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J.O.T. (Just One Thing)

vicki hinze, on writing

Written by Vicki Hinze

On June 20, 2014

Vicki Hinze, JOT, J.O.T., Just one Thing, writing, creative writing, writers, authors, novelists




Vicki Hinze

What is JOT? Why does it, or should it, matter to me?


JOT stands for Just One Thing. It gained attention and popularity being used in a program seeking volunteers willing and able to do just one thing to assist the program in its ambitious goals to generate efficient success.


If you’ve done much organizational volunteering, you’ve probably noted that there is a core group of volunteer worker bees who take on so many tasks they’re inundated. JOT asks everyone benefiting from the program to do just one thing to spread the required work through a larger group of people, making the whole program less strenuous for any one person. The JOT goal is that no one be overworked, and each person benefitting pull a little of the necessary weight.


I’ve watched JOT at work and seen the difference in a few harried, overwhelmed volunteers and a more serene and efficient and engaged work force.  Everyone had an investment in success.  Everyone shared the benefits of success.  That got me to thinking about how JOT could be applied in other ways—to a single individual. Would JOT have the same stellar results?


In these days of complex schedules and diverse interests, most people are at risk for overloading themselves on all fronts: taking on too much at work and at home. Before you know it, you find yourself swamped and exhausted and thinking, Something’s got to give. And when you reach that point, often what gives is you.


Rather than taking a daily walk, you cut it back to three times a week. Rather than sleeping eight hours a night, you sleep six, or four. We cut our personal things because that causes less disruption and interruptions to others. It’s easier. But it’s also a bad place to always cut—which we soon discover because, when we don’t get what we need to stay balanced and healthy, we react adversely.


Maybe we’re tired all the time. Maybe we’re short on patience, or we do the minimum required of us on something rather than our best. It isn’t that we don’t want to do our best. It’s that we’re so slammed, we can’t expend the time or energy to do our best. A little is all we have to give, so we give it, often wishing we could give more.


The more slammed we become, the greater the odds become that not just our quality of production goes down, our production itself diminishes and so can our personal health.


That’s when it’s time—beyond time, actually—to implement JOT in our daily lives.


Here are a few tips to implement JOT before you hit crisis point or critical mass:




Note things you do each day and when you do them. Now ask yourself:

Can you combine tasks from your list? (That’s multi-tasking, working more efficiently.)

Group similar tasks to create a smooth work-flow that saves you time and energy? (Similar tasks require small shifts from us. Dissimilar tasks require big shifts. Small shifts are less disruptive and the workflow is smoother.)

Delete repetitive tasks? (Often we do the same thing different ways throughout the day. Replicating efforts wastes time and energy and scatters focus.)


Once you have the list compressed, shift your perspective to look at what’s on it. Is everything work-related? Duties at home? What about down time? Is there any? How about hobbies? Things you enjoy doing for the sheer joy of doing them?


We’re three-dimensional human beings—physical, emotional and spiritual—and we need to replenish our personal resources in all three dimensions or we get out of balance. That impacts us on all fronts, and not in a good way. We get sick more often, ride emotional rollercoasters, risk becoming spiritually depleted. Our contentment shrinks and our discontent grows. Ignore any aspect of yourself long enough and resentment sets in. Once that happens, it takes a ton of work and serious effort to not fall into depression or a pit of despair.


Just as we need work, we need joy. Just as we want fulfillment from our work, we want it in our personal life. If we’re not balanced on the contentment front, we reach a point where we wonder why we should bother doing anything at all. That’s when our three-dimensional, personal stool, if you will, makes us aware that one leg is too short, or two legs are too short, and we either tip over or realize we’re going to tip over.


Many times, we don’t see the tip coming but, when it does, we sure suffer the splat. Simple physics. The strongest, steadiest three-legged stool has three legs that are all the same length. Balance.


If you have only must-do items on your list, be sure you have some want-to items there, too.


Arrange your day so that you do just one thing for yourself that you’ve been neglecting to do to even out the length of those three legs.





Your schedule is already overloaded, and now you’re supposed to add just one thing?


The short answer: If you lack balance, yes. That’s why you first review what you’re doing, how and when you’re doing it, and look for ways to compress, combine, and get more efficient. Then you look at what’s there and see if you’re replenishing your resources on all three fronts. So you know where you’re overdoing and where you’re deficient.


Let’s look at all three individually:  physical, emotional and spiritual.


Physical. One common complaint is that exercise is both highly recommended and a time-eater. There’s just no time for it and yet we all know we need it. That if we exercise, we feel better, are stronger and sick less often and, when we do get sick, if our bodies are strong, we stay sick for shorter periods of time.


