Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.
This is the story line for extraordinary success stories. Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working at it. That time spent eventually translates to skill, and when skill improves, results improve. Better results generally lead to more enjoyment, and more passion and more time is invested. It can be a virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results.
Success is built sequentially. It's one thing at a time.
Everything Matters Equally
Go small. Don't focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.
Go extreme. Once you've figured out what actually matters, keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left. That core activity goes at the top of your success list.
Say no. Whether you say "later" or "never," the point is to say "not now" to anything else you could do until your most important work is done.
Don't get trapped in the "check off" game. If we believe things don't matter equally, we must act accordingly. We can't fall prey to the notion that everything has to be done, that checking things off our list is what success is all about. We can't be trapped in a game of "check off" that never produces a winner. The truth is that things don't matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most. Sometimes it's the first thing you do. Sometimes it's the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.
Distraction is natural. Don't feel bad when you get distracted. Everyone gets distracted.
Multitasking takes a toll. At home or at work, distractions lead to poor choices, painful mistakes, and unnecessary stress.
Distraction undermines results. When you try to do too much at once, you can end up doing nothing well. Figure out what matters most in the moment and give it your undivided attention.
A Disciplined Life
Don't be a disciplined person. Be a person of powerful habits and use selected discipline to develop them.
Build one habit at a time. Success is sequential, not simultaneous. No one actually has the discipline to acquire more than one powerful new habit at a time. Super-successful people aren't superhuman at all; they've just used selected discipline to develop a few significant habits. One at a time. Over time.
Give each habit enough time. Stick with the discipline long enough for it to become routine. Habits, on average, take 66 days to form. Once a habit is solidly established, you can either build on that habit or, if appropriate, build another one.
Willpower is Always on Will-Call
Don't spread your willpower too thin. On any given day, you have a limited supply of willpower, so decide what matters and reserve your willpower for it.
Monitor your fuel gauge. Full-strength willpower requires a full tank. Never let what matters most be compromised simply because your brain was under-fueled. Eat right and regularly.
Time your task. Do what matters most first each day when your willpower is strongest. Maximum strength willpower means maximum success.
A Balanced Life
Think about two balancing buckets. Separate your work life and personal life into two distinct buckets--not to compartmentalize them, just for counterbalancing. Each has its own counterbalancing goals and approaches.
Counterbalance your work bucket. View work as involving a skill or knowledge that must be mastered. This will cause you to give disproportionate time to your ONE Thing and will throw the rest of your work day, week, month, and year continually out of balance. Your work life is divided into two distinct areas--what matters most and everything else. You will have to take what matters to the extremes and be okay with what happens to the rest. Professional success requires it.
Counterbalance your personal life bucket. Acknowledge that your life actually has multiple areas and that each requires a minimum of attention for you to feel that you "have a life." Drop any one and you will feel the effects. This requires constant awareness. You must never go too long or too far without counterbalancing them so that they are all active areas of your life. Your personal life requires it.
Big is Bad
Think big. Avoid incremental thinking that simply asks, "What do I do next?" This is at best the slow lane to success and, at worst, the off ramp. Ask bigger questions. A good rule of thumb is to double down everywhere in your life. If your goal is ten, ask the question: "How can I reach 20?" Set a goal so far above what you want that you'll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal.
Don't order from the menu. Apple's celebrated 1997 "Think Different" ad campaign featured icons like Ali, Dylan, Einstein, Hitchcock, Picasso, Gandhi, and others who "saw things differently" and who went on to transform the world we know. The point was that they didn't choose from the available options; they imagined outcomes that no one else had. They ignored the menu and ordered their own creations. As the ad reminds us, "People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do."
Act bold. Big thoughts go nowhere without bold action. Once you've asked a big question, pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. If you still can't imagine it, go study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of other people who have found the answer? As much as we'd like to believe we're all different, what consistently works for others will almost always work for us.
Don't fear failure. It's as much a part of your journey to extraordinary results as success. Adopt a growth mindset, and don't be afraid of where it can take you. Extraordinary results aren't built solely on extraordinary results. They're built on failure too. In fact, it would be accurate to say that we fail our way to success. When we fail, we stop, ask what we need to do to succeed, learn from our mistakes, and grow. Don't be afraid to fail. See it as part of your learning process and keep striving for your true potential.
Success comes down to this: 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.
The Focusing Question
"What's the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?"
Great questions are the path to great answers. The Focusing Question is a great question designed to find a great answer. It will help you find the first domino for your job, your business, or any other area in which you want to achieve extraordinary results.
The Focusing Question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and the other is about finding the right action.
The Big-Picture Question: "What's my ONE Thing?" Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass. It also works when considering what you want to master, what you want to give to others and your community, and how you want to be remembered. It keeps your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues in perspective and your daily actions on track. The Small-Focus Question: "What's my ONE Thing right now?" Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work and, whenever you need it, helps you find the "levered action" or first domino in any activity.
The small-focus question prepares you for the most productive workweek possible. It's effective in your personal life too, keeping you attentive to your most important immediate needs, as well as those of the most important people in your life.
The Success Habit
Understand and believe it. The first step is to understand the concept of the ONE Thing, then to believe that it can make a difference in your life. If you don't understand and believe, you won't take action.
Use it. Ask yourself the Focusing Question. Start each day by asking, "What's the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?" When you do this, your direction will become clear. Your work will be more productive and your personal life more rewarding.
Make it a habit. When you make asking the Focusing Question a habit, you fully engage its power to get the extraordinary results you want. It's a difference maker. Research says this will take about 66 days. Whether it takes you a few weeks or a few months, stick with it until it becomes your routine. If you're not serious about learning the Success Habit, you're not serious about getting extraordinary results.
