The One Thing: Gary Keller

Purpose without priority is powerless.

If you want to make long term changes in your life, choose one thing and focus your energy on being phenomenal in that area. Choose the one most important thing at a time.

There are a lot of people who are passionate about many things. They then try to be good at what they are passionate about. And they sometimes try and do too many things at once.

This becomes a problem as they spread themselves too thin by going after too many things at the same time. As a result, they end up not achieving much.

This book will open your eyes to the importance of simplifying your workload by focusing on the one most important task in any given project.

Success in subtraction

The One Thing

If you have ever wondered how successful people use the same 24 hours in a day and seem to get more done, you’ve found your answer. The one thing is the main thing.

The best approach to finding the one thing is “going small.” Going small means doing what you should do and blocking out all the rest.

Achieving success takes a lot of subtraction — deleting the things that do not matter at a particular time to make room for the things that do. When you narrow your focus, the one thing becomes crystal clear, and that’s your aim.

Getting extraordinary results isn’t impossible for you in your business, spiritual life, or marriage. Still, you can’t get results if you don’t find the most important priority and follow through with it.

Success does not start the day you get an award or achieve your set goals at the beginning of the year. It takes time, sometimes longer than you thought it would.

Google’s 1 thing

The One Thing

One success sequentially leads to another. Success also does not happen on its own. It leaves clues for others to see, and of course, it is due to a continuous application of the one thing approach.

Google, KFC, and Star Wars all have something in common. There is one thing that they are most known for. Google is known for search, KFC is known for chicken, and Star Wars for movies. The one thing can change your life.

The 6 lies in your life 

The One Thing

Six lies stand between you and success. These lies are beliefs that get into our heads and become operational principles driving us the wrong way. These lies are:

1. Everything matters equally

Equality doesn’t exist. Every decision you make is subject to your discretion, and the important issue is how to make good choices that won’t ruin your chances of achieving success. Successful people do the most important things only. This is done by clearly prioritizing tasks.

2. Multitasking excessively

When you do two things simultaneously, it simply means that none of the two things you are doing are getting your maximum attention. And this means that your productivity is limited; there is room for many other distractions, and these tasks will take more time to accomplish. The principle of the one thing does not thrive amidst this.

3. A disciplined life

While discipline is important, a positive habit is more important. When faced with a task, you don’t always need discipline; you probably already have enough discipline. What you need is the right habit. So, instead of acquiring more discipline, more effort should be channeled towards managing discipline and choosing the right habits.

4. Willpower is not always on will

Willpower is delicate and should be treated with as much care as is possible. It is a critical part of success and a determinant of many decisions you will make on your journey to success. It is not infinite, though. It doesn’t last forever, so it needs to be constantly recharged.

5. A balanced life

Balance is a myth. It means staying safe in the center. We all know that nothing happens in the center. The big things happen at the extremes.

An extraordinary life is a counterbalancing act. Make your priorities very clear to make follow–through easier. Choose the priority, leave the rest.

6. Big is bad

This is the 6th lie. When you interpret big things to mean bad, it ensures you always think small, which means you’ll never make progress or shatter any glass ceiling.

How to achieve more with less 

Many of the things that matter are simple, but they can have you shooting for the stars. Here are some truths that will help you achieve more with less effort:

The biggest question of all: What’s your 1 thing?

The One Thing

Tasks can look insurmountable when you see them at first glance. The trick to making them easier is to break them down into smaller bits. That way, you only need to begin with the first one and work your way down until everything is completed.

Ask yourself this question that’s bound to put everything in perspective: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will become easier and unnecessary?” Your choices and decisions determine what kind of results you get. The focusing question throws all the light on your one thing and brings to the fore only what is important.

The success habit

It is really important that you make the focusing question a habit. This is a key step to finding your one thing. The fun part is that you can apply it to any area of your life: business, personal, spiritual, marital, or even physical health.

Some steps to making the biggest and focusing question a habit are:

  • Understand and believe that the principle of the one thing can change your life.
  • Put the focusing question to use every day; ensure you consciously ask yourself what the one thing is that will make everything easier.
  • Make it a habit. Stick with it; practice it daily until it becomes an integral part of you.
  • Leverage reminders everywhere around you. Set alarms, put it up boldly where you can be constantly reminded.
  • Recruit support from others. Tell them about the one thing, and share your plan with them so they can constantly help you up when it seems like you’re not keeping up.

