This morning I informed my colleagues that I had only one thing on my to-do list. Two of them chuckled, a few of them rolled their eyes, but every one of them assumed I would spend most of my day slacking off. They changed their minds, however, when our boss sent out a mass email this afternoon praising me for resolving a principal issue that my colleagues had been sidestepping all week long.
In my boss’s eyes, the one thing on my to-do list was more important than the fifty other things my colleagues had accomplished during the same time frame.
A Commitment to One Thing a Day
Some people spend 90% of their time organizing their time. Some tackle to-do lists peppered with insignificance that stretch a mile long. And still, there are others who refuse to do anything at all.
As for me, I am committed to doing one thing a day, and that has made all the difference.
The One Thing To-Do List
What one thing will you do today?
Get out a blank sheet of paper and a pen. Write “I will do one thing today!” in big letters across the page. Then list your one thing at the bottom. It should look something like this:
Make your own “I Will Do One Thing Today” to-do list every morning and get it done before you get sidetracked with unimportant stuff.
I will use this from now on – thank you!
Daphne @ Joyful Days says
I LOVE this! I don’t use a sticky note but I write at the top of each day in my schedule what’s most important that day. It really works. Nice neat template you provided here Marc. Great job!
Stephen - Rat Race Trap says
Marc, this is a good idea. I have a MIT list of 3 things but I don’t always get to 3 and it is impacting me – I feel like I am violating the agreement with myself. I think I am going to go down to 1 until I consistently hit it. Thanks.
Dimitar Nikolov says
Thanks for sharing this great printable PDF, Marc!
Simplicity is an important part of getting things done – by creating smaller to do lists, we become more focused and don’t stress out with the amount of tasks we ought to do.
This also helps to set your real priorities for the day.
Thanks once again.
Agreed, and in most cases, multitasking is ineffective because it takes time to readjust and refocus onto a new task as opposed to focusing on one thing for a longer time block.
I noticed this when i was paying debt off, I focused just on paying it off and didn’t attempt to start investing, a business or even savings.
Sure maybe it wasn’t the best thing to do, but the situation I was in, it allowed me to do that.
Great suggestion there! At least you have a goal for the day and will feel a sense of satisfaction. I’ll try that for a week and see what i achieve.
Michael Michalowski says
great idea… thats Real simplicity! 🙂
Anita Kaiser says
Great reminder that it isn’t the quantity but the quality! I haven’t quite figured out what my one today is – but I’m inspired to work it out!
Vered - MomGrind says
While I don’t see my to-do list shrinking to a single daily item, I completely agree that limiting it to just a few important items is a great idea. When it’s too long, it paralyzes you into inaction instead of motivating you to take action.
Eric Hamm | Motivate Thyself says
CRAZY timing! I just read someone esle’s blog post that got me thinking about this particular subject. Right before I clicked over here I thought, “I wonder how much I could accomplish if I just focused on knocking out 1 big task every single day?” Then I read this post and you nailed it!
Great job, Eric.
Mary /GoodlifeZEN.com says
I was looking at project planning online programs today and some look fantastic. In fact, I would spend a lot of my time slicing and dicing my project in the planning software – instead of getting on with my tasks.
It would be interesting to plan a project along the lines of “I will do one thing today”.
My problem is that I always have multiple project on the go. If I only did one thing for one project per day – I would have to schedule completion dates for the year 2042.
Dedicating your day to a single task is necessary when trying to focus fully on an important task, so that you’re not distracted by other options.
The problem with it, however, is that you might end up taking longer than what the task actually deserves, because you’re not considering other pending tasks at all.
I use a general “To Do” list, which lists all the tasks/projects I need to get done and a “Current Action” list.
I circle some important tasks I want to get done on the “To Do” list, then move only one task to the “Current Action” list. I don’t work on anything else besides that single action. But sometimes (actually, most of the time) that single action involves several steps to complete, and so I use the rest of the page to write down those steps, and do them one step at a time.
That way I get to focus on one task, remove the constant decision-making that comes with working from a “To Do” list and maintain the perspective that I have other tasks I need to move on to, but only when my current task is completed.
Taylor at Household Management 101 says
I think this is a great idea. It is hard to narrow it down to one, but I guess that is the point, isn’t it?
This is a really good idea. If you only have one thing on your to-do list, you certainly have no excuse for not getting it finished!
