What One Thing…?

I recently read a book summary of Gary Keller’s and Jay Papasan’s book, The One Thing. Most of the book had very typical time management tips, one of which was to identify your biggest priority every day and do that first. Good advice that I’ve heard before. But he framed it in a way that has been very helpful to me…and I hope it will be helpful for you. He gives advice on how to pick that big priority. His suggestion is to pick a high-leverage activity—something that doesn’t just have a one-to-one ratio of time and benefit. So if I pick reviewing storyboards as my biggest priority and do that first, the storyboards are reviewed. But that’s it. There’s no leverage—no trickle-down effect. Keller poses this question:

“What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Apply this to my storyboard review task. Some high-leverage activities might be to take the time to train someone else to review storyboards, to create a checklist for writers to use to review their own work before submitting it to me (so that there are fewer things to comment on), or to set up some keyboard shortcuts in Word to make reviewing easier (insert comment, accept change, etc.).  All of these tasks will make future tasks easier or unnecessary.

Those that know me know I’m a list-aholic. I keep a six-column to-do list (for which I am often openly mocked!). One of my columns is for “nice-to-do” activities, those that are urgent but not important (Quadrant 2 in the land of Stephen Covey). I’ve put a big shaded box in that column where I write the one thing I plan to do that week to make something else easier or unnecessary. For this week, I plan on creating a style guide for our E-Learning Uncovered books.

To-Do List

We’ve also been working on this as a company. At our annual retreat in March, we brainstormed a huge list of things we could do to help refine our processes, save time, improve quality, etc. We are whittling away at them one by one. Many of them were quick fixes where we found ourselves asking, “Why didn’t we do this years ago?” Here are some of the tasks we’ve tackled since that meeting:

  • Created a style guide for storyboard writers
  • Created a style guide for authoring tool developers
  • Refined our online QA tracking sheet to encourage better self-checking of work
  • Revised our storyboard template
  • Created a start-up checklist for project management tasks

The goal is to create a leaner, meaner machine that lets us be more responsive to customer deadlines while increasing quality. It’s definitely paying off already, but I’ll admit, it takes a lot of discipline to make these “nice-to-do” activities a priority.

How about you? What one thing could you do this week that makes something else easier or unnecessary?

Diane Elkins
Diane Elkins leads Artisan E-Learning, a custom eLearning development company specializing in the use of rapid- development tools. Diane has been in the eLearning industry since 2001, speaks regularly at national conferences about eLearning, and is co-author of the popular E-Learning Uncovered book series.

5 Responses to “What One Thing…?

  • DaveJennings
    3 years ago

    Great post. How about identifying one thing that doesn’t really need doing? Ok that’s cheating. How about identifying a data point that I have to regularly calculate, fetch, gather, or otherwise produce, and figuring out a way to automatically generate it. I would also like to learn more about task list options, too.

  • Megan Marais
    2 years ago

    Hi Diane. I’m intrigued by your six-column To Do list. Would you mind sharing what your six columns are entitled? I can see four of them in the image above, but… :). I’d also love to hear any other to-do-listing, list-writing tips you have or resources you recommend!

    • Diane Elkins
      2 years ago

      Hello, Megan,
      The 6 columns vary a bit based on what I have going on. Here are some of the variations:
      Must Do | Should Do | Nice to Do | Next Week | Soon | Personal
      Projects | Tasks | Nice to Do | Next Week | Soon | Personal
      Early Week | Late Week | Next Week | Soon | [List for a specific project, such as upcoming conference | Personal

      I used to keep a paper list. I still keep a handwritten list, but it is on the iPad. I use an app called GoodNotes. It’s not a to-do list app, just a paper/writing app. I like it because you can use a lasso tool to select and move text. So if I have a task in the Must Do columns, but then we find out that the deadline has been pushed back, I can move that task over to the Next Week column. It also has a highlighting tool where you highlight anything and then change the color later.

      I had to giggle looking that the screen capture again almost a year to the day later. My Personal looks very similar: May birthdays, Mother’s Day, etc.!

      • Megan Marais
        2 years ago

        Hi Diane

        Thank you so much for your response! I find it very interesting that you change up your columns depending on what is going on. I might try something similar.

        I’m a paper list kind of person, but the GoodNotes app sounds useful! Maybe one day I’ll graduate 🙂 But for now, I’ll experiment with getting my paper list working even better. At the moment, I have a Long Term To Do list, a To Do list for the month I’m in, and then that list broken down week by week (which I do at the beginning of the month), and then for a given week I’ll write a To Do list each day. It’s kind of working for me!

        Planning and thinking ahead keeps my work running according to priorities and urgency, which makes for a better working life, I find!

        Thanks 🙂

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