Focus: Do Just One Thing

Happy Sunday Everyone

It is stupefying to think that 3 weeks ago, I was writing a ‘back to it all’ letter and today the first month of the new decade has almost ended.

I have had several comments from readers and clients saying that they started the year fired up but by now they’re feeling tired. In some senses, the tiredness feels worse because it’s juxtaposed with the immediacy of the December period when we got rest and connection with self and others. If you’re feeling like this, you’re not alone. This week PWC released its Global CEO Survey with the words “we see a record level of pessimism”.

So, on that happy note, today’s letter is about conserving energy and time in order to create clarity and peace.


The One Thing: Clarity from Gary Keller co-founder, chairman, and CEO of the US’s leading real estate franchise by sales volume

If you lead or own a business listen to the full 2 hours. This Tim Ferriss interview is a masterclass in methodically tackling key business challenges in order to grow. The way Keller tackles creating a franchise agreement, the cornerstone of his growth and success, is brilliant.

If you just want to improve your clarity, zone in on this.

Keller saves energy by focusing on “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything is either easier or unnecessary?” It is a philosophy he takes into all parts of his life.

In the business context he uses this example “In my business, who’s the one person I could hire such that by hiring them, hiring other people would be unnecessary or easier?” Jim Collins called this ‘getting the right people on the bus’. It’s a powerful move to making business life easier.

He extends the tactic to “what’s the one thing you could do that would make that easier or everything else easier or unnecessary? … go find the person that exemplifies that better than anyone else and make that one person your true north”.

If you’d like to hear it in his words, head to the 1h13 mark in the interview and listen for 15 minutes.

To make it real, think about ‘what is the one thing I could do today that makes the people I love happier’ and then do it.


Build calm and ease

One of my most effective coaching questions is to ask how much time you spend online engaged in non-intentional consumption. It is almost always hours. Hours of social media or clicking from one news feed to the next.

Not only does this suck time, it overloads your brain with information about the neighbourhood cat who poops on other people’s lawns and the minutiae of political disputes on the other side of the world (I am not saying don’t know about world altering events, but follow Keller’s advice and decide what is the one news source that you can trust on the topic. Follow it. Discard the rest).

Try this practice. When you feel the compulsion to pick up your phone to check on the guerilla cat or errant royals, don’t. Instead, consciously breathe in and think the word ‘calm’. Exhale and think ‘ease’. If you can – without looking like a weirdo – close your eyes.

By doing this you’re replacing one habit with another. You’re building a habit that builds your neurological and physiological capacity for efficiency, calm, and clarity. Calm, clarity, and more time all by gently shifting your focus. Guaranteed.

From time to time, you’ll unconsciously pick up your phone, but you’ll find that you are more aware and will spend less time online. When you ‘catch yourself’. Put it down, breathe in ‘calm’, exhale and reclaim ‘ease’.

The capacity for self-awareness and self-correction are core to leadership.


Take a nature bath

Five hundred years ago, Renaissance philosopher Ficino said “You should walk as often as possible among plants that have a wonderful aroma, spending a considerable amount of time every day among such things” (cited in Thomas Moore’s sublime Care of the Soul).

Today, researchers are finding in study after study that time in nature improves health, reduces stress, and improves clarity – all prerequisites for the creativity and innovation that are needed to overcome those ‘record levels of pessimism’.

So, use that reclaimed digital time and take a walk in the garden or the neighbourhood park. Pay attention to the insects, trees, flowers, the colours. I promise that you’ll feel better and be more effective this week.

Have a beautiful Sunday.



Strategy, Soul and Self

Register to receive reflections on leadership and life