Photo by Matt Bero on Unsplash
In my last article, When Work Speeds Up, I used a short video to illustrate my point.
Allow me to do the same again in talking about priorities. This time the clip comes from a movie called City Slickers (1991), and this scene features two of the main characters, the old hardened cowboy, Curly, played by Jack Palance, and one of the city slickers on a ranch holiday, Mitch, played by Billy Crystal.
Is this true, though? Is it all about “figuring out the One Thing” or is this just Hollywood sentimental psychobabble?
There is no doubt about the fact that most of us have a tendency to take on more than we can handle, more commitments than one life can meet. All these different demands on us clamour for top priority, or at least for our momentary attention.
When I read Gary Keller’s, One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, I was intrigued to learn that the word priority, was always used in the singular in English until the nineteenth or early twentieth century. Maybe this was because we bought the lie that we couldn’t possibly have only one priority in the modern world.
We can dismiss pre-20th century wisdom as something quaint and naif from a more relaxed and stressless age, and say, “Now we must focus on many things.”
The problem is that our performance begins to take a dive when do this. Humans are not equipped, it seems, to deal with many things at once. Multi-tasking, loved by many who thrive on the adrenaline rush of feeling they are being super-productive, has been demonstrated to be a huge waste, a waste of time. This way of working requires switching the brain when we move from one task to another. We try to keep as many plates spinning as possible, but that is all we are doing. As we rush from one matter to another, there is a depletion of time and energy, not to mention cognitive confusion and emotional stress.
And we carry this foolish, crazy way of thinking into our organisations as well, making them dazed and internally competing towards this downward spiral.
So, what is the alternative?
Developing the Habit of the Daily MIT
At any moment in time, there is one thing that is needful. That is your MIT, your Most Important Task. This is true in the moment, for your day, in a project, in a month, in our lives – whichever time horizon you choose. And, as Curly said, “That’s for you to figure out.” The rest is about triaging all the calls for your attention, rejecting most of them, returning to the rest, but keeping your eyes on that priority.
I talk about this more in My Daily Bullet Journal Method.
Curly challenged Mitch to discover the One Thing for his life. For most of us, that will take some time, in prayer and meditation.
How about we set the bar a little lower to begin with? What about the next day? Ask yourself this question:
What is the most important thing for me to achieve in the next day that will make everything else easier, more achievable or irrelevant?
Let me know in the comments what you discovered using this approach.
A free course that takes you through the workflows of how I use bullet journaling for my Daily Heads Up, Gratitude List, Weekly and Monthly reviews.