“What’s the ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”Gary Keller is the author of The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.
In the book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, Gary Keller details his concept of “The ONE Thing.” This idea will help you focus and prioritize in your life, business, or work by removing distractions, reducing stress, and getting better results in less time.
The ONE Thing
After building a successful company, Keller introduces the idea of “The ONE Thing,” which was the product of his first major entrepreneurial failure. His company was failing, and his life was crumbling around him. Keller sought help from a coach, who told him to do the One Thing of replacing 14 employees. Keller stepped down as CEO and found the 14 right people for the right seats, which resulted in extraordinary corporate success and growth. He started coaching his company’s top performers to successfully use the One Thing in their lives and careers.
Most people think the road to success is time-consuming and intricate. Thus, these people overload their schedule and task lists, resulting in being stressed and overwhelmed. Keller tells us to be successful is to do the opposite and Go Small:
Going Small – narrowing your focus to produce incredible results; ignoring all the things you could to focus on the things that matter the most
The Domino Effect
Success is created by doing the One Thing at a time, like falling dominos, to compound to produce extraordinary results:
Domino Effect – the chain reaction or the cumulative effect produced when one event sets off a chain of similar events
In this analogy, upright dominos lined up contain potential energy. When the first domino falls, the amount of energy released corresponds to the number of lined-up dominos. Thus, you want to focus your efforts on the One Thing. Then, the results from this effort will multiply with the next thing, and so on.
Success Leaves Clues
The most successful people and companies are known for the One Thing, such as a product, service, passion, or skill. Keller provides many examples, including KFC with its chicken recipe, Starbucks with its coffee, and Microsoft with its Windows operating system. Many individuals can point to one pivotal person that significantly contributed to their success.
Six Lies Preventing You from Succeeding
There are six misconceptions that are thought of today as absolute truths. These six “lies” will prevent us from being successful using the One Thing in our lives.
Lie #1: Everything Matters Equally
In the real world of getting results, most things are never equal. Many of us are guilty of creating todo lists that treat everything as urgent and important. However, it may feel equal, and you will become busy, but will not achieve significant results.
Instead, we have to prioritize what matters the most. Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, found that inequality existed in wealth distribution. This theory was codified in the Pareto Principle:
Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule) – about 80% of the results (outputs) come from about 20% of the causes (inputs)
Thus, efforts are not equal, and a select number of vital efforts can produce significant results. When creating a todo list, start with an extensive list of actions and choose the One Thing to do that will have the best impact.
Lie #2: Multitasking
Multitasking is ineffective and inefficient and can result in mistakes or failures. Many people believe that multitasking or working on tasks simultaneously will lead to success. The need to multitask arises out of not having enough time and an abundance of distractions.
However, a Stanford study showed that task-focused workers outperformed multitaskers every time. People cannot focus on two or more complex tasks at the same time. When we “multitask,” we are constantly switching our attention between multiple tasks, which results in wasted time. Instead, we should solely focus on One Thing at a time to be most productive.
Lie #3: A Disciplined Life
Many perceive successful people as naturally being disciplined. However, that is not true, as we all have enough discipline to be successful. The key is to develop powerful habits to help you take action to succeed.
You can form a habit by being disciplined enough to accomplish a task regularly. According to studies from the University College of London, it takes about 66 days to establish a new habit. Over time, habits will be easier to manage and more likely to stick around. Success builds sequentially, so you should focus on developing one habit at a time.
Lie #4: Willpower Is Always on Will-Call
Willpower or the ability to delay gratification is a significant indicator of future success. However, you will not always have the willpower to succeed as it comes and goes. Thus, we have to use our willpower like it is energy from a battery. The more you use your mind, the less willpower you have.
As willpower corresponds to the level of achievement, we do not want to resort to an average amount of willpower. Thus, we need to use our willpower economically and not spread it too thin. To use your willpower wisely, you need to focus on accomplishing your most important work, or the One Thing, earlier in the day.
