Cast your mind back to 1991, when Billy Crystal and Jack Palance went head to head in the blockbuster movie City Slickers.
Not many of us are mustering cattle in the wild west twenty-five years later, and our behinds probably still hurt just watching the movie, but its central drama still has huge resonance. And raises a chuckle.
Gary Keller, author, entrepreneur and cofounder of one of the world’s largest real estate agencies, recalls a pivotal scene from the movie in his bestselling book, The One Thing.
Curly: Do you know the secret of life?
Mitch: No. What?
Curly: This. [He holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing …
Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the one thing?
Curly: That’s what you have to figure out.
Keller reflects on why this struck a chord with him. ‘Where I had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.’ Concentrating on just thing at a time, even those itty bitty ordinary things, can make extraordinary things happen.
Best-selling author, global presenter and Smallville founder Andrew Griffiths and co-presenter Bree James ran a podcast recently on ‘Becoming More Productive in Business’. In it, Griffiths observes that we are all time poor. The trick is to slough off all the things that are a distraction – and identify the one thing you can do right now at any given moment which will lead you on to success.
Keller and Griffiths both believe that good business is about investing your time and energy wisely and precisely – keep things moving, but don’t create a stampede.
Distractions can be hard to ignore – they’re made that way! Some of the biggest names have achieved success by designing the digital space to be deliberately inviting. No wonder we get distracted.
According to Keller, when we stay focused on exactly what matters the most at any given moment, that’s when real success becomes obtainable. If all your energy is channelled in one direction, things are achieved sequentially – one thing at a time.
So saddle up and let’s keep achieving with 3 key strategies:
1. BLOCK TIME
Schedule a regular appointment with yourself in which you prioritise and tackle the most important task on your list.
‘Think of it like going to movies. You’re there for ONE Thing—to see the film. Because you’re really clear about that, you turn off your cell phone, you grab snacks in case you get hungry, and you probably even make a pit stop before you go in. All this so you can have an uninterrupte experience.’
2. USE FIVE MINUTE WINDOWS
"Over the course of the day, I can get literally a hundred or more little tasks done in those five-minute windows," says Andrew Griffiths. Develop two lists - tasks which require a block of time, and tasks which need just a few minutes – before a meeting, between phone calls, before the teleconference, or when you’ve got a spare quarter hour.
Make sure things get done efficiently. If your computer takes 15 minutes to load, consider an upgrade. If your interruptions are always for the same reason – approvals, social media management – think about automation. What can be can be delegated? Is your five-minute list so long that a new resource is needed?
Let’s finish on a high, by looking at one company that has done ‘One Thing’ really well. Keller writes, ‘From 1998 to 2012, Apple’s ONE Thing moved from Macs to iMacs to iTunes, to iPods to iPhones, with the iPad already jockeying for the pole position at the head of the production line.’ Apple stand out. Their drive to deliver just one outstanding product at a time has changed the game. Sure, they brought out other popular gadgets, but those hummed along in the shadows.
Or as Curly would have said, ‘This cow’s having a baby. Now reach in and pull out the calf!’