We recently passed the 2020 half-way point. Have you given up on your hopes and dreams for the year? Do you feel like the goals that you set for this year are no longer possible? Have you settled into a wait-and-see pattern, and now just trying to tread water? It’s understandable. After all, we all tend to move toward urgency, and we are still dealing with a global pandemic.
Well, let me ask you another important question. What happens if you attempt to tread water for too long? Eventually, you will tire out and drown.
For many of you, it is time for a reset. Many of you need to pick a direction and start swimming so that your long-term goals do not drown (i.e., die) along with your yearly goals.
So, what will you do with the second half of 2020? Extraordinary results are still possible. But, to genuinely undergo a reset, you will need to approach your goals differently. You will need to create a relationship with your goals.
I, too, needed a reset and was recently introduced to a book that has changed how I do life—both professionally and personally. It’s a book by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (2013) entitled “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.”
Now, you should read this book for yourself, but I want to share a summary and offer the four steps that you can take to undergo a reset and reclaim 2020 for what matters most.
#1 Define your far-off “someday” goal
Step 1 is about going big and getting clear about where you want to go in life. In your mind, fast forward 20 to 25 years into the future. What is that you hope to have accomplished professionally and personally? Brainstorm a bit. What will make you happy, or better yet, joyful in the long run?
Now, this is where it gets complicated. Can you boil it down to one thing? Ask yourself, “What’s my one thing?”
You will be tempted to give up and not answer this question, but push through and do the difficult work of finding the right direction for your life. Develop a vision for your life and choose a direction for your career and family.
What do you want to master? What do you want to give to others and your community? How do you want to be remembered?
What’s the big goal—the one thing—that can serve as a compass for you and keep “your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues in perspective and your daily actions on track?”
#2 Take stock of where you are right now
Step 2 is about going small and asking a similar question. In light of your far-off “someday” goal, ask yourself, “What’s my one thing right now?”
To stay on track with your “someday” goal, you must keep asking yourself this question. As stated by Keller and Papasan, you are training your mind how to think, how to connect one goal with the next over time until you know the most important thing you must do right now.”
Again, this is hard work. Try taking stock of where you are right now by rating how you are doing on a scale of 1 to 10 in the most important areas of life: spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and financial life.
Then, for each area, go through and ask yourself, “What’s one thing I can do in the next such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
As you answer the above question, be sure to give it a timeframe (i.e., day, week, year, five years) that reflects the appropriate level of immediacy (i.e., the severity of the need).
#3 Identify your lead domino
Step 3 is about going even smaller and, as stated by Keller and Papasan, “choosing your most important priority.” The “One Thing you can do right now that will help you achieve what matters most.”
So, with your ratings from above in mind, assuming a score of one is low, and ten is high, choose the one area of your life that is in the most need of your attention right now. Then, think about how you answered the above question for that area and commit to finding your lead domino.
The lead domino is the one thing (one activity) you can do right now such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary. It is the one thing you can do right now so that you are on track for the day, the week, the month, the year, the next five years, and for your “someday” goal. What is your “One Thing?”
#4 Begin making appointments with yourself
Finally, step 4 is about blocking off the time you need to accomplish your one thing every day. Every day, as argued by Keller and Papasan, you need to line up your priorities anew, find the lead domino, and start whacking away at it until it falls.
To do this, you will need a relationship with your goals. You will need to begin making appointments with yourself and blocking off time so that you can focus all of your thoughts and energy on your one thing. All things are not equal. If you are not scheduling this time, your priorities will continue to take a back seat to the priorities of others, and you will once again find yourself focusing all of your attention on things that are urgent but ultimately less important.
I suggest blocking off between two and four hours as early in the day as possible and doing everything you can to protect this time. Do not let anyone or anything distract you, including your boss, your colleagues, your email, or your social media. “Your time block,” as stated by Keller and Papasan, “is the most important meeting of your day, so whatever it takes to protect it is what you have to do.”
Conclusion: A 66 Day Challenge
Well, there is so much more to this model that I would like to cover, but I have already exceeded my word limit. So, here is my challenge: Work through the above steps and commit to time blocking your “One Thing” for the next 66 days and join me in reclaiming 2020 for what matters most.
If you accepted the challenge, please reach out to me on LinkedIn. I would love to connect and provide you with some encouragement.
Travis Bland is the Associate Dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration and an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Administration. He studies, consults, and offers workshops on organizational health, strategic planning and execution, and the management of people. To learn more, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 The One Thing Podcast, Episode 251. Set Your Goals with 2020 Vision
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