When The One Thing doesn't work

. 2 min read

Someone somewhere once said that if you go after two rabbits, you'll catch none. I think it's a Russian proverb. I think it appears as a quote in the beginning of Gary Keller and Jay Papasan's book, The One Thing. I remember reading the book back in 200 BC and thinking, oh my gosh, they're so right, as they made a compelling case for dropping everything you have going on and focusing on one single project by asking: 'What's the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?'

It sounds awesome. It seems to solve a lot of problems. It promises to make your life greater by making it simpler.

Until it doesn't work.

I don't mean to say that I believe in multitasking, or that a balanced life is best, or that dreaming big is a fool's game. Because I don't believe any of those. Focusing on the small, getting the little steps right to create a massive chain, is vital.

What I mean is that if you shut down everything else in your life, and focus only on the great task of your life, the task and the totality of it will likely overwhelm you.

I made the mistake of thinking that Keller and Papasan and everyone else that said focusing on one thing was the key to success meant that you should give up your hobbies and other things you enjoy in your free time and give that free time to the one thing. I dropped at least four projects at the end of last year in order to focus on writing. Having time to write is great, but you can only write for so many hours a day (according to Cal Newport, four hours of deep work a day is maximum), and suddenly I had all this free time when I couldn't work but had no hobbies anymore, either.

The thing that might drive you to work more attentively on your one thing might be having to focus on other things from time to time.

I think the last time I really had fun writing was a year ago, during my Super May 2019 - when I had a gazillion other projects to finish as well, not to mention my day job. Since January 2020, I've had no day job, no other projects - just writing - and I regularly find myself not wanting to do it.

Maybe it's like with relationships: you can only enjoy it if you don't have to spend all your time with your significant other.

So here's what I shall do and what I suggest you do if you feel the same about your life's work: pick up hobbies. Ask yourself what you would enjoy doing without breaks. What would energize you? What would make you feel alive? What gets you excited? Then start doing that daily. Focus on your one thing for a certain time block and then focus on your hobby. Create routines and rituals and have fun with them.

Giving time to something else might just bring the fun back to the work as well.