The One Thing: Q & A with Jay Papasan

I've talked about the all-important MVP List; how, if you want to really accomplish things, you have to focus your day on your Most Valuable Priorities and push aside all other distractions.

But I just read a wonderful book that has me thinking that the MVP List itself should be whittled down. The book is called The One Thing, and it's all about cutting out the clutter in each area of your life - work, personal, family, spiritual - so that you can master the one thing that will make all other things easier.

Last week I spoke to the book's co-author, Jay Papasan, on why one thing beats two things, why this is the perfect time to read this book, and what trips people up when they try to hone in on their "one thing":

What inspired you to write this book?

We’re living at a unique juncture of opportunity and obligation. We have more on our plates, and as a society and as individuals, we haven’t learned how to invest our time given all the choices we have. The idea behind The One Thing is to give people a compass so that they can determine the things that matter most to them and invest time in them while avoiding the things that drag them down and hold them back.

What drags us down?

Email is a good metaphor for this. If you ask most people how they start their day, they’ll tell you they start by checking their inbox. And that’s tantamount to walking into the office and saying, “I’m going to hand my agenda over to whoever happens to be at the top of my inbox.” It’s like a time machine; before you know it, you look up, and two hours have gone by. But people who are disciplined with their time, who have a goal in mind, walk in and look at their calendar and think, “What do I need to get done today?” And they attack that goal first. It’s a principle of what comes first - that’s what “priority” really means, what comes first. So it’s actually a little strange that we talk about priorities in the plural sense. If you focus on your one actual priority first, the other things start to fall into place.

So I guess that’s “The One Thing.”

Yes, it’s along the lines of the 80/20 principle. That’s the law that says 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your efforts. It’s a concept that applies everywhere, though not always with the same numbers. For instance, in some companies, 50 percent of their revenues come from one product, so they understand what they need to build a fortress around. We want people to determine what that One Thing is for them-the thing that will give them the biggest results.

Why is it so important to start your morning off with your “One Thing”? Why can’t you get some stuff out of the way, and then attack it?

We put a lot of research into that, and found that willpower is strongest in the morning. That’s when we have the most discipline to build new habits in our lives. The most successful people have a really great day before noon.

Should the One Thing be personal, business, physical, spiritual?

It should be the One Thing that makes everything else either easier or even unnecessary. You can apply that to each area of your life – personal, professional, spiritual, etc., go around the dial. Most people already know the answer in each area, and they already feel guilty for not doing it. The reason they don’t do it is because they don’t like the answer or they don’t trust it, but they usually know it.

What usually gets in people’s way when getting to their One Thing?

There are six “lies” or “gotchas” that trip people up in terms of finding their One Thing. The four biggest ones are:

  1. Everything matters equally. That’s a lie.
  2. Multi-tasking. Research overwhelmingly shows it costs you valuable time – as much as 28% of the average workday. Multi-tasking, by the way, is what screws up people’s New Year’s resolutions. They take on too much at once.
  3. You have to be disciplined to be successful. Actually, you only need “selective discipline.” That means you need to train yourself to have good habits. Your whole life does not need to be disciplined.
  4. Willpower is on will call. There’s a misconception that people can grit their teeth through anything, “where there’s a will there’s a way.” But willpower actually is energy that is finite. You need to train and cultivate it by doing certain things, like eating right, for instance.

How do you stick to your priority if you have responsibilities that take time away from it? How do you do it without frustrating people who depend on you?

We run into this all the time, especially with working moms. I don’t think there’s anybody who’s forced to juggle as much as working moms. We tell people to partition the first half of your day – four hours – and spend that time focusing on your One Thing. But if four hours is just too much because of your obligations, try to set aside one hour. You might have to wake up an hour earlier just to get that hour, but you’d be surprised by how much you can accomplish in that time.

Why should someone buy this book over other self-improvement books?

We tried to bring more research to this book than other business and self-help books, which seem to be more opinion-based. Our book is pragmatic, and the results are achievable.


To find out more about the book, visit the website >> here. <<

1 comment

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