Lie #5: A Balanced Life
Many people try to achieve work-life balance as a worthy goal, but this concept is an impossible reality. When we pursue balance, we will not produce amazing results as we are stuck in the safe middle.
Instead, we need to pursue purpose, meaning, and significance. When we focus our time and work to achieve these three ideas, we will lose balance. Great results come from concentrated effort toward the extremes, which can be regulated by:
Counterbalancing – idea to focus our efforts but not too extreme that we hurt our well-being and cannot swing back
To be successful, we will get out of balance in our work and personal lives. But the key is to understand your priorities and know how far to go before counterbalancing.
Lie #6: Big Is Bad
It is a common misconception that significant objectives correspond to time-intensive and challenging efforts. It follows that many are scared of pursuing major dreams. They think small and establish internal limiting beliefs and roadblocks.
We need to think big to pursue incredible goals. In Mindset, Carol Dweck discusses that those who adopt a growth mindset believe their success corresponds to their invested time and effort. Thus, the possibilities are limitless, and there is no goal too big for our reach. Accordingly, we will boldly take action on the scale of how large we think.
Part 2: The Truth: The Simple Path to Productivity
Gary Keller chased success and pushed himself and others over the limit. He realized that he went too far, began to listen to his body, and purposely did less. He figured out that many of us “overthink, overplan, and overanalyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives.” Instead of working way too hard and being unhealthy, we can focus our efforts on the handful of things or the One Thing that will produce extraordinary results.
The Focusing Question: “What’s the ONE Thing?”
In 1885, Andrew Carnegie stated that the main factor in becoming successful is to focus your energy, attention, and money on a specific course of action. With a similar thought, Mark Twain added that to execute, you have to break down the larger complicated tasks into smaller manageable tasks and start with the first one.
However, in both perspectives, how do you know what to do? We have to ask the Focusing Question, which will prevent us from executing in the wrong direction:
Focusing Question – the one important question that leads you in the right direction: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
- Big Picture – helps you develop a vision for your life and determine the direction of your career or company: “What’s my ONE Thing?”
- Small Focus – helps you focus on your most important task for that day: “What’s my ONE Thing right now?”
“The quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.” The quality answer to this question will allow us to execute and achieve results.
The Success Habit
Habits are essential to help us achieve our goals. Bad habits are hard to break, and good habits can be harder to form. We need to create a habit of asking the Focusing Questions to establish our priorities and take action. We can use either the big picture or small focus questions depending on the time frame.
Keller recommends using the Focusing Question in all areas of your life: spirituality, physical health, relationships, career, business, and finances. When approaching each category, the Focusing Question will help you clarify what you want. Then, you can take action on the One Thing that will produce the best results for that area of life.
The Path to Great Answers
Ask a Great Question – Great questions are big and specific. To ask a great question, you have to follow the Great Question Matrix, with four quadrants:
- I – Big & Specific: This question will help you think big with the specificity to help you achieve that big goal.
- II – Big & Broad: This question helps you think big, but the broadness results in more questions than answers.
- III – Small & Broad: This brainstorming question helps you list options but needs specificity to narrow down.
- IV – Small & Specific: Small goals do not require much action, so you will not get amazing results.
Find a Great Answer – Great answers come in three categories:
- Doable – tasks that are most likely to be achieved
- Stretch – reachable goal at the farthest end of your range
- Possibility – best goals that push the envelope of what’s possible causing transformations
Top performers do not settle for the first two and extend themselves outside their comfort zone, seeking the best new answers. You can establish a benchmark for solutions from the knowledge and experience of others.
Part 3: Extraordinary Results: Unlocking the Possibilities Within You
Keller tells us that we can implement the One Thing to produce incredible outcomes using three principles: Purpose, Priority, and Productivity.
Live with Purpose
The best and most powerful life is a life lived on purpose:
Purpose – your big One Thing that is the guiding force that drives your actions; the thing that is your intention or objective
If you ask most people what they want in life, it is the desire to be happy. We want happiness, but most of us have a poor understanding of what will truly make us happy. Many resort to achieving status or wealth and acquiring more stuff, but this does not lead to happiness.
