• Kelly Smith

Keys To Producing Exceptional Work



In an effort to create robust systems that maximize productivity and results, I’m always on the lookout for ways to better manage my time. As a solopreneur, I have the awesome responsibility of producing exceptional work for my clients, as well as growing and nurturing my business.


A list maker by nature, I’ve refined my process of getting all-the-things-done, and calendar blocking has been a key component to keeping me on track. Within the blocks of time, there is always a to-do list… exactly what needs to get done during each block. By the end of each block, I’ve checked off all the boxes and move on to the next block.


But recently I started to feel majorly overwhelmed by this process. When I opened up my calendar and saw literally ZERO free space, I was wracked with anxiety. How would I get all of this work done and still feel happy and excited to spend time with my family afterward? I’d be dead to the world if I kept this pace up. I was left not wanting to do any of it. I quickly realized that this overwhelm was self imposed, and promptly decided to refine my process so that I wasn’t a slave to the time blocking system I’d created and used so diligently. Of the items on my to-do list, was I making the biggest impact or was I making busy work that felt like it was moving the needle?


I deleted all the blocks. I scraped all of the to do lists. Terrified that by deleting my lists, I’d “forget” or not know what to do next. Instead, I simply decided to start over. Rather than living and dying by my to-do list, I trusted that I knew exactly what needed to be done, and when, in order to move the needle for each client, and my business. I zoomed way out and took a wider look at what would success would look like for each client, made a couple really long lists, then picked the top three things on each list that make the biggest impact.

In an act of divine intervention, I listened to Amy Porterfied’s podcast with Jay Papasan, author of The One Thing. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Jay’s insight on focusing on The One Thing at the right time is truly all we need to do to get extraordinary results.

After devouring his book shortly thereafter, I followed Jay’s process and found that I was making better, more significant impact for my clients, as well as on my own business. I went from monitoring everything, to simply focusing on the right thing, which is one of the promises of the book.


Key insights from The One Thing that made a difference for me:


  1. Tackling too many things in the amount of time I have results in average work and undue stress. Instead, be realistic about the amount of time it takes to produce phenomenal work, then allow the necessary time for it. This will result in saying NO to other, less important things. This is not only ok, it's necessary.

  2. Exceptional work requires that we show up for ourselves in the best way possible. Taking care of ourselves with nutrition that fuels our mind is a commitment to producing your best work. As Jay writes, “Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work.”

  3. We must maximize will power and eliminate multi-tasking. Chase two rabbits, catch none. Will power is needed to ignore the distractions, but is also in limited supply. Reserve your willpower for the most important thing.

  4. “Allow what matters most to drive your day.” This is now hanging in my office.

  5. Scrap the long To-Do List and make a short Success List: intentional, purposeful and driven by that which are truly most important and impactful. A to-do list is often long and includes all-of-the-things, whereas a Success list is short, succinct and when completed has made an impact.

The One Thing goes on to give tangible and practical ways to implement a holistic success plan; from personal to professional, there is a chapter on implementing the “how” of tackling the one thing in each area of our lives.


Today, I feel more clear-minded and trust my success list far more than any former to-do list. My to-do list was a security blanket and a way to get absolutely everything done when not absolutely everything was necessary to my client’s success or my business’ success. By focusing on the needle-movers I’m better prepared to lead, deliver exceptional work, and enjoy the process!


I hope this helps you move the needle, whatever that may be for you. I highly recommend The One Thing for anyone looking to improve their workflow, their time management, or how to manage a growing business.


*This post isn’t sponsored and it’s not an ad. I really just got a lot out of this book and feel it’s a great read for any entrepreneur.