To get five things done, zero-in on one thing

What is your number one agenda for the day?

On the days I have one main objective, I get more stuff done overall. It is as though this single-minded focus pushes forward like a flywheel, conserving momentum and moving things along. I notice how apart from meeting a tight deadline for a presenatation, I can address a colleague’s query, review an over-due report, finish an online training and book my travel for the next week.

And then, there are days when I have several things to do, but none too important. On these days I struggle to get anything done at all. With all those small decisions, there is simply too much inertia. On days like this, I am prone to wander off and procrastinate rather than make much headway.

Perhaps you can relate to this conundrum as well.

Zeroing in on a central agenda is its own driving force. Pushing forward on a compelling problem charges our flywheel and keeps the engine humming along. Having too many small things is like starting an engine cold several times. Every start is difficult because we are never quite warmed up.

Most people find it easier to be managed than to manage themselves. An external authority (such as a boss) defining our agenda automatically gives us a target to aim for. The first step to self-management is to identify our number-one agenda ourselves every single day. Especially on lighter days when we have some wiggle room.

As Stephen Covey says, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing – a statement whose execution is as hard as its formulation is simple.

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