The One Thing cover image
My Rating: 5/5

The One Thing by Gary Keller

High-Level Summary

A goal-setting classic I recommend to anyone who wants to be more effective. Focus is the key.


Chapter 1

P. 10 - When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small.

"Extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus."

Chapter 2: The Domino Effect

"Every great change starts like falling dominoes" -BJ Thornton

P. 16 getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.

Extraordinary success is sequential, not simultaneous. What starts out linear becomes geometric.

Chapter 3: Success Leaves Clues

"It is those who concentrate on one thing st a time who advance in the world." - Og Mandino

No one succeeds alone. No one.

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

One Passion, One Skill "Success demands singleness of purpose." -Vince Lombardi

Harried and hurried, and I can sense that we attempt too much and accomplish too little haunts our days

Part 1: The Lies

The six lies between you and success

  1. Everything matters equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A disciplined life
  4. Willpower is always on-call
  5. A balanced life
  6. Big is bad

Chapter 4: Everything Matters Equally

"Things which matter most must never. Be at the mercy of things which matter least." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Equality is a lie. Understanding this is the basis of all great decisions.

"The things which are most important don't always scream the loudest." -Bob Hawks

"Achievers operate differently. They have an eye for the essential. They pass just like enough to decide what matters and then allow what matters to drive their day. Achievers do sooner but others plan to do later and defer, perhaps indefinitely, what others do sooner. The difference is in an intent, but in right of way. Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority."

Remember the Pareto Principle. Richard Koch: "The 80/20 principle assets that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards."

The majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.

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

Big ideas:

  • Go small. Don't focus on being busy; focus on being productive.
  • Go extreme. Keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left.
  • Say no. Say "not now" to anything else you could do until your most important work is done.
  • Don't get trapped in the check-off game.

Chapter 5: Multitasking

P. 46 "It's not that we have too little time to do all the things we need to do, it's that we feel the need to do too many things in the time we have."

Task switching isn't "multi-tasking."

Time costs for task switching ranges from 25-100%.

Chapter 6: A Disciplined Life

P. 54 "the truth is we don't need any more discipline than we already have. We just need to direct and manage it a little better."

"Success is actually a short race - a sprint field b discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over."

"You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right."

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

Big ideas:

  • Don't be a disciplined person. Be a person of powerful habits and use selected discipline to develop them.
  • Build one habit at a time. One at a time. Over time.
  • Give each habit enough time. 66 days is the norm.

Chapter 8

P. 75 "In your effort to attend to all things, everything gets shortchanged and nothing gets its due."

Magic happens at the extremes.

P. 81 in the world of professional success, it's not about how much overtime you put in; the key ingredient is focused time over time. To achieve an extraordinary result you must choose what matters most and give it all the time it demands. This requires getting extremely out of balance in relation to all other work issues, with only infrequent counterbalances to address them.

Chapter 9

P. 86 "No one knows their ultimate ceiling for achievement, so worrying about it is a waste of time."

What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow.

Chapter 10

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

Chapter 12

"People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures." - F.M. Alexander

Great questions are BIG and SPECIFIC. (E.g. "What can I do to double sales in six months?")

Part 3: Extraordinary Results

"Our purpose sets our priority and our priority determines the productivity our actions produce."

"Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish."

"Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment." 142

"I believe that financially wealthy people are those who have enough money coming in without having to work to finance their purpose in life."

Chapter 14: Live by Priority

"Purpose without priority is powerless." 147

Hyperbolic discounting = The farther away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it

"Connect your today to all your tomorrows. It matters" 152

Chapter 16: The Three Commitments

  1. Follow the path to mastery. (Time blocking & mastery are linked!)
  2. Move from "E" to "P"
  3. Live the accountability cycle

"The path of mastering something is the combination of not only doing the best you can do at it, but also doing it the best it can be done" 179

Avoid the "OK Plateau!!" Typing example.

"Accountable people achieve results others only dream of." 184

Chapter 17: The Four Thieves

  1. Inability to say "no"
  2. Fear of chaos
  3. Poor health habits
  4. Environment doesn't support your goals

"The Good Samaritan experiment"

"When you say after something, it's imperative that you understand what you're saying no to." 192

Three-foot rule: request must be connected to my one thing for me to consider it. 194

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