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One Big Thing with Nick Burka

Cofounder silverorange & One Big Thing | Montreal, Canada

You’ve probably heard it a million times; Focus on one thing at a time. The concept isn’t new but it’s powerful, and Nick Burka, the founder of the One Big Thing app, totally agrees. It’s why Nick and his brother, Daniel, have created a purposefully simple app that does just that – asks you what you want to focus on for that day, that one thing.

'Focus on one thing at a time' Click To Tweet

The Concept

Nick’s brother Daniel Burka is a serial entrepreneur. He’s currently with Google Ventures, which works to fund startups under the Google name. With one of Daniel’s coworkers, John Zeratsky, the two began discussing a model for staying focused, mindful, and getting daily tasks finished efficiently. “There’s a pre-existing model called the 1-3-5 model, which focuses on one big thing, three little things, and some other stuff each day. John and Daniel came up with a sticky pad version with a clean, simple, and beautiful layout” said Nick. After just two tweets from John and Daniel, they received tens of thousands of responses saying the model was helpful and very useful.

Daniel then took the idea to his brother, Nick, and the two began working on it as a personal project. The goal was to create a simple app that asked users to write down one thing they wanted to complete for that day and would remind that user of it. Even better, each morning the app notifies users to jump back in and enter another one thing. “It was a chance to work together, which we haven’t done for a while,” said Nick. “The project was an evenings and weekends kind of thing.”


One Big Thing


Being Mindful

Nick agreed to working on the project because philosophically he believes in it, saying, “I actually do create the task to complete it. It’s refreshing to finish a task and cross it off your list.”  When asked about work and life balance, Nick referenced that concepts like One Big Thing help him to not panic. It allows him to see a whole pile of things he needs to do and pick from the top and work his way down. Otherwise, he would get overwhelmed.

Nick hasn’t always known how to live a mindful life. In fact, he previously thought the only way to be mindful was to engage in systems like meditation or yoga. “The big switch for me is that I was thinking I wasn’t doing it “right,” but rather it was just a different mindful thing than a system that people usually do,” he remembers. “I had to go through trying the system to realize that I needed a more personal mindfulness.”

'I find mindfulness in the activities that draw me into them by actually doing them' Click To Tweet

So what does Nick do to stay mindful? “I find mindfulness in the activities that draw me into them by actually doing them,” he said. A couple examples Nick gave us include spending time with his son in his classes helping them organize or work on an art project. He also mentioned cooking as a good activity. “These are mindful activities to me as I’m thinking about core things in my life that are important. True things to me work better than a system like meditation or yoga,” he finished.


It’s Fluid

The biggest takeaway for Nick, that may also apply to many others, is that every day is different. Therefore, how you stay grounded or mindful can shift and change. One day it might be a yoga class that helps you, but another it may be a strenuous workout. At the end of the day, Nick sums all of this up nicely by saying, “Life is stressful. The goal is not to get rid of all the stress. The goal is just to manage the stress. There’s a balance.”


Nick’s Questions for the KYŌ App:

  • What are you doing that really matters?
  • What are you doing to help others?
  • What did you visually appreciate today?


Images: Marc Champagne

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