How to Gracefully Jump onto a Moving Train

The Myth about the ONE Thing

Talk to any productivity expert, and they’ll tell you that in order to get optimal productivity, you need to be able to focus on one thing at a time. Even I wrote on  in my post “How to Build an Empire with The ONE Thing,” that we need to be able to identify that ONE thing – that ONE task that will make all subsequent tasks easier and fall over like dominoes.


I still stand by my word.


But that’s not to say that you can’t have multiple ONE things going on overall.


The reality of the situation is that we never have just one thing going on. We’re always balancing work with family, family with fitness, fitness with rest time, rest time with finances. The list goes on and on. Take me, for example. I’m a mom, a wife, an IT consultant, a fitness instructor, a blogger, an entrepreneur, an investor.



I find it quite academic when people say that we should only be focusing on one thing before we get the next thing rolling. In practicality, we’re already juggling eight different balls. Anytime we start anything new in our lives, be it a new career, fitness regimen or personal goal, we’re already jumping onto a moving train.



I want to explore the how we can effectively do that. Not literally, of course. Safety first, right, Jamie? How can we get optimal productivity, make the best use of our time, and stress level? How can we balance our lives such that we feel completely fulfilled at the end of the day? After all, isn’t that the point of our lives?


It’s BS that Balance is BS

On the subject of balance, I’ve heard time and time again that there is no such thing as balance. Balance is BS. We never achieve balance. We are told by experts that there are seasons in our life where we need to work like a dog so that later on we can have the season to ease off the peddle and enjoy the fruits of our labor.



Again, that to me is pretty academic. The reality is that time goes on. There are some seasons that if you miss, you’ll just never get back in your life. Just because you have a focus on advancing in your career, or starting a new business, it shouldn’t mean that you’re sacrificing being a star parent. To that end, if it means that building a business leaves you to be a crappy parent, I’ll have none of it.


Consider the journey to starting a new business. Sure, the beginning is the part where you work like a dog, bootstrap, and invest the long hours to get it off the ground. But if this ONE thing on which you focus, means that you miss that first piano recital or that soccer game where your son scores his first goal, you have your priorities mixed up. Shame on you for missing that stuff.


Every Wednesday, Lawrence takes our son to his swimming lesson. He comes back and tells me every week that Zane loves swimming because Daddy is sitting on the edge of the pool watching him. Every time he swims a lap, he looks to see if Daddy saw how well he did. He flashes a huge grin and gives a thumbs up. They notice when you’re there, you guys. They also notice that you’re not there. They remember.


See what I mean? The danger in subscribing to the ‘there is no balance’ philosophy implies that you work like a dog now so that you can spend more time with your family later. But your family isn’t waiting for you to build your business before they grow up. They’re growing up while you’re away in the field every night slugging it out. Sure, I respect the intention. After all, it’s noble that you’re doing it for them. But when the season comes where you’ve planned to spend all that time with your family, you’ll discover that your family has learned to live life without you… because that’s all they’ve known.



The converse is also true. If you chose to spend the time with your family, you’re progressing no further in developing your business, or career. You basically end up using your family, your kids as an excuse to stay miserable. You’ll still be stuck working that shit job that you so desperately wanted to leave for years. You haven’t because you don’t have anything else on which to rely. All you have are the reasons and excuses why you didn’t make it happen. Then you can blame someone else for your misery when in fact, it’s always been on you. Only you. And your choices. See what I mean? We have no choice but to strike a balance.


On my commute this morning, I was listening to Entrepreneur on Fire and John Lee Dumas was quoting Warren Buffett. Buffett asked a group of his mentorees to write down the top 25 things that they wanted to complete this lifetime. Everyone methodically jotted down their top 25. Then he took one of the sheets and crossed off from 6 – 25. He said you’ll be lucky to accomplish the top 5. Forget about number 6 – 25.


Photo Credit:…Wealth Wizard Warren Buffett


Here’s the rub. Even when we strike out the 6 – 25, we still have the top five, not one. We never have just one. My top five equated to mom, wife, IT consultant, fitness instructor, entrepreneur. Truth be known, that’s all I ever wanted to be. My sixth thing was Cat the investor. So I dropped being an investor. Truth be known, that’s not an active part of my life currently anyways. I can still have investments. Of course, I do. But I invest by getting guidance from my financial planner and sticking my money where he said I should. And yes, that involves that I trust him implicitly with my money. Hopefully, I do. I’m married to him. If I’m screwed, he’s screwed.


So investor aside, the point that I want to convey, is that I had to identify the major roles that I play in my life. My sixth one is still present, but it requires no active effort on my part. What are the major roles that you play in your life? What’s your life’s purpose?


Everyone has a Purpose on this Planet

In my post “How to Make your 2017 Fierce with Purpose,” I mentioned that I followed John Assaraf’s Exceptional Life Blueprint. The first step is to identify your life’s purpose. Everyone has a purpose. Even the homeless guy on the street. Not everyone finds his purpose in life, but everyone has a purpose for why they were put on this planet. This is followed closely by identifying your outer mission, inner mission, and your highest values that are most important to you.


Once you have this identified, it’s easy to prioritize how you spend your time. Allow me to illustrate. My life purpose is to set up the very best life for my son. Everything I do is in the name of setting up the optimal environment for this kid and to equip him with the tools and guidance to be successful in all areas of his future. And I mean, not only in his career but in terms of people skills, compassion, health, money management… everything. My values are as follows:


My highest values are as follows:

  1. Being in constant communication with the universe
  2. Being the best mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend that I can be
  3. Minimizing my carbon footprint and being as environmentally friendly as it makes financial
  4. Inspiring others to shine by the way I live my life, and by my life’s work.


