Sometimes you think you can do everything. Worst of all, you actually desperately try. Other times you do just the one thing that matters. And that is pure magic.
That is exactly what I opted to do over the last two weeks. I flew to Portugal to go visit family I rarely see. Initially, I had planned to do some small bits of work whilst I was there. In hindsight, I have no idea why. Luckily, this quickly flew straight out the window. Why? Because when I got there, I realised the only thing that mattered then was spending some quality time with them. It was wonderful.
This made me reflect on how you approach your day and life in general. How do you know when you should just do that one thing and let everything else go? How do you make peace with the idea that you will only do that one thing and nothing else? Finally, how do you do just that one thing that matters whilst also letting go of the worry, guilt or stress of not getting to the other things or having to do them later?
Let’s dive into these.
When I think about this question, one of Mark Twain’s quotes comes to mind:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”
Twenty years from now, are you going to be disappointed if you chose to focus today on only the one thing that mattered the most to you? Chances are you’re going to say no. Was I going to be disappointed because I focused on spending quality time with my family? Hell no. Was I going to be disappointed if I had chosen to spend less time with them and more time doing work that actually wasn’t even urgent? Hell yes. Simple.
Sure, sometimes the answers aren’t as clear-cut as that and things that you do care about are competing for your attention. That’s when you’ve got to dig deeper into your heart and say which ones of these matters the most right now right here. What is it that you’re yearning to do? What is it that feels right deep down? Connect to you strong intuition and gut feeling here and let them shine a light on the one answer.
This brings us to the second question:
This question immediately springs this Russian Proverb to mind:
“If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”
My philosophy in life is to do one thing well rather than do two things poorly. Sure, doing two things might get two things crossed off your to-do list but doing them below par and not to your usual high standards defeats the point of doing them at all. You’ve got to do things to the best of your abilities and if that means just doing one thing, that’s ok. In fact, that’s miles better. You avoid multitasking and achieve so much more by putting your heart and soul into one thing.
Now, it’s important to say this doesn’t mean that you do that one thing perfectly. There is no such thing as perfection so don’t take this as a sign that you get to spend hours, days, weeks, months or even years perfecting something because you want to do it properly. Give yourself a realistic, achievable timeframe and do your best within it.
Finally, this brings us to the final, perhaps most tricky, question:
If you’re going to commit to doing just the one thing that matters and nothing else, you’ve also got to commit to letting go of the other things for the time being. That means committing to letting go of the worry, guilt and stress too. That’s easiest done if you create a plan of when you will do the other things. Then, you know they will get done because you’ve scheduled them in later and you can fully focus on your one thing without worrying about anything else.
For example, when I decided to throw work out the window to focus purely on spending quality time with my family, I created a list of the things I had to do for work next. Then, I scheduled to do them the first three days when I was back at home in work mode. This way I was able to fully relax knowing exactly when the other things would get done.
At the end of the day, you’ve got to connect to yourself and explore what feels right for you. Only you know whether you can do just the one thing that matters and only you know what that one thing is. Ideally, it is that big burning yes that Stephen Covey points to:
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, nonapoogetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”