We become happy on the way to fulfillment. American Psychological Association ex-President, Dr. Martin Seligman, tells us there are five contributors to happiness: “positive emotion and pleasure, achievement, relationships, engagement, and meaning.” The most important of these is being engaged in our actions and finding meaning in our lives. When our efforts fulfill a higher purpose, we will gain clarity, make better decisions, and have the strength to persevere. Taking action on our purpose will result in the best outcomes and experiences in our life. Check our Keller’s webpage to help discover your purpose.
Live by Priority
“Purpose without priority is powerless.” When you live with purpose, you will know where you are going. The priority tells you how you will get there:
Priority – your small One Thing that you take action on to achieve your purpose; the thing that is urgent and important
In the 14th century, priority was a singular word that meant what mattered the most. It lost its original meaning and became pluralized in the 20th century. To have a compelling top priority, we need to set goals.
Every prioritized action will influence the next experience; however, the further into the future the purpose seems, the immediate motivation is tougher to come by. We have to think big from our purpose and work backward to the priority: someday goal, five-year goal, one-year goal, monthly goal, weekly goal, daily goal, and the right now. Lastly, write your goals down to provide clarity and gain momentum.
Live for Productivity
After being inspired by your purpose and taking action on your priority, productivity is what transforms lives:
Productivity – the rate of action taken corresponding to how much your purpose and priority are pushing and driving you; the building block of profit
The most successful people are the most productive with their personal resources. They focus on the One Thing to get more done, achieve better outcomes, and make more money per time worked. We think that we have to work more hours, but most of us do not have the energy to do so. The key is time blocking:
Time Blocking – “very results-oriented way of viewing and using time;” you schedule time such that your priority gets done
When you time block, you devote most of your time, at least four hours of deep work per day, to the One Thing that needs to get done. You will encounter distractions and disruptions, but you need to protect your time block to be productive and produce amazing results.
The Three Commitments
To achieve great results from time blocking, you need three commitments:
- Follow the Path of Mastery: Seeking mastering is the path to attain amazing results. First, you have to start learning the basics and commit time and effort to develop expertise and experience. Deliberate practice over time will result in you achieving mastery of knowledge and skills.
- Move from “E” to “P”: You have to switch between the two modes of entrepreneurship and purpose. The entrepreneurial mode is the natural approach of enthusiasm, energy, and ability that will eventually hit the ceiling. However, the purposeful mode will help us achieve breakthroughs from new ideas, skills, and relationships.
- Live the Accountability Cycle: You need to take ownership to make changes in your life and achieve amazing results. Being comfortable or having a victim mindset will hold you back. You can find a coach to hold you accountable.
The Four Thieves of Productivity
To overcome the four thieves of productivity, you should do the following:
- Start to Say “No”: Saying no will give you the freedom to devote time to the One Thing. As when you say yes to a commitment, you have to say no to others.
- Accept the Chaos: When you work on your One Thing, you will put other stuff on hold. Chaos is unavoidable, and you should not fear it and deal with it accordingly.
- Manage your Health and Energy: Do not overwork or overwhelm yourself. Treat your body with proper exercise, sleep, and nutrition to have the energy to achieve.
- Take Ownership of Your Environment: You need to surround yourself with the right people and supportive environment to help you achieve your goals.
The Journey of Pursuing the ONE Thing
“No matter the objective, no matter the destination, the journey to anything you want always starts with a single step. That step is called the ONE Thing.”
You will experience obstacles and hardships when pursuing a big goal, but it can be accomplished by breaking it down to the small focus. When you simplify the process, you can keep the big picture in mind and not get overwhelmed. Taking action creates habits, and establishing habits produces extraordinary success. One by one, like dominos, you will execute on the One Thing and achieve your success.
I hope this post has helped you review the book or inspires you to get your own copy. If you have any further questions or need additional help, feel free to comment below or send me an email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, if you are wanting more Process Hacker content, you can subscribe to our short weekly newsletter on Productivity, Habits, and Resources.