! Thanks for commenint.
I kept rereading To Doist and trying to correct it to “To Do List.” 🙂
It’s a great idea to think about what one thing will make your life easier, and to do it. Good advice!