The One Thing

In a world where everything you have to do is urgent, and often classified as important, how do you know what to focus on when? Or do you spend some days, like I do, trying to do it all? I remember facilitating a team meeting where members were arguing over priorities and where their resources should be focused. In the midst of the debate, one team member, who had been sitting quietly watching and listening, leaned in and said, “If we don’t get this one thing figured out, nothing else we do will matter.”

What he was talking about was leverage: the power to get things done. Ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes wrote, “Give me a lever long enough, and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” Leverage is identifying the one thing that will move everything else.

So how, exactly, does that work? Kurt, an emerging leader, asked me how he can continue to develop his leadership capacity. I could have given him a list of things that great leaders do and told him, “Do all these things, all the time.” You and I both know that that is a recipe for leadership disaster. Instead, I asked him, “What is one thing that you can do consistently that will make the biggest difference to who you are as a leader?” That is Kurt’s lever, the one thing that will move his world.

Your question might not be about leadership. Your question might be how to be a better spouse or parent. Or a better team player, business person, neighbor. What do you want to accomplish? What’s the lever—the one thing—that will make the biggest difference for you?

We are in the midst of the holiday season, where doing it all is the order of the day. Shopping (I received over 100 Black Friday emails between midnight and 8:00 a.m. on November 29), sending cards, cleaning, cooking, baking, decorating, gift wrapping, parties…oh yea, and work plus all the regular chores. And that is just my list—what’s on yours?

If I want to remain sane this holiday season, then what is the one thing I can do, amongst everything on my list, to remain sane?

Now, I didn’t say finding that one thing would be easy!