So, when I was approached for a contract in Vancouver last month, it was easy for me to decline it. I knew what my values are. Taking a contract in Vancouver means I will be away from my family. That violates value number 2. And that’s the end of that.



How to Catch that Elusive Balance?

It all starts with your purpose and your values. Once you have that, it becomes clearer how you need to spend your time.


Block out your Time Visually

You know the rule. If it doesn’t appear on the calendar, it doesn’t happen. If you have a goal to work out during the day, block out the time on your calendar. You need to be able to protect your time, like mad.  Many companies use Outlook. On Outlook you can see the availability of everyone’s calendars. If you want to get things done, you need to stay at your desk to do it. Hence block out your work time, so that no one can hi-jack you for meetings.



Set Time Limits

What goes hand in hand with blocking your time, is to set time limits for tasks. I often get invited to meetings that have been scheduled for 2 hours at a time. Often we overestimate the amount of time that we need. Productivity is elastic. It doesn’t matter how long our meetings are. We easily find a way to fill that time, chatting away about non-value added topics, or issues that don’t need to be solved right away. If you keep a laser focus on the topic at hand, usually (barring any technical difficulty), you will find that you can accomplish the same content in a half-hour or 45-minute meeting, as you can with a 90 minute one. When you set a shorter time limit, it creates the urgency to cover everything on the agenda.



My friend Andy Fry has got this down to a science. I recently interviewed him for the ITsolopreneurs podcast, and he had a wealth of information to share on making your meetings more productive, and the art of consulting, in general. Stay tuned for that.


Collapse Timeframes

Often there are times when we can hit two birds with one stone. Take me for example. One of my fitness goals is to work out at least 3-4 times a week. Want to know an industry secret? The next time you go to a fitness class you’ll start to notice this next thing I’m going to share with you.



There are two types of instructors. One type will cue the move, demonstrate it, and then stand there and cheer you on. Bootcamp instructors often do this. There is another type of instructor that cue the move, but they are gunning it alongside with you. Chances are these instructors are likely collapsing timeframes. They’re teaching their class, and getting their workout in. I definitely fit into this category. One of the reasons why I became a fitness instructor is so that I can first, have the accountability to show up and second, I am forced to bring it for an hour a few times a week.


Protect your Bubble

Lately, there has been a significant amount of craziness in the world. For years, Lawrence and I have been living life without cable. We don’t listen to the radio (except for his hockey games.) We don’t read the newspaper. We don’t listen to CNN. When I think about this, this is the way I have always chosen to live my life. Even as a child, my parents encouraged me to listen to the news to keep up to date on current events. “It’s a-knowrredge,” my mom used to say in her broken English. It’s not. It’s not “a-knorredge.”



It’s one perspective based on one group of individuals, amplified by negativity because negativity and hysteria sell. I’m not sure if I understood this as a child. I just knew that it didn’t make me feel good to know how many people have been killed in a plane crash over the Indian ocean, so I chose to  block it out of my life.


It’s true. If you want to attract a life by your own design, you need to stop downloading any data that doesn’t support you in feeling good. That’s the first rule of in harnessing the Law of Attraction. Feel good. Be in tune with your emotions.



It’s only when you feel good about yourself that you can raise your rate of vibration, and attract what you want in your life.


When you subject yourself to all the negativity generously offered by the media, and the general public, you start to live your life by those same parameters. Hey, if you want to be controlled by that crazy world, go for it. But you should probably stop reading this article then. Nothing I’m going to say will help you as long as you’re in that paradigm. In fact, go ahead and un-friend me from Facebook while you’re at it. I’m good with it. I’m protecting my bubble too.


Surround yourself with Like Minded People

You’ve heard it before. It’s called finding your tribes. The fastest, most effective way to get complete your project is to do with like-minded people. This can translate to working out with a buddy, or hiring a personal trainer to achieve your fitness goals. People often underestimate the effectiveness of being among others who are trying to accomplish the same thing. To me, it’s so obvious. Humans are social beings. We aren’t wired to thrive in an isolated environment.



When we are among our tribe, we have the camaraderie. We have a support network of kindred spirits who are going through or have gone through the same trials and tribulations. Why would you want to re-invent the wheel, as cliche as it is?


Sure, you might say that your family is your support network. Or your friends. I’ll tell you what. They could be your wings or your anchor. Think about it. How many people have started a new business, told their family, and had their family stuff it back in their faces?


“That’s a terrible idea!”

“You’re not cut out to for business”!

“We’ve known you since you were tiny. Never have you ever done it before.”

“What if you fail?”


Our families and friends, though the intent is with love, have the propensity to always drag us down to the status quo. Why? Because if you venture out of your comfort zone, indirectly, their world is rocked somewhat as well.


Humans are known to kill new possibility instinctively. It’s our survival mechanism. On the other hand, if you’re among people trying to accomplish the same thing as you, no one’s going to convince you out of your project. In fact, they want to support you. They want to see you succeed. If you succeed, that means they reinforce the belief that they can find success too.


Final Words

Look. Cut yourself some slack. Go ahead. Be that pinterest-parent and savvy entrepreneur simultaneously. Be that student and super spouse at the same time. That’s the reality. All of us move forward not by doing one thing at a time, but managing multiple ONE things simultaneously overall. So many people have proved that it could be done before you. Why not you?

Also published on Medium.


  • Grace

    Reply Reply February 2, 2017

    Great tools suggested Cat. Block your time, put limits on tasks and collapsing timeframes are great ideas and easy to implement.

    • Cat Lam

      Reply Reply February 3, 2017

      So glad you find them valuable!!! Thanks Grace for checking it out! I’m excited to know what you find works for you too.

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