Book Summaries

Book Summary -The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

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

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller is one of the most important books have ever read. I keep going back to it because it contains lots of gems, anecdotes, insights and strategies on living a more productive life by focusing on ONE thing.

Here are my favourite take aways from Reading the ONE Thing by Gary Keller:

Going 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 a tighter way to connect what you do with what you want. 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 as small as possible. Most people think just the opposite. They think big success is time consuming and complicated. As a result, their calendars and to-do lists become overloaded and overwhelming.

You have only so much time and energy, so when you spread yourself out, you end up spread thin. You want your achievements to add up, but that actually takes subtraction, not addition. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.

Curly (Jack Palance) tells Mitch (Billy Crystal) that the secret to life is “one thing.

Success is Sequential

Success builds on success, and as this happens, over and over, you move toward the highest success possible.

The key is over time. Success is built sequentially. It’s one thing at a time

When you see someone who has a lot of knowledge, they learned it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of skills, they developed them over time. When you see someone who has done a lot, they accomplished it over time. When you see someone who has a lot of money, they earned it over time.

Success is actually a short race—a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over.

Don’t get trapped in the “check off” game. If we believe things don’t matter equally, we must act accordingly. We can’t fall  prey to the notion that everything has to be done, that checking things off our list is what success is all about. We can’t be trapped in a game of “check off” that never produces a winner. The truth is that things don’t matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most.

Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.”

Multitasking Myth

It’s strange, but somehow over time the image of the modern human has become one of a multitasker. We think we can, so we think we should. Kids studying while texting, listening to music, or watching television. Adults driving while talking on the phone, eating, applying makeup, or even shaving. Doing something in one room while talking to someone in the next. Smartphones in hands before napkins hit laps.

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. So we double and triple up in the hope of getting everything done.

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

Juggling is an illusion. To the casual observer, a juggler is juggling three balls at once. In reality, the balls are being independently caught and thrown in rapid succession. Catch, toss, catch, toss, catch, toss. One ball at a time. It’s what researchers refer to as “task switching.”

Task Switching

“When you switch from one task to another, voluntarily or not, two things happen. The first is nearly instantaneous: you decide to switch. The second is less predictable: you have to activate the “rules” for whatever you’re about to do Switching between two simple tasks—like watching television and folding clothes—is quick and relatively painless.

However, if you’re working on a spreadsheet and a co-worker pops into your office to discuss a business problem, the relative complexity of those tasks makes it impossible to easily jump back and forth. It always takes some time to start a new task and restart the one you quit, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever pick up exactly where you left off.

 There is a price for this.

  • The cost in terms of extra time from having to task switch depends on how complex or simple the tasks are,” reports researcher Dr. David Meyer. “It can range from time increases of 25 percent or less for simple tasks to well over 100 percent or more for very complicated tasks.” Task switching exacts a cost few realize they’re even paying.”

You can do two things at once, but you can’t focus effectively on two things at once.

  • Bounce between one activity and another and you lose time as your brain reorients to the new task. Those milliseconds add up. Researchers estimate we lose 28 percent of an average workday to multitasking ineffectiveness.
  • 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.

The people we live with and work with on a daily basis deserve our full attention. When we give people segmented attention, piecemeal time, switching back and forth, the switching cost is higher than just the time involved. We end up damaging relationships. – Author Dave Crenshaw


The idea of counterbalancing is that you never go so far that you can’t find your way back or stay so long that there is nothing waiting for you when you return.

There are two types of counterbalancing: the balancing between work and personal life and the balancing within each. 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 counterbalancing to address them. In your personal world, awareness is the essential ingredient.

The Focusing Question

Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it. The Focusing Question is that uncommon approach. In a world of no instructions, it becomes the simple formula for finding exceptional answers that lead to extraordinary results.”

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

When you do the right task first, you also build the right mindset first, the right skill first, and the right relationship first. Powered by the Focusing Question, your actions become a natural progression of building one right thing on top of the previous right thing. When this happens, you’re in position to experience the power of the domino effect.

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


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.

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

So, go to your calendar and block off all the time you need to accomplish your ONE Thing. If it’s a onetime ONE Thing, block off the appropriate hours and days. If it’s a regular thing, block off the appropriate time every day so it becomes a habit. Everything else—other projects, paperwork, e-mail, calls, correspondence, meetings, and all the other stuff— must wait. When you time block like this, you’re creating the most productive day possible in a way that’s repeatable every day for the rest of your life.

To achieve extraordinary results and experience greatness, time block these three things in the following order:

  • Time block your time off.
  • Time block your ONE Thing.
  • Time block your planning time.

Take ownership of your environment.

Make sure that the people around you and your physical surroundings support your goals. The right people in your life and the right physical environment on your daily path will support your efforts to get to your ONE Thing. When both are in alignment with your ONE Thing, they will supply the optimism and physical lift you need to make your ONE Thing happen.

Your life is like this. You don’t get a fully mature one. You get a small one and the opportunity to grow it—if you want to. Think small and your life’s likely to stay small. Think big and your life has a chance to grow big. The choice is yours. When you choose a big life, by default, you’ll have to go small to get there. You must survey your choices, narrow your options, line up your priorities, and do what matters most. You must go small. You must find your ONE Thing.

Go live your life. Live it fully, without fear. Live with purpose, give it your all, and never give up.” Effort is important, for without it you will never succeed at your highest level. Achievement is important, for without it you will never experience your true potential. Pursuing purpose is important, for unless you do, you may never find lasting happiness. Step out on faith that these things are true. Go live a life worth living where, in the end, you’ll be able to say, “I’m glad I did,” not “I wish I had.

All the Best in your quest in getting Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

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Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |