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Strategic Discipline Blog

One Thing = Priority

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Thu, Jul 9, 2015

In Greg McKeown, Author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, recent blog he discussed the definition of priority:  When the word priority came into the English language in the 1400s, it was singular. Think for a moment: What did it mean? The answer is the prior or very first thing. What’s interesting is it stayed singular for the next 500 years. It wasn’t until the 1900s that we came up with the pluralized term and started using the word priorities. But what exactly does the word mean? Can there be multiple very first things?

In the spirit of this, take five minutes to write down the most important six activities for tomorrow. Then cross off the bottom five. Write down your priority on a Post-it note and put it on your computer. Schedule a ninety-minute window to work on that priority – preferably the first thing of the day.

McKeown’s suggestion to schedule a ninety-minute window to work on your priority is a Gazelles/Positioning Systems habit we’ve recommended in our Rockefeller Habits workshops to attendees and customers since 2007. 

Scaling_Up_One_Thing_IPAs I noted in my previous blog the origins for One Thing can be traced back to as early as Moses, the Israelites, and the 1st of the 10 commandments.  Those of you who are Christians can certainly appreciate the primary idea of this intention.

Many people believe that multitasking is critical as a skill set.  James Clear’s blog The Myth of Multitasking: Why Fewer Priorities Leads to Better Work cites the same section of Greg McKeown’s book and includes a graph on the myth of multitasking to help you get a clear visual on how multitasking affects the quality of your work. 

We make more progress focusing on accomplishing one task than we do engaging in several.    My journey through cancer required a disciplined focus on One Thing – to get my Acute Myeloid Leukemia into remission.  Despite 5 failed chemotherapies, doctors giving me little chance of survival, I managed to beat cancer through focusing on One Thing.

My experience of working with customers, watching them choose One Priority above all others, and seeing their unprecedented success, provided me the confidence to believe by doing the same One Thing focus I could defeat my prognosis.  Choosing one priority that will impact your business the most for the year, the quarter, or any other specific time frame is the first step.

You need to determine which activities will help you achieve that priority as well.  Selecting the correct activities, measuring leading indicators, monitoring progress daily and weekly, are all part of the One Thing process.  Choosing One Thing to focus on, yet doing nothing toward accomplish it will succeed in achieving nothing.

What is it in your business or your life that you feel will have the greatest impact?  What achievement, if you could only accomplish one thing in the next 90 days or year would impact your business the most?

Quarterly_Plan_13_wk_RaceChoose that as your priority, and then choose which activities you are confident will help you meet that objective.

The selection of your activities is just as important as the priority. 

Imagine you’re training to run a 5K race.  If you’re just attempting to run and finish you would train much differently than if you plan to win the race.  In fact if you were just running to finish you may not need to train at all. 

If you’re running already and want to win the race, you’d estimate the time you need to run the race in to win.  Then you’d carefully plan interval training to increase your stamina, speed and time so you could meet or beat the time you feel it would require to triumph.

You might include 3 days of distance running, 8K, 10K and 12K runs.  Perhaps you include speed training or actual several 5K runs to test your speed. 

I’ve not trained for a race since high school, so I’m not sure what the particular method of training would be.  However I can assure you the training would be vastly different for the person attempting to win the race than someone entering just to participate for exercise.

You must plan your activities based on your priority.  If you’re selling $200K a month, which activities will you need to focus on to achieve $250K?  What metrics, particularly leading indicators, drive sales and conversions? What’s your sales cycle?  How many leads does it take to make one sale?  How many customer contacts or related activities provide you with a lead?

You need to know what metrics drive the specific performance you are striving for.  If not you’ll likely end up short of your priority metric.

In my next several blogs I plan to focus on an example of how to present your Core Values to prospective employees, how one manager used dashboards to get accountability from a subordinate, plus some valuable ideas on discipline.  Please visit my blog Monday!

Topics: One Thing, priority

Challenges of Scaling Up a Business 







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Positioning Systems Brand Promise

1. Priorities: Determine your #1 Priority. Achieve measurable progress in 90 days.

2. Metrics: Develop measurable Key Performance Indicators. 

3. Meetings: Establish effective meeting rhythms. (Cadence of Accountability)  Compounding the value of your priority and metrics. 

(BRAND PROMISE GUARANTEE): We will refund all compensation if our disciplined coaching and proprietary tools fail to meet your expectations.

Certified Gazelles Coach

Doug Wick, President

Positioning Systems


The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

Our 3 disciplines include:

- Priorities
- Metrics
- Meeting Rhythms

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