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The One Thing

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If you chase two rabbits... you will not catch either one.
— Russian proverb


Be like a postage stamp – stick to one thing until you get there.
— Josh Billings


What's the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

It's recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most.

Every great change starts like falling dominoes.
— BJ Thornton


Find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.

It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.
— Og Mandino


There can only be one most important thing. Many things may be important, but only one can be the most important.
— Ross Garber


You must be single-minded. Drive for the one thing on which you have decided.
— General George S. Patton


Passion for something leads to disproportionate time practicing or working at it. That time spent eventually translates to skill, and when skill improves, results improve. Better results generally lead to more enjoyment, and more passion and more time is invested. It can be a virtuous cycle all the way to extraordinary results.

Success demands singleness of purpose.
— Vince Lombardi


Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.

The things which are most important don't always scream the loudest.
— Bob Hawke


Most inboxes overflow with unimportant e-mails masquerading as priorities. Tackling these tasks in the order we receive them is behaving as if the squeaky wheel immediately deserves the grease.

Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list – a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. To-do lists then to be long; success lists are short.

Pareto's Principle (of unequal distribution), it turns out, is as real as the law of gravity, and yet most people fail to see the gravity of it. It's not just a theory – it is a provable, predictable certainty of nature and one of the greatest productivity truths ever discovered. Richard Koch, in his book The 80/20 Principle, defined it about as well as anyone: "The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards." In other words, in the world of success, things aren't equal. A small amount of causes creates most of the results. Just the right input creates most of the output. Selected effort creates almost all of the rewards.

The 80/20 Principle says the minority of your effort leads to the majority of your results.

Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize.

Pareto proves everything I'm telling you – but there's a catch. He doesn't go far enough. I want you to go further. I want you to take Pareto's Principle to an extreme. I want you to go small by identifying the 20 percent, and then I want you to go even smaller by finding the vital few of the vital few.

No matter how many to-dos you start with, you can always narrow it to one.

No matter the task, mission, or goal. Big or small. Start with as large a list as you want, but develop the mindset that you will whittle your way from there to the critical few and not stop until you end with the essential ONE. The imperative ONE. The ONE Thing.

Don't focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.

Doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.

So, if doing the most important thing is the most important thing, why would you try to do anything else at the same time? It's a great question.

To do two things at once is to do neither.
— Publilius Syrus


Multitasking is a lie.

Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.
— Steve Uzzell


Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions.

Chronic multitaskers develop a distorted sense of how long it takes to do things. They almost always believe tasks take longer to complete than is actually required.

From age 14 through the Beijing Olympics, Phelps trained seven days a week, 365 days a year. He figured that by training on Sundays he got a 52-training-day advantage on the competition. He spent up to six hours in the water each day.

When you do the right thing, it can liberate you from having to monitor everything.

It takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit.

Build one habit at a time.

Willpower has a limited battery life.

Make it through a tough day in the trenches, and the lure of late-night snacking can become your diet's downfall.

The more we use our mind, the less minding power we have.

Willpower is like gas in your car... When you resist something tempting, you use some up. The more you resist, the emptier your tank gets, until you run out of gas.

The brain makes up 1/50th of our body mass but consumes a staggering 1/5th of the calories we burn for energy. If your brain were a car, in terms of gas mileage, it'd be a Hummer. Most of our conscious activity is happening in our prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain responsible for focus, handling short-term memory, solving problems, and moderating impulse control. It's at the heart of what makes us human and the center for our executive control and willpower.

When our willpower runs out, we all revert to our default settings.

Every day, without realizing it, we engage in all manner of activities that diminish our willpower. Willpower is depleted when we make decisions to focus our attention, suppress our feelings and impulses, or modify our behavior in pursuit of goals.

Don't fight your willpower. Build your days around how it works and let it do its part to build your life.

For thousands of years, work was life.

The problem with living in the middle is that it prevents you from making extraordinary time commitments to anything.

Time waits for no one.

Ask bigger questions. A good rule of thumbs is to double down everywhere in your life. If your goal is ten, ask the question: "How can I reach 20?" Set a goal so far above what you want that you'll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal.

I discovered that we can't manage time, and that the key to success isn't in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well.

And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret – concentrate your energy, though and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged.
— Andrew Carnegie


Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.
— Voltaire


Sometimes questions are more important than answers.
— Nancy Willard


One of the most empowering moments of my life cam when I realized that life is a question and how we live it is our answer.

Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.

What's the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?

You're allowed to pick one thing and one thing only.

Give me a lever long enough and I could move the world.
— Archimedes


The Focusing Question asks you to find the first domino and focus on it exclusively until you knock it over.

The Small-Focus Question: What's my ONE Thing right now? Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work and, whenever you need it, helps you find the "levered action" or first domino in any activity.

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futuress.
— F.M. Alexander


Extraordinary results require a Great Answer.

The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.

Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there.
— Will Rogers


Productivity is driven by purpose and priority.

In business, profit and productivity are also driven by priority and purpose.

Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
— George Bernard Shaw


Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.

Sticking with something long enough for success to show up is a fondamental requirement for achieving extra-ordinary results.

Purpose without priority is powerless.

To be precise, the word is priority – not priorities – and it originated in the 14th century from the Latin prior, meaning "first." If something mattered the most it was a "priority." Curiously, priority remained unpluralized until around the 20th century, when the world apparently demoted it to mean generally "something that matters" and the plural "priorities" appeared.

It's an ordinary occurrence, oddly named hyperbolic discounting – the farther away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it.

It's why most people never get closes to their goals. They haven't connected today to all the tomorrows it will take to get there.
Connect today to all your tomorrows. It matters.


Those who wrote down their goals were 39.5 percent more likely to accomplish them.

Productivity isn't about being a workhorse, keeping busy or burning the midnight oil... It's more about priorities, planning, and fiercely protecting your time.
— Margarita Tartakovsky


The most successful people are the most productive people.

The goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do.
— Francine Jay


Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus.
— Graham Bell


Time blocking harnesses your energy and centers it on your most important work. It's productivity's greatest power tool.

If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time. Each and every day, ask this Focusing Question for your blocked time: "Today, what's the One Thing I can do for my One Thing such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?" When you find the answer, you'll be doing the most leveraged activity for your most leveraged work.
This is how results become extraordinary.


Resting is as important as working.

In A Geography of Time, Robert Levine points out that most people work on "clock" time – "It's five o'clock, I'll see you tomorrow" – while others work on "event" time – "My work is done when it's done."

The most productive people work on event time. They don't quit until their One Thing is done.

My recommendation is to block four hours a day. This isn't a typo. I repeat: four hours a day. Honestly, that's the minimum. If you can do more, then do it.

In On Writing, Stephen King describes his work flow: "My own schedule is pretty clear-cut. Mornings belong to whatever is new – the current composition. Afternoons are for naps and letters. Evenings are for reading, family, Red Sox games on TV; and any revisions that just cannot wait. Basically mornings are my prime writing time." Four hours a day may scare you more than King's novels, but you can't argue with his results. Stephen King is one of the most successful and prolific writers of our time.

In the end, she had to borrow a laptop and book a conference room to escape "drive-bys" and random, nonurgent requests.

To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.

Your only job is to not break the chain. Don't break the chain.

Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.
— Walter Elliot


Until My ONE Thing Is Done – Everything Else Is A Distraction!

The immortal Ernest Hemingway kept a strict writing schedule starting at seven every morning in his bedroom. The mortal but still immensely talented business author Dan Heath "bought an old laptop, deleted all its browsers, and, for good measure, deleted its wireless network drivers" and would take his "way-back machine", to a coffee shop to avoid distractions. Between the two extremes, you could just find a vacant room and simply close the door.

Time blocking works only when your mantra is "Nothing and no one has permission to distract me from my ONE Thing."

The people who achieve extraordinary results don't achieve them by working more hours. They achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work.

Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.
— George Halas


Since there is always another level to learn, mastery actually means you're a master of what you know and an apprentice of what you don't. In other words, we become masters of what is behind us and apprentices for what is ahead. This is why mastery is a journey.

That's the journey of mastery – it never ends.

Ericsson essentially gave us our first real insights into mastery and birthed the idea of the "10,000-hour rule."

If the people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn't seem wonderful at all.
— Michelangelo


In his landmark book Mastery, George Leonard tells the story of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. According to legend, as Kano approached death, he called his students around him and asked to be buried in his white belt.

Focus is a matter of deciding what things you're not going to do.
— John Carmack


Someone once told me that one "yes" must be defended over time by 1,000 "nos."

Anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.
— Francis Ford Coppola


The art being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.
— William James


No one succeeds alone and no one fails alone. Pay attention to the people around you. Seek out those who will support your goals, and show the door to anyone who won't.

Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.
— Oprah Winfrey


At any moment in time there can be only ONE Thing.

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
— T. S. Eliot


 New Review

By Jack Anderson on June 23, 2019

We live in an era of abundance of everything. Did you know there are more than 200 billion emails sent every day? In a world that keeps spinning so fast, how do you even accomplish anything?
The One Thing is the answer. Written by Gary Keller and help Jay Papasan, the short book gives you a simple framework on how to navigate in a chaotic world in order to achieve great results.

The primary theory of the book is this. The answer of productivity is not working more. It is not getting up earlier or doing long hours at the office. It is not multitasking nor outsourcing your life in India. The solution is finding the one thing and focusing all your energy on achieving it. Like dominos, you focus on the first one and then the second one will eventually fall, and then third one, and then...
It doesn't tell you how to become an email ninja or how to jungle with ten balls at the same time. It tells you to focus on the one and only thing that will make everything else easier or unnecessary.

In order to achieve it, one great concept is time blocking. The authors suggest to spend four hours a day on the important things.

Overall, the book itself is quite interesting and surely a quick read. It goes straight to the point and in that sense succeeds. I give it 7 out of 10. An excellent and simple framework.

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