THE ONE THING
The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
Gary Keller with Jay Papasan – reviewed by Ray Silverstein
The author states “The One Thing is the best approach to getting what you want.” “What’s the One Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier?” The author further states, “Where I’d had huge success, I narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.”
If everyone has the same number of hours in a day, why do some people seem to get so much more done than others? The answer is they make getting to the heart of things the heart of their approach. They go small.
“Going Small” is ignoring all the things you could do and doing what you should do. It’s recognizing that not all things matter equally and finding the things that matter most. It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus. The way to get the most out of your work and your life is to go small as possible.
Technological innovations, cultural shifts, and competitive forces will often dictate that a business’s One Thing evolve or transform. The most successful companies know this and are always asking: “What’s our One Thing?” If your company doesn’t know what its One Thing is, then the company’s One Thing is to find out.
Andrew Carnegie addressed the students of the Curry Commercial College and stated “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket is all wrong. I tell you to put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.” So, how do you know which basket to pick? The Focusing Question will tell you.
Life Is A Question:
You may be asking, “Why focus on a question when what we really crave is an answer?” It’s simple, Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question. Ask the wrong question, get the wrong answer. Ask the right question, get the right answer. Ask the most powerful question possible, and the answer can be life altering.
Voltaire once wrote, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” Great questions are the quickest path to great answers. How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.
Example of a Focusing Question: What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? The Focusing Question can lead you to answer not only “big picture” questions (Where am I going? What target should I am for?) but also “small focus” ones as well (What must I do right now to be on the path to getting the big picture?)
The Focusing Question always aims you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success—make a decision. But not just any decision—it drives you to make the best decision. It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters is the foundational habit to use to achieve extraordinary results and lead a big life
To stay on tack for the best possible day, month, year, or career, you must keep asking the Focusing Question. Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their levered order of importance. Then, each time you ask it, you see your next priority.
For the author, The Focusing Question is a way of life. He uses it to find his most leveraged priority, to make the most out of his time, and get the biggest bang for his buck. Whenever the outcome absolutely matters, he asks it.
The Focusing Question is a foundational habit.
The author uses it for some things and not and not at all for others. He applies it to the important areas of his life: spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and financial life. He addresses them in that order—each one is a foundation for the next.
The Focusing Question can direct you to your One Thing in different areas of your life. Simply re-frame The Focusing Question by inserting your area of focus. Examples:
- Spiritual Life—What’s the One Thing I can do to help others?
- Physical Health— What’s the One Thing I can do to achieve my diet goals?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to ensure I exercise?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to relieve my stress?
- Personal Life—— What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my skill at __?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to find time for myself?
- Key Relationships- What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my relationship with my spouse?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to make my family stronger?
- Job—————– What’s the One Thing I can do to ensure I hit my goals?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to improve my skills?
- Business———– What’s the One Thing I can do to make us more competitive?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to make our product the best?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to make us more profitable?
- What’s the One Thing I can do to improve our customer experience?
Set up ways to remind yourself to use The Focusing Question. Such as a sign on your desk that says, “Until my One Thing is done—everything else is a distraction.”
The Focusing Question should be “Big” and Specific. It should not be big and broad, or small and broad, or even small and specific. Example:
- “Big” and Specific—What can I do to double sales in six months?
- Big and broad—What can I do to double sales?
- Small and broad—What can I do to increase sales?
- Small and specific—What can I do to increase sales 5% this year?
The challenge of asking a Great Question is that, once you’ve asked it, you’re now faced with finding a Great Answer.
Extraordinary results require a Great Answer. If you want the most from your answer, you must realize that it lives outside your comfort zone. A big answer is never in plain view, nor is the path to finding one laid out for you. A possibility answer exists beyond what is already known and being done.
A Great Answer is essentially a new answer. It is a leap across all current answer in search of the next one and is found in two steps. The first is a stretch. You uncover the best research and study the highest achievers. Anytime you don’t know the answer, your answer is to go find your answer. In other words, by default, your first One Thing is to search for clues and role models to point you in the right direction. The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer. A new answer usually requires new behavior, so don’t be surprised if along the way to sizable success you change in the process.