Sherri (Serene Journey) says
Neat idea. It helps to focus on one item at a time, like tom says it takes a lot of time to readjust and refocus when you’re multitasking.
I think I’ll modify my to do list and include my “One thing” at the top and if that’s all I get done then at least I’ve done that. Thanks for this.
Great idea – I LOVE this!
I keep a To-Do List that goes on for miles. I add things daily, high-light completed items, move things out to the next day (or week) if necessary.
I will try this. I still have to keep my list, because I have to get some secondary things done, but if I could do just ONE major thing that I’ve been putting off each day it would be a huge accomplishment.
I’ve already got 3 things in mind that I’ve been putting off – Check out auto insurance, check life insurance and check a high-interest checking account at a bank I’ve been considering.
Looking at all these overwhelms me, but if I choose just one for the day and make a commitment to do that ONE thing, maybe I can make my way through.
I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel~!
I’ll definitely try this. I’m a college student and a bit of a procrastinator:). Hope this will help me break down my tasks. Love your blog btw!
Thanks for all the positive comments and added insight.
It’s important to note that the practicality of doing only one thing a day ties deeply into one’s ability to accurately assess various open issues and select the one with the greatest impact.
Also, I do understand that this concept will not suffice in all working environments. However, even in situations where multiple things must be attended to, it’s important to set reasonable limits. I’ve seen so many intelligent people drown in their inability filter needless commitments.
Ian Peatey says
My one thing today .. to leave a comment on each of my favourite blogs. And with this comment I move another step closer to finishing!
Sara at On Simplicity says
Marc, I love what you added in your comment—thriving in a simplified system like this depends on picking worthy goals and tasks. I like it, and I’m giving it a try!
Quality over quantity baby.
That said, IMO the only time that multi-tasking is called for is when there is pressure to do so. I don’t mean pressure that you put on yourself, but external pressure that’s applied on you. Think of poor Obama.. now that man must multi-task!
How do you not put pressure on yourself? Don’t procrastinate ^_~
… or be the president!
[email protected] says
You can really only do one thing at a time anyway, so this is a good system to start with.
Repeat after me:
Multi-tasking is a myth. Multi-tasking is a myth. Multi-tasking is a myth. Multi-tasking is a myth.
Stacey / Create a Balance says
I love the idea of breaking down a large project using this exercise. The focus is on moving forward without the stress of having to do everything at once. You are offering a very powerful tool!
Hi Marc, great idea.
I’ve never done this method before. It seems like a simple way to make a great impact.
Thanks for sharing.
Great idea! Instead of having a whole bunch of stuff to do and not getting anything done because I’m “stumblin’ through” great blogs like this I can now focus on what I need to do.
Laurie | Express Yourself to Success says
So simple yet so brilliant.
And after one week, I’ll have completed seven things! That will feel really good.
Thanks for this, Marc.
thanks for the cut-outs! gonna try it out.
Thank you for sharing this one thing pdf. This is exactly what I need. So very simple, yet compelling!
I am really liking your blog. Thank you for all your efforts.
The best advice I can give to people who find productivity systems too complex, is to have only 1 important task for a day, and to do it in the morning, before checking email. Simple, effective and productive.
Ronak R. says
I love this idea! Really need it!!
Rusty - Fitness Black Book says
That is solid advice…especially when it comes to working online. It is so easy to get sidetracked by e-mail and get in “learning mode”, etc.
I have spent many days running out of time before getting a post to my site, because I was too busy doing unnecessary “busy work” online.
Going forward I will attack the “one thing”, get it out of the way and then allow myself to do other tasks.
Alex - Unleash Reality says
really love the simplicity!
usually we try do so many things and overflow our to do lists so much that we land up getting only the to do list done and none of the things on it!
all the best
alex – unleash reality
Wonderful idea! I am going to make my own little notepad of this saying… thanks for the great tip! 🙂
i read this post last year, but i love the reminder. it’s such great advice, especially in this multi-tasking world. thank you.
Nic | Shed the Fat says
Thanks for this great advice. Just what I need to help me focus on getting the important task(s) done each day.
Hi from Malaysia. Great one. Thank you.
I really loved this article. I’m one of those people who has 50 stuff to do, but never seem to do anything! I’m going to implement what you wrote.