The challenge here is that exercise is too often considered another must-do that we’ve no desire to do. That requires a perspective shift and an attitude adjustment on our part. If we change the way we view exercise, odds are good we’ll change our attitude about exercise. Knowing we need it usually makes us dread it. It’s one more must-do we have zero desire to do.  And that generates dread and resentment. It also challenges us to turn the tide and find a way to make exercise a joy. Something we look forward to doing.


If you hate bicycling, do yoga or dance or walk. Make it fun by outwitting the must-do with a BOGO!  How?  By being sure that whatever you do for exercise (physical) has a built-in joyful thing also (emotional) that feeds your spiritual side. Choose an exercise you enjoy and add a reward to it.  An example:


Walk. If you get bored while walking, then do it while listening to songs that you love only when you walk. Listen to songs that lift your spirits and you’re multi-tasking, feeding your physical, emotional and spiritual needs: Walk (physical), music (emotional; engages the brain and lets you divert focus and rest a bit and lifts your spirits (spiritual). That’s better than a double BOGO—and you’ll be less sluggish, more energetic, and reap all the health benefits, too.



Emotional. When you’re overwhelmed, worn out, rushed and harried, more than your body suffers. You ride the emotional rollercoaster. Little things irk you, everything is a huge task or problem or challenge. Negativity sets in, and you’re weighed down with all its baggage.


First, remember that you’re human. Superman/woman exists only in fantasy and you live in the real world. You’re strong, skilled and well able to do what you do, but you are one person and scheduling every second of your time from the moment your feet hit the floor in the morning until you climb into bed at night is a feat best left to mythical superheroes. We humans need rest, relaxation and down time. If you have none, odds are good you’re not going to get any unless you schedule it and you make it a priority item (meaning, you don’t delete it first the moment any conflict arises).


Why free time should be a priority item on your to-do list.


Regardless of what kind of work you do and how important it is, there are two things that don’t bend. They break and fold, which is why we can’t discount their importance.


1. Overwhelmed people do mediocre work. Whether due to slivered focus, exhaustion, or an urgency to get to the next item on the to-do list, when overwhelmed we’re incapable of giving our best to anything. Our best requires that spark of enthusiasm, that excitement about a project that brings the magic to it.


When your batteries are low and your light’s dim, it’s hard to shine like a star! 


That’s just a fact. Look, we volunteer or get involved in projects because we think they’re valuable. We want them to succeed. When we take on projects we don’t have time for, we do a disservice to ourselves and the project. We know we can’t do the project justice. If we truly want the project to succeed, we need to step aside and let someone who is not overwhelmed and can do the project justice step in. (VIP: No is a complete sentence. When someone pushes you to take on something you can’t give your all to, use it. Just say, “No.”) Never settle for mediocre. Anything you choose to invest your time in is worth doing well. Because the time you’re investing is more than minutes on a clock. It’s your life.


2. Creativity can’t flourish in ticking time-bombs. Some people say they work well under pressure. I’m one of them. But if I don’t have down time, I can’t fully develop seeds of ideas. I don’t think deep, beyond the obvious—and neither do you. We need that license to daydream free-time. It’s when we’re still that we get and develop ideas. When creativity comes out to play and genius is born.


If nine-hundred things are crowding our minds, creativity gets trampled under them. It needs time and space to juggle and process all the input fed into it. Then it can slot these ideas, which often first come to us as disparate and unrelated snippets, and then sprinkle it all with the magic dust that shows us the connections and how the snippets relate. If we don’t have down time, we never get dusted. We stay hung up in the unrelated-snippets stage.


Remember, too, that we’re all creative. Look at any job or career, and you’ll see creativity find its way into it—whether writer, artist, or accountant. Creativity is home to innovation, new ideas, new technology and methods. People bring their unique perspective and approach to everything and so creativity is at home most everywhere.


One more point on this. We often hear we must be disciplined. It’s true. We must or we won’t actually accomplish much of anything. Dreams remain dreams until we take action. Then dreams have the means to become reality. So discipline is essential—to work hard and play hard. To seek and find and maintain balance.



SPIRITUAL. We can have all the creativity in the world but unless we also meet our spiritual needs, we’re stuck in the sphere of dreams. And we’re stuck there while in emotional turmoil because we’re unfulfilled.


