When I had our second child back in October, I was reminded again of the beautiful, but chaotic, chaos that comes with those early weeks and months. Life is broken up into unpredictable blocks of time between naps and nappies, appointments and ointments, and sleep deprived delirium that results in half-completed work on your laptop and half-finished meals on your worktop.

As someone who likes tidiness and order and control, I find the early days the hardest because all of a sudden, I can’t be productive or “perfect” at anything. It is like a massive right hook to my pride followed by an uppercut to my sanity. It feels terrible.

Now, of course unpredictability and over-full days are not the exclusive domain of parents. At some point, all high-performers and mega-achievers and go-getters (like you!) find themselves oversubscribed and overwhelmed. And when that happens, some of the best advice we can live by is this: to set ourselves only ONE goal for each day.

Because you see, when we are stressed and overwhelmed and have more tasks than time, it can become soul-destroying to think about how little we are getting done and how much we are not accomplishing. But if we take some of the pressure off (even just temporarily), and if we focus on getting just ONE super-high-value thing done each day, that can be enough to keep us going.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

In those early post-partem days, my “one thing” would sometimes be as small as making one phone call. Or writing one important email. Or going to one gym class. Just one small thing that reminded me that I wasn’t a failure and that micro-steps forward still count.

And that approach to my days made ALL the difference in the world. It gave me my sense of accomplishment back. It helped me let go of any simmering resentment I felt. It allowed me to enjoy my time with my newborn and stop stressing (mostly) about everything else.

One is a small, but mighty number. And enough “1s” can sustain our momentum just long enough to make sure that we never totally lose it when big changes come our way. 

We can’t always get the kind of time we want. But, focusing on just ONE thing allows us to get by, push on, and make sure that major life events or major pressures on our time don’t obliterate everything that came before, or everything that comes after.

That is the power of one.

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The daughter of Indian immigrants, Rupal is a born-and-bred New Yorker now living near London. Her high-octane career as a CIA officer turned serial entrepreneur has taken her from military briefing rooms in jungles and war zones to corporate boardrooms and international stages.

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