Why “just one thing” is the best way to fix work challenges

So following on from last week’s post, where I talked about The Right Way to Start a New Role, and I mentioned the need to constantly make things simpler.  Complexity simply makes it harder to achieve our desired outcome – and if we are all really honest, we all naturally tend to over-complicate tasks that already look pretty tricky.  Whilst I’m creating this post with those who have recently changed role in mind, this approach can work equally well when faced with a laundry list of deliverables.

So what do I mean when I say “just one thing”?  Simply that – if you stop focusing on too many things and focus on just one thing, you are more likely to achieve that one thing.  By clearing your mind of other stuff, thinking in greater depth about the challenges and the solution, and articulating the reasoning to other interested parties, you chances of success will go up.  It’s not to say that other matters aren’t still on your radar, but keeping focus on the most important thing will ultimately expedite progress on other things.

Is this really practical? Of course it is.  The reality of this approach is that you review your many, many items that have to get done.  When you create your actions lists, some things are small quick tasks, other things are linked or dependent on an existing item on your list, some are bigger and more challenging items, some things are helping others, and finally some tasks really shouldn’t be on your list at all.  This might be because it really is no longer important, or you picked up a task that should really sit with someone else.  Clear away the stuff that you wont be doing, link as subsets of other tasks the smaller items, and voilà, your lists is greatly reduced and more focused.  Now reflect on the impact of the tasks, is the desired outcome clear, and what value will it bring.  If it helps, create a scoring system to rank the tasks.  Quite soon, you’ll see one item at the top of the list.

But how can this work for a team of people? It’s frankly no different.  Each part of the team needs to go through the same exercise, then come together to discuss which item from the combined list should sit at the top.  This involves give and take and may well result in a ranking order for the “just one thing” for al teams involved.  The most collaborative amongst the group is going to find more buy in than the bossy loud person in the group, so working those soft skills to the max in the process of creating a more aligned team.

Are there any other upsides?  You’ll feel less stressed, look more organised, notice greater buy-in and more satisfied at the progress you make.  Don’t throw away that list of stuff to do, but do take a long hard look.  Splitting the list into big, small, nice-to-have and “someone else can do this better” makes your work priorities clearer and you areas to support and collaborate with others easier.  With this approach you make time to support other peoples’ “just one thing” because you understand the importance of that task to that person, helping others achieve and creating a more supportive and collaborative work environment!


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