The spirit is home to desire, promise, hope, faith, that sense of accomplishment, and belief. We have the desire to accomplish something, to push the edge, to expand current boundaries and get outside the box. Before we act on that, we have to believe that what we’re trying to do is possible. To have faith that it’s doable, that we can make it happen. The promise of success, the hope for purpose in fulfillment, the faith that what we desire to do, we are capable of doing. It’s all possible.


You can have fantastic ideas, but if you believe that they are only ideas and impossible to implement, the desire will wane and fade and fall away. The stronger the faith, the stronger the desire. Those spiritual things feed creativity and momentum—where one thing feeds another and those two feed yet another, making the whole larger and stronger.


Recently I did an article on Newton’s third law. Two equal opposing forces in opposition, which wins? The one with the largest mass. Spiritual aspects expand mass. Faith that you can, belief that you will, possibility—those things carry you beyond where your logic and intellect and emotions can take you. Never underestimate the mass of determination seated in your own desire to accomplish something.


A few years ago, I was at a school gathering and a small child was singing. He was five or six and singing at the top of his lungs, admittedly off-key. But the boy had heart. He loved singing; I could feel it, and that made listening to him sing compelling.


Well, an adult (who was not his teacher) told the boy, “You’re loud but you can’t carry a tune.” The boy stopped singing. The light went out of his eyes and he just stopped singing. I wondered if that thoughtless comment made to such a small and tender child had silenced his voice forever. I wondered if he would take that comment in and believe it (because she is the adult, after all, and adults are the authorities). And I worried that if he did, he’d never sing again, and I thought how tragic that would be. He loved it. He really loved it. And he sounded compelling. I was about to stick my nose into it when his teacher, who had clearly heard the remark, spoke to the boy. “Why did you stop singing?” He relayed what the other woman had said to him. The teacher didn’t miss a beat. “Oh, you can’t listen to her. She doesn’t have an ear for music like you do.” Smooth as silk, the teacher walked off. The boy looked my way. I couldn’t resist. “Your teacher is right,” I said. “I loved hearing you sing.” It took him a little while to work through all that. But before I left, I heard that compelling voice belting out a song. He’d decided to believe the teacher and sing. That made me incredibly happy.


The moral to that story is to be judicious in commenting and in taking in comments made to you. Young dreams are tender, fragile things. Nurture them and they grow (expanding mass). Whether five or fifty, dreams are a terrible thing to trample or have trampled.


Don’t lose sight of the fact that it isn’t only others who can trample your dreams. So often I hear people trample their own. Negative self-talk is a dream-crusher. It’s seated in fear and doubt and it will talk you right out of success every chance it gets. If and when you catch yourself saying or thinking a dream is foolish, counter. It might seem foolish, but if unexplored how will you know? The veil between insanity and genius is thin. We’ve all heard that all our lives. Unless you explore the dream how do you know which it is? And what’s wrong with foolish anyway?  I wonder how many told Steve Jobs or Bill Gates they were foolish.  Personal computers?  Outlandishly foolish—and a sorry waste of good time.  Can’t you just hear them?  But they pressed on.  And aren’t we all grateful that they did?


My point?  Do not fear failure. Instead, give yourself a license to fail your way to success. After all, no genius realized his/her dream in a single stroke. There were dozens and thousands of little failures along the way. The genius kept trying again—one more time—until everything clicked and the dream came to pass. There’s nothing insane in that.  There is much to admire.

Bear your physical, emotional and spiritual needs in mind and add JOT to your repertoire. You’re a creative eagle with the power to spread your wings and fly. The belief that you can fly feeds that momentum. Like the little boy, weigh the worth of the naysayers—and then dream anyway like Jobs and Gates. Believe anyway. And soar. Sooner or later, the naysayers will catch up.


That’s the importance of JOT to the individual. It brings together the physical, emotional and spiritual, and each of those aspects nourishes the combination of all the aspects.  And what’s that?  Expanding mass—constructively.


JOT works for organizations. It works for entities. It works for teams, for families and for individuals. Common goals, common aspirations magnify expectations and potential. So rather than looking at just one thing as something that adds to your already considerable burden, recognize it as the fuel to power your dreams. Your wings. Implement JOT—and fly!



Note: What’s your JOT? On Twitter, hashtag it #JOT!



writing livevicki hinze, her perfect life, military novel

© 2014, Vicki Hinze. Hinze is the award-winning, USA Today bestselling author of nearly thirty novels in a variety of genres including, suspense, mystery, thriller, and romantic or faith-affirming thrillers. Her latest release is Down and Dead in Dixie. She holds a MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Philosophy, Theocentric Business and Ethics. Hinze’s online community: Facebook. Books. Twitter. Contact.







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