3 Steps to Identify Your “One Thing” (& Start Rescuing Lost Time!)


Are you optimizing your time throughout the workday? In other words, does your busy-ness pay off?

Most of us can relate to the feeling of staying busy throughout the day as we thoughtlessly jump from task to task. We feel a great sense of accomplishment as we plow through email and rigorously check off our to-do list. In fact, many successful business owners prefer to work within this constant grind of juggling tasks that are continuously added to a never-ending to-do list. We feel proud of our daily progress, yet deep inside, we wonder if we really made the most of the day.

We can all benefit from taking a moment to stop and think about how we spend our time. Are we making the most of our work day? Is our allocation of time to specific tasks proportionate to the value these tasks deliver to our lives and our businesses? 

I suggest a simple three-step process to analyze and potentially adjust your daily work habits.

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3 Steps to Identify Your “One Thing” (& Start Rescuing Lost Time!)

Step 1: Perform a time audit.

Entrepreneurs are often surprised to learn how they actual spend their time. Many of us have a skewed view of how long certain tasks take. It’s time you give yourself an intervention! Enter the “time audit.”

The time audit is nothing more than an assessment of the hours and minutes you spend on various tasks throughout the day. This is the first step in determining if you are truly making the most of your work hours. 

Related: Forget the Real Estate Courses: Here’s the One Thing Required For Investing Success

During your next standard work week, make the effort to track your time. There are several free tools that can help you with this task. Personally, I use Toggl to track my own hours, as well as the hours of those who work for me. Toggl has an amazing user experience and seamlessly integrates with Google Chrome and other related applications. For example, while reviewing my task list in Asana, I have the option to “Start Timer” in Toggl to start tracking time for a specific task. Toggl also has a great mobile app for those of us who are always on the go.

Of course, Toggl is just one suggestion to help you monitor your time allocation. You may prefer an Excel sheet or simply a pen and paper. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you make the commitment to consistently and honestly track your time for at least five consecutive work days. 

Asana Sample

Screenshot of Asana.

Step 2: Determine your most “profitable” tasks.

In Episode 113 of the Bigger Pockets Podcast, Brandon and Josh interviewed Jay Papasan: co-author of The One Thing. The main theme of his book and of the podcast is that we should all find the one task per day that will have the greatest positive impact on our lives. We would then allocate all of our resources to ensuring that this “one thing” has priority and gets completed before we work on anything else. 

So how do you know if you’ve picked the right “one thing”? Jay recommends asking yourself the question: What’s the ONE thing you can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? Your one thing should not be easy nor comfortable. Typically, those actions that can have the greatest influence on the advancement of our career are not pleasant. They are the tasks that might be associated with stress, nervousness, and/or anxiety. All of these feelings are indicators that what you’re working on has real meaning and can have a major impact on your business and/or personal life. 

A more practical way to determine your most valuable task is to analyze your time audit and map your tasks to value created for yourself or your business. For example, try to discover what percentage of your overall profit is a result of the various tasks outlined in your audit.

You may be shocked that a large portion of your profit is attributed to the tasks on which you spend the least amount of time! 

The discovery above may not be very surprising for those of you familiar with the 80/20 principle. The 80/20 principal states that 80 percent of a given benefit is the result of 20 percent of a given effort. To give a business example, it is often the case that 80 percent of a company’s profits comes from 20 percent of their customers. Similarly, many of us would be able to attribute 80 percent of our career advancement from a small set of 20 percent of our daily activities.  

Step 3: Adjust and pivot.

Having now discovered the tasks that provide the greatest value to our business, we can plan and execute our daily activities to optimize our productivity. As you work through your day, you should constantly ask yourself, Is this really the best use of my time?” Also, be willing to admit that the potential negative of avoiding menial, low-value tasks (such as responding to email) is relatively minor when compared with the potential lost opportunity of not focusing on your one thing (such as following up with a major networking opportunity).

There are a couple great tools that can help you along the way. Check out RescueTime as a way to set up your computer workspace so that you focus on the right activities during the appropriate times of the workday. You can adjust your settings so that your computer will not allow you to go to specific websites for a given period of time (think of the widespread habit of opening Facebook in a time of stress). RescueTime also automatically tracks your time spent on various tasks on your computer. This is another great application to help you complete your “time audit.”

Related: 7 Highly Actionable Tips to Help Your Productivity Soar This Year

Momentum is a surprisingly simple yet massively effective Google Chrome extension. This app will remind you of your one thing every time you open a new tab in Google Chrome. In addition to keeping you on your primary task, the new tab is also filled with a beautiful image and an inspirational quote. This app will make you more productive while drastically increasing your happiness throughout the work day. 


Screenshot of Momentum.


We all think we know how we spend our time. In truth, completing a regular time audit and prioritizing your tasks can have a drastic impact on your business. You owe it to yourself to come clean and do the work that, while perhaps difficult and uncomfortable, will ultimately lead you down the path of success.

What tools do YOU use to make sure you’re making the most of each day? What’s your “one thing” right now?

Leave your comments below!

About Author

Nick Baldo

Nick Baldo started investing in real estate in 2011 with a focus on flipping houses in the Buffalo, NY area. He has since expanded his business, NY Home Solutions, to focus on value-added rental investments. Nick created and manages the real estate educational site, Income Digs to help aspiring real estate investors get started.


  1. Douglas Skipworth

    Great article, Nick. I’m a huge fan of Jay Papasan (and Gary Keller) and all of his books. The ONE Thing is a must read for everyone, real estate entrepreneur or not, since it speaks to every aspect of our lives (e.g., financial, spiritual, physical, social, personal, professional, etc.).

    The ability to define your one thing and then set aside the time to focus on it is clearly what separates the extraordinary people from the rest. Thanks for reminding us of that in your post!

  2. I think most people want to get started with this type of thing, but it is a full time job, difficult to do if you have a 9 to 5 job and alot of day jobs lead to some work being done at home after hours. Frustrating…

  3. Peter Mckernan

    Hello Nick! Great article! I think the most value in the article is the Rescuetime resource. This is a good resource since a person does resort to social media in a time of stress, or just dislike for a project they are working on. I believe that people with myself included use those websites as a tool to relieve the thoughts of stress and a project that in reality can make them that much more successful!

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