There is a natural rhythm to our lives that becomes a simple formula for implementing the One Thing and achieving extraordinary results: Purpose, Priority, and Productivity. Their link leads to the two areas where you’ll apply the One Thing—one big and one small.
Your big One Thing is your purpose and your small One Thing is the priority you take action to achieve it. The most productive people start with Purpose and use it like a compass. They allow Purpose to be the guiding force in determining the Priority that drives their actions.
Think of Purpose, Priority, and Productivity as three parts of an iceberg. What’s visible to the public—Productivity and Profit—is always buoyed by the substance that serves as the company’s foundation—Purpose and Priority.
The Power of Purpose:
Purpose is the straightest path to power and the ultimate source of personal strength—strength of conviction and strength to persevere. The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it. When you have a definite purpose for your life, clarity comes faster, which leads to more conviction in your direction, which usually leads to faster decisions. With faster decisions, you’ll often be the one who makes the first decisions and winds up with the best choices. And when you have the best choices, you have the opportunity for the best experiences. This is how knowing where you’re going helps lead you to the best possible outcomes and experiences life has to offer.
Discover you Big Why. Discover your purpose by asking yourself what drives you. What’s the thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you’re tired and worn down.
Live by Priority:
Live with purpose and you know where you want to go. Life by priority and you’ll know what to do to get there. Purpose without priority is powerless.
Goal Setting to the Now will get you there:
By thinking through the format of Goal Setting to the Now you set a future goal and then methodically drill down to what you should be doing right now.
Example of Goal Setting to the Now:
What’s the one thing I want to do someday?
Five Year Goal:
Based on my Someday Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do in the next five years?
Based on my Five Year Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this year?
Based on my One Year Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this month?
Based on my Monthly Goal, what’s the One Thing I can do this week?
Based on my Weekly goal, what’s the One Thing I can do today?
Based on my Daily goal, What’s the One Thing I can do right now?
With this method you’re training your mind how to think, how to connect one goal with the next over time until you know the most important thing you must do right NOW. You’re learning how to think Big—but going
Live For Productivity:
“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
Productive action transforms lives. Putting together a life of extraordinary results simply comes down to getting the most out of what you do, when what you do matters. Most people think there’s never enough time to be successful, but there is when you block it. Time blocking is a very results-oriented way of viewing and using time. It’s a way of making sure that what has to be done gets done. 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 the 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.
Once you’ve done your One Thing for the day, you can devote the rest of it to everything else. Just use the Focusing Question to identify your next priority and give that task the time it deserves. So, when you know your One Thing, make an appointment with yourself to tackle it.
Time Block these three things in the following order:
- Time block your time off.
- Time block your One Thing.
- Time block your planning time.
By planning your time off in advance, you are, in effect, managing your work time around your downtime instead of the other way around. Resting is as important as working.
The most productive people design their days around doing their One Thing. Their most important appointment each day is with themselves, and they never miss it. In addition, the most productive people work on “event” time. They don’t quit until their One Thing is done.
The last priority you time block is planning time. This is where you reflect on where you are and where you want to go. Block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals. First, ask what needs to happen that month for you to be on target for your annual goals. Then ask what must happen that week to be on course for your monthly goals. You’re essentially asking, “Based on where I am right now, what’s the One Thing I need to do this week to stay on track for my monthly goal and for my monthly goal to be on track for my annual goal?
Protect Your Time Block:
For time blocks to actually block time, they must be protected. Although time blocking isn’t hard, protecting the time you’ve blocked is. The world doesn’t know your purpose or priorities and isn’t responsible for them—you are. So it’s your job to protect your time blocks from all those who don’t know what matters most to you, and from yourself when you forget.
The best way to protect your time blocks is to adopt the mindset that they can’t be moved. You own need to do other things instead of your One Thing may be your biggest challenge to overcome.