I ask you to do just one thing

Summary: A post on productivity and doing one thing.

2015 was a great year for my reading. The year started with Pavan Verma’s Becoming Indian (Crux: Let’s stop being imitators and get our own identity). I capped the year off with Lewis Howes’ the school of greatness (Crux: You can go as slow as you need to go, but you cannot stop. You can never give up or drop out of giving your best in your life). Between becoming Indian and becoming great, I read books from management to philosophy to fiction. Not a lot of books, but more than what I read in the first 25 years of my life. Two books made me cry and I write about one (pun intended; you will soon see why). The first book was Becoming Steve jobs. If you worship Jobs like I do, this is a must read! Here’s my favorite line from the book ” So many of the people who want to be like Steve have the asshole side down. What they’re missing is the genius part. ” The book ends on a poignant note and I shed tears like a baby.

Just when I thought I had already read the best book of the year, I picked up The ONE thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. I will give you more than just a crux of this book. A one-line summary will not do justice (for any book) . I am not sure how I picked this book. Let’s say the universe conspired! I went “wow” after every 5 pages of this book. That’s about 60 wows with the extra 10 after I finished. What made ONE thing great was how many of my beliefs it challenged. Alright now, enough of the back story. Let’s get to The ONE thing. Also, did you get that pun?

“Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there”. If you want to give someone an example of a simile, please use this one. Here are three parts of a task:- start (the hardest) – continue (slightly less harder) and complete (in between the first two). The ONE things starts with this idea that we get mired by the swarm of tasks we take want to do at a time. Only if we started with one thing and stayed along till we finished. It might just get boring right? It might also just get complete!

How about getting stoned, twice over? It’s called Multitasking. You must have read all its ill-effects by now while you sipped that tea while on a call while thinking if that girl at lunch was staring at you. On Multitasking, I have read much. But, nothing profound as this: “Multi-taskers are just lousy at everything. Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.” I may not fully agree because there are a few mindless tasks that can be done together. However, identifying those tasks is skill we do not possess yet. Green tea while writing  comes close to strategic multitasking. Comes only close because you don’t enjoy your tea as much. Often, we confuse multitasking with distraction. Distraction is natural. Multi-task, and you find multiple paths to distraction. When you are doing one thing, coming out of the distraction is easier.

The next idea hit me hard: Work-life balance. Sorry to disappoint my fellow proponents, there is no such thing guys! This graph gives you an idea:

The scale: work || life. In both cases, there are times you will have to spend a disproportionate amount of time on ONE thing. Deliverable | Planning a vacation, Starting-up | Setting-up. There will be times when you don’t spend as much time: Delegate | Relax, Complete project sooner | weekend for yourself. Trying to get the needle to point north at all times is futile. If it points eastward, it will to go west too. ONE thing helps you achieve this counter-balance. If you are doing too many things with the same intensity, there will be no balance and nothing to counter it. Do ONE thing for the work-life counterbalance!

The ONE thing talks about many things. I like to stop at three (and 700 words!): stick to one, don’t multi-task and move from balance to counterbalance. Seems like I am doing the book a disservice already. If you got this far, stay the course. The last part of the books gets philosophical and I love philosophy. As hard (and wrong) it is to summarize this bit,this is a great thought to leave with.

My school gets several applications during the admission cycle. Occasionally, I get a chance to read them. The application has a question that asks something on the lines of “what your purpose or what matters to you?”. The answer I have read most is “happiness”. I named my first blog “Pursuit of HappYness.” A lot of us value happiness above all else. I told you earlier that the book challenged a number of my beliefs. Take this for a challenge:

“The purpose of life cannot be happiness. The purpose of life is to be useful, responsible, compassionate. It is, above all, to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.”..

Written on Jan 22nd, 2016


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