Leverage reminders. Set up ways to remind yourself to use the Focusing Question. One of the best ways to do this is to put up a sign at work that says, "Until my ONE Thing is done--everything else is a distraction." Use notes, screen savers, and calendar cues to keep making the connection between the Success Habit and the results you seek. Put up reminders like, "The ONE Thing = Extraordinary Results" or "The Success Habit Will Get Me to My Goal."
Recruit support. Research shows that those around you can influence you tremendously. Starting a success support group with some of your work colleagues can help inspire all of you to practice the Success Habit every day. Get your family involved. Share your ONE Thing. Get them on board. Use the Focusing Question around them to show them how the Success Habit can make a difference in their school work, their personal achievements, or any other part of their lives.
The Path to Great Answers
Think big and specific. Setting a goal you intend to achieve is like asking a question. It's a simple step from "I'd like to do that" to "How do I achieve that?" The best question--and by default, the best goal--is big and specific: big, because you're after extraordinary results; specific, to give you something to aim at and to leave no wiggle room about whether you hit the mark. A big and specific question, especially in the form of the Focusing Question, helps you zero in on the best possible answer.
Think possibilities. Setting a doable goal is almost like creating a task to check off your list. A stretch goal is more challenging. It aims you at the edge of your current abilities; you have to stretch to reach it. The best goal explores what's possible. When you see people and businesses that have undergone transformations, this is where they live.
Benchmark and trend for the best answer. No one has a crystal ball, but with practice you can become surprisingly good at anticipating where things are heading. The people and businesses who get there first often enjoy the lion's share of the rewards with few, if any, competitors. Benchmark and trend to find the extraordinary answer you need for extraordinary results.
UNLOCKING THE POSSIBILITIES WITHIN YOU
Live With Purpose
Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment. We all want to be happy, but seeking it isn't the best way to find it. The surest path to achieving lasting happiness happens when you make your life about something bigger, when you bring meaning and purpose to your everyday actions.
Discover your Big Why. Discover your purpose by asking yourself what drives you. What's the thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you're tired and worn down? I sometimes refer to this as your "Big Why." It's why you're excited with your life. It's why you're doing what you're doing. Absent an answer, pick a direction. "Purpose" may sound heavy but it doesn't have to be. Think of it as simply the ONE Thing you want your life to be about more than any other. Try writing down something you'd like to accomplish and then describe how you'd do it. Pick a direction, start marching down that path, and see how you like it. Time brings clarity and if you find you don't like it, you can always change your mind. It's your life.
Live by Priority
There can only be ONE. Your most important priority is the ONE Thing you can do right now that will help you achieve what matters most to you. You may have many "priorities," but dig deep and you'll discover there is always one that matters most, your top priority--your ONE Thing.
Goal Set to the Now. Knowing your future goal is how you begin. Identifying the steps you need to accomplish along the way keeps your thinking clear while you uncover the right priority you need to accomplish right now
Put pen to paper. Write your goals down and keep them close.
Live for Productivity
Connect the dots. Extraordinary results become possible when where you want to go is completely aligned with what you do today. Tap into your purpose and allow that clarity to dictate your priorities. With your priorities clear, the only logical course is to go to work.
Time block your ONE Thing. The best way to make your ONE Thing happen is to make regular appointments with yourself. Block time early in the day, and block big chunks of it--no less than four hours! Think of it this way: If your time blocking were on trial, would your calendar contain enough evidence to convict you?
Protect your time block at all costs. Time blocking works only when your mantra is "Nothing and no one has permission to distract me from my ONE Thing." Unfortunately, your resolve won't keep the world from trying, so be creative when you can be and firm when you must. Your time block is the most important meeting of your day, so whatever it takes to protect it is what you have to do.
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.
The Three Commitments
Commit to be your best. Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work. This is, in essence, the path to mastery--and because mastery takes time, it takes a commitment to achieve it.
Be purposeful about your ONE Thing. Move from "E" to "P." Go on a quest for the models and systems that can take you the farthest. Don't just settle for what comes naturally--be open to new thinking, new skills, and new relationships. If the path of mastery is a commitment to be your best, being purposeful is a commitment to adopt the best possible approach.
Take ownership of your outcomes. If extraordinary results are what you want, being a victim won't work. Change occurs only when you're accountable. So stay out of the passenger seat and always choose the driver's side.
Find a coach. You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who achieves extraordinary results without one.
The Four Thieves of Productivity
Start saying "no." Always remember that when you say yes to something, you're saying no to everything else. It's the essence of keeping a commitment. Start turning down other requests outright or saying, "No, for now" to distractions so that nothing detracts you from getting to your top priority. Learning to say no can and will liberate you. It's how you'll find the time for your ONE Thing.
Accept chaos. Recognize that pursuing your ONE Thing moves other things to the back burner. Loose ends can feel like snares, creating tangles in your path. This kind of chaos is unavoidable. Make peace with it. Learn to deal with it. The success you have accomplishing your ONE Thing will continually prove you made the right decision.
Manage your energy. Don't sacrifice your health by trying to take on too much. Your body is an amazing machine, but it doesn't come with a warranty, you can't trade it in, and repairs can be costly. It's important to manage your energy so you can do what you must do, achieve what you want to achieve, and live the life you want to live.
Take ownership of your environment. Make sure that the people around you and your physical surroundings support your goals. The right people in your life and the right physical environment on your daily path will support your efforts to get to your ONE Thing. When both are in alignment with your ONE Thing, they will supply the optimism and physical lift you need to make your ONE Thing happen.