Book Review: The ONE Thing


Last year I made a goal to read more self-improvement and business books. I love to read fiction so this was a struggle at times! But I’ve gotten into the habit of focusing on myself and my business and reading these types of non-fiction books has really helped. One of the books I read last year was “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan so I wanted to share my thoughts for anyone considering adding it to their to-read list.It’s pretty to easy to guess the topic of the book from the title.

The One Thing is all about choosing one thing to focus on in order to be your most productive self. It’s about figuring out One Thing you can do “such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.” I was interested in this book because a lot of entrepreneurs, myself included, can easily get distracted by shiny object syndrome and start many projects without finishing anything. It can be difficult to focus and prioritize, which this book tries to help with.

The book starts off by telling you to work through The Focusing Question. This should help you to figure out what the One Thing is in different areas of your life. You might have One Thing in your business and another One Thing in your personal life. Then, you move on to frame the question differently into Big & Broad, Big & Specific, Small & Broad, and Small & Specific contexts. Big & Broad is the big, obvious goal, Big & Specific is the big goal but puts a measurement or timeline on it, Small & Broad is the base level goal you could achieve but it doesn’t try to measure the outcome or put it in a timeline, and Small & Specific is a small goal with measurements or timelines attached. You want to get to a place where you know your Big & Specific goal.

Now that you have narrowed down your Big & Specific goal you can think about what you need to do in order to accomplish that goal. That will probably include a variety of tasks. Some might repeat and some might be a one-time to-do list item. But now that you know the tasks you will need to complete in order to reach your Big & Specific goal, you can look at that list and know what is the ONE THING you can do “such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary.” See what they did there? That one thing should be your top priority. There should always be one thing that is the most important for you to do - it’s your One Thing.

“Productive people get more done, achieve better results, and earn far more in their hours than the rest. They do so because they devote maximum time to being productive on their top priority, their ONE Thing.”

Now that I’ve read a few business and self-improvement books I’m seeing a general trend emerge. Each book has a central theme, in this case, the ONE Thing that is most important for you to do at the moment in order to get you towards your goal, then they often cover more subjective skills like accountability, discipline, motivation, etc.

The second part of the book discusses how you can make sure you can effectively use the One Thing strategy in your business and personal life to achieve your Big & Specific goals. This included advocating for time blocking, accountability, and self-discipline.The authors advocate for time blocking which I wholeheartedly agree with. Time blocking is definitely a do as I say, not as I do, strategy for me. An important part of productivity is knowing how you spend your time so that you can improve and become a more effective worker. I know that it is a great tool for productivity and focus, but I struggle to execute it. Time blocking takes discipline. You can’t let small things that come up distract you and keep you from working on what you should be working on at the moment. For me, dealing with the small stuff is often mentally easier than performing more mentally draining work like creating. It also makes me feel productive to be able to check a bunch of things off my to-do list rather than just working on one thing for hours at a time. That being said, time blocking is something I am trying to do more of this year and I’ll be sharing my experiences later this year.

The second part of the book also looks at how you should structure your day in order to ensure you are completing your ONE Thing every day. They say you should be a creator in the morning and a manager in the afternoon which is a great way of thinking about protecting your time. Because I know that I can be lazy and deal with administrative tasks rather than creating, it helps to think of my day in two parts. The first and most important part is for creating. After I’ve spent time creating when I’m probably feeling a little drained, then I can take care of client emails, follow up, and the other things that need my attention but they don’t take up as much mental capacity. Consciously saying no to those little things that crop up throughout the day takes a huge amount of self-discipline and accountability. You need to hold yourself accountable for spending time working on your One Thing. Don’t let yourself get lazy and just deal with whatever comes up just because it seems urgent.

Overall I really liked this book and I recommend anyone who is hoping to increase their prioritization and productivity read it. Knowing what task to tackle first in order to reach a goal is not always easy and structuring both your goals and your day in a way that allows you to clearly see what is most important is a huge help for many of us. Plus, it never hurts to get a refresher on motivation and self-discipline.Have you read The ONE Thing? Read my last book review.

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