Book Review: The ONE Thing

I’m always trying to figure out how to get more done. I want to accomplish a lot in my life, and I feel constantly driven to do everything needed to reach my goals. I am a student of productivity systems and tactics and try to implement what works for me. I recently listened to the book, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan through This book helped me realize that I need to focus more on doing the right things and less on getting things done.


The author argues that we should focus our efforts on ONE Thing. He says we should be like a stamp and stick to one thing until reaching the destination. He compares it to a series of dominoes. We need to find the lead domino, which, if knocked over, will take care of the rest of the dominoes.

He goes through six lies that keep us from accomplishing the most important things: 1. Everything matters equally. He says we should have a success list instead of a to-do list. The majority of what you want is a result of the minority of what you do (the 80/20 rule). 2. Multitasking. Multi-tasking amounts to rapid task switching, which wears out our brain and prevents us from focusing effectively on one thing at a time. 3. Self discipline. We should use habits instead of discipline. He cites research that shows it takes 66 days rather than 21 to develop a new habit. 4. Willpower is always in will call. Willpower is limited so we should do first what matters most. 5. Balanced life. We should use counterbalance instead. We can’t always be perfectly balanced in every area, but we should never go so far away from an area that we can’t come back (i.e. family). 6. Big is bad. We shouldn’t be afraid of big results. It often doesn’t take much more effort to generate big results than small ones.

To help us identify the ONE Thing to focus on in our lives, he suggests we ask ourselves the focusing question: "What's the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else I do will be easier or unnecessary?”

Of course, he’s not saying we should literally only do ONE Thing at a time. Most of us have multiple areas of our lives that need attention, such as family, work, community, church. etc. He suggests we ask this question for each area of our lives and within a given time frame.

Almost three years ago I read Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan ebook and spent a lot of time putting my life plan together. I identified the major areas of my life, and for each area I wrote down my purpose statement, envisioned future, supporting statements, current reality, habits, and goals.

I try to review it each week, make minor updates as needed, and make major updates and set new goals just before each new year. This has been an incredible exercise that has helped me focus on the most important things in my life. However, after listening to The ONE Thing, I realized that my life plan is out of control. I have so much detail and so many goals that I’m not putting enough focus on any ONE Thing.

I went back to my life plan and wrote one sentence that describes the ONE Thing I want to focus on in each area of my life. It’s only been a few weeks, but already I can feel reduced stress and greater sense of accomplishment. Surprisingly, I’m actually doing less and enjoying more free time because I’m focusing only on the most important things.

One of my greatest fears in life is being bored, but I am slowly realizing that down time is necessary for my mind and body to perform at the highest level possible. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes. Heber J. Grant said to Joseph Fielding Smith, “may you be enabled to work less and accomplish more."

Question: How do you focus your efforts on the most important things in your life?