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How to Accomplish More with Only One Thing

  • Rebecca Barlow Jordan
  • Updated Jan 24, 2011
How to Accomplish More with Only One Thing

We hear it all the time: "Focus on the 6 most important things for today" ... "List 3 things you most want to accomplish" ... "What are 10 things on your bucket list?" But is it possible to accomplish more with less? Have you ever tried the principle of the One Thing?

A New Approach to Life

This year I decided to try a new approach to life: no lengthy resolutions, no bucket lists, no alphabetical prioritizing. Instead, I want to focus on the principle of "One Thing." Can you really accomplish more with one thing? Can I honestly make a difference by focusing only on One Thing? I challenge you to find out with me.

2000+ Year-Old Idea

Actually, the idea is not new. It's been around for a couple of… thousand years. Two sisters first experienced this principle in their home while serving dinner to guests. At least one of them did.

One day Mary and Martha were entertaining Jesus and His disciples in their home. While Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to His teaching, Martha fumed in the kitchen while she prepared dinner - alone. Her emotions finally erupted, and she confronted Jesus with the unfairness of her situation: "Lord, doesn't it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me."

The One Thing Principle

But Jesus gently chided her and challenged her with the "one thing" principle, which Mary had apparently already discovered: "My dear Martha, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it - and I won't take it away from her" (See Luke 10:38-42, NLT, emphasis mine).

Jesus doesn't explain the "one thing." He doesn't have to. We get His meaning. Hopefully, Martha did, too. Did Martha's work not matter? Of course it did. But Mary chose the best part. Her priority - her focus - was on Jesus Himself. Her joy and need in that relationship drove her to Jesus' feet. If Martha's focus had truly been on Jesus, would not the joy of serving Him with her gifts equal Mary's desire to hear His teaching and the way Mary chose to honor Jesus?

If anything drives us other than our relationship with Jesus, we're still probably in the process of learning. If anything matters to us more than Jesus, something needs rearranging. Personally, I'm so grateful for God's patience!

10 Ways to Accomplish More with Only One Thing

But that "one thing" has some practical application. Keeping our singular focus on Jesus this year, how can we "accomplish" more by using the one thing principle? Here are some questions and suggestions to get you started. Some are general, others more specialized:

  • What is one thing I can do to make a difference this year? (There are probably many, but for now, focus only on one thing).
  • What is one area in which I can work to improve this year? (There are many; choose one: health, relationships, spiritual growth, etc.)
  • What is the one thing I most want to accomplish today? (At least you'll feel successful that you did one thing, not attempted ten and accomplished none)
  • What is one way I can encourage someone today? (We can all think of at least one).
  • What is one thing for which I can thank God most today? (Just one thing? That's hard).
  • What is one way I can show God's love today? (Everyone needs His love!)
  • What is one Scripture I can work on (this week, this month, this year)? (Focus on content and application, not mileage).
  • What is one creative meal I can prepare this week (month)? (Did I have to mention that one)?
  • What is one sentence that describes my idea (for writers, entrepreneurs, and other creative workers)?
  • What is the one purpose for my blog (for bloggers and wannabes)?

Okay, ignore that I listed 10 possibilities. :-) Obviously, if you try to incorporate too many "one things" into your day, year, or life, you'll end up like Martha. And if you insist verbally to your boss that you can only do "one thing" today, you might receive a pink slip instead of kudos. Keep it in perspective.

Being and Doing

"Being" is the counterpart to "doing." Keep the main thing the main thing (focus on your relationship with Jesus), abide in and listen to Him daily. But be aware of many areas in which you can practically focus without falling prey to the Martha syndrome. It's possible to give attention to many areas by focusing on only one thing in each of them.

One Thing to Remember

Remember this: Pursue the person (Jesus) and the performance will follow.  -RBJ

Who Will Accept the Challenge? (Book Giveaway: You Might Win a Free Book!)

Who will accept the challenge and focus on one thing this year? Better still, I'd like to hear your other creative suggestions for "one things." Share your suggestions on my website at rebeccabarlowjordan.com/blog. (Keep them brief so others can offer theirs, too). For those willing to suggest at least one thing in the comments, I'll place your names in a drawing for a free Day-votions™ book and/or my book 40 Days in God's Presence at the end of January (I'll draw two names, one for each book).

How can you accomplish more with only one thing?

Rebecca Barlow Jordan is an inspirational author, speaker, and passionate follower of Jesus who loves to encourage others heart to heart. She has written 11 books and over 1700 other articles, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. Her daily devotional Daily in Your Presence is available for delivery through Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Rebecca at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.

Sign up for Rebecca's encouraging blog/newsletter, or purchase her newest devotional books from Zondervan
- Day-votions™ for Women, Day-votions™ for Mothers, and Day-votions™ for Grandmothers.


Publication date: January 17, 2011