The ONE Thing – Book Review

the one thing gary keller jay papasan

“What ONE thing could you do today, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”. This is the main question of the book. The authors argue that anyone multi-tasking isn’t really doing so. Similar to a computer they’re simply switching between one task and another. The task you work on is in the foreground of your thinking, and the other tasks are in the background. Time is also lost constantly switching between the two (or more) tasks.

This book focuses on completing ONE thing that you need to do to improve your business/health/relationships. You may have a list of five or six things, but ultimately one of them will have the highest priority. The author also notes that “priority” didn’t always have a plural and initially meant one task, which we now denote with highest priority.

Book twelve is…

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan

the one thing book

PRO TIP: Take notes! When you read a book, use a blank sheet of paper as a bookmark. Write down any interesting facts and information from the book. This condenses a whole book into 3-4 pages of key notes that are important and relevant to you. 

My Notes

  • The authors explain that all things on your to-do list are not equal, and one has to be the most important. This should be given all your attention.
  • The Pareto Principle is discussed, which dictates that 80% of results come from 20% of input. This is not an exact ratio, but the underlying message is that you can achieve a lot from focusing on a few key tasks.
  • It’s important not to focus on simply being busy, rather to focus on being productiveThe “busy trap” is where you believe you’re making progress purely because you are not procrastinating.
  • Multi-tasking is a fallacy, as mentioned at the start of this review. The Proverb quoted is “Chase two rabbits, catch neither”.
  • If we focus on two things, for example Walking and Talking, one will ALWAYS be in the background (i.e. less than 50% of your focus). If you were discussing something complex you would stop walking. Likewise, if you suddenly had to negotiate a dangerous path or cross a busy road you would stop talking.
  • It takes an average of 66 days to form a new habit. NB: This is in contrast to other quoted research which has gone as low as 21 days.
  • Fact: The brain is 1/50th of our mass but 1/5th of the calories we burn.
  • Ask yourself: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary”.
  • This is known as the Focusing Question, and other examples are given on Pages 115-116, 151 and 219-220. An example of this would be for health, where you might phrase it as “What’s the one thing I can do to achieve my diet goals?”.
  • A 2008 study found those who wrote down their goals were 40% more likely to achieve them. This is very true for me, if only because I will otherwise forget i’m doing them.
  • “Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing”. This follows on from the “busy trap” of simply completing tasks without thought as to their worth.
  • Tip: Block periods of time out (4 hrs/day) to solely focus on your ONE thing, free from distractions.
  • A good way to structure your day is to be a “Maker” (do/create) in the morning and a “Manager” (oversee) in the afternoon.
  • Spend an hour a week planning monthly/yearly goals. Ask yourself what’s the ONE thing I can do this Week/Month to reach my Month/Year goal.
  • The four thieves of productivity are: The Inability to Say “No”, a Fear of Chaos, Poor Health Habits and Your Environment Not Supporting Your Goals.

Overall I found this to be an excellent book, with such a simplistic approach that can easily be implemented. The Focusing Question has an almost unlimited use, whether it’s for Finances, Physical Health, Work or Relationships. It’s highly recommended for anyone who struggles with productivity, or wishes to add more structure to their daily life.

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Site owner. I'm a graduate in Sports Science and have an MSc in Sports Biomechanics. I set up 9to5strength in 2015 as a resource for people interested in strength training, nutrition and fitness. I consider myself a fitness blogger and enjoy creating YouTube videos and trying out workout programs.