Purpose and curiosity 

Asking questions is a great way to ensure you’re on the right path. But to find great answers, you need to ask big and specific questions.

To find a great answer to a great question, you should explore the possibilities that do not just lie around. You have to do research; you have to put in extra effort to get the extraordinary results you seek. This is the great answer — the area of possibilities. Over time and with constant practice, you would be able to predict answers to different questions.

Your life is determined by how you interpret the events that happen to you. Happiness isn’t ready–made; it is found on the way to finding your one thing.

The former president of the American Psychological Association, Dr. Martin Seligman, believes five factors contribute to our happiness: positive emotions and pleasure, engagement, achievement, relationships, and meaning. Of these, he believes engagement and meaning are the most important. When you find a way to do more things that bring meaning to your life, you are on your way to true happiness.

Purpose is what keeps you going when it feels like you’ve come to the end of the road. It fuels your one thing and aligns everything in the direction that points to success. Ask yourself what the one thing is that you want the most. Above everything else, what do you want your life to be about? That is your purpose.

Discover the most significant thing 

There are many things to do, many things that make it to your list of “priorities,” situations to handle, and decisions to make. But there is only one thing that stands out and will give you the needed push to success.

There’s a long time between now and the future, and that distance can be covered by setting goals to the now. There’s a big picture; what you want to achieve in the future, but you detail the plan to the now.

How you plan to achieve it step by step from the present day to whenever in the future you set it. It could be 10, 20, or even 50 years. What is important is you get the one thing you are supposed to do at each stage right till you finish painting the big picture.


The most productive life isn’t the busiest one. There’s always something to do at any given time. What matters is whether you’re getting the most out of everything you do. It is easy to get caught in the web of other activities and lose sight of the one thing. And this is where we miss out on being productive.

Time blocking is a very effective way of managing your time and getting things done at the right time. Block out the time you need to achieve your one thing. If it’s a one–time thing, block out the days or hours it will take to get it done. If it’s a regular thing, block all the hours daily until it becomes a habit.

To effectively time block, you must first block your time off. This is when you are supposed to rest and take a break from the one thing so you can come back stronger with more energy to concentrate on the one thing.

The people who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours but getting more done in the hours they work.

Time – block the one thing, a minimum of 4 hours each day for you to concentrate on the one thing you’ve decided is the most important thing to you. You also need to time block your planning time. This time is spent going back to the drawing board to do a lot of strategizing and brainstorming.

Even when you time block everything, there are bound to be distractions to the one thing. Here are a few ways to deal with them:

  • Build a bunker, a space where you can’t be disturbed
  • Store provisions close to you so you don’t have to take long breaks to get what you want
  • Sweep for mines. Dedicate 100% attention to your one thing
  • Enlist support from people around you who will push you to be better

When you find your one thing, stay with it

The One Thing

While many things battle for the same spot as your one thing, staying committed to it requires following the 2 measures:

  • Follow the path of mastery: think of mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at and it will begin to feel accessible and attainable. The journey to mastery never ends because there’s always a new level to unlock. The more time you invest in your one thing, the more self – confident and competent you become.
  • Move from entrepreneurial to purposeful: this means moving from the zone of limits to a limitless zone. It means pushing yourself beyond the normal and exploring the potentials available to you. Do not settle for only what is within your reach. You can be better.

Don’t settle for less

If you have noticed that you are not getting maximum productivity in any area of your life, you should check that you do not have a problem with the following:

  • Inability to say no: different people and situations demand our attention at different times every day, and it sometimes seems impossible to say no and concentrate on the one thing. Learning to say no makes you more focused on your goal and ensures you get the most work done.
  • Fear of chaos: life goes on even when you remain focused on your one thing. And since you still exist in this world, you’re not exempted from what happens in it. When you focus on your one thing and other things, don’t get done or things begin to clutter, don’t get caught up in it. Just remain focused on the one thing, and that is enough to take care of the others.
  • Poor health habits: you have to take care of yourself. Eat at the right time and rest adequately. You can’t achieve much when you don’t feel well.
  • The environment doesn’t support your goals: ensure the people around you support your goals and give you all the positive energy you need to focus on the one thing. Don’t be distracted by the environment. The environment you find yourself in mustn’t steal your productivity.

Step into greatness 

The first step to greatness is the one thing principle. Doing just one thing could make you end up with everything you ever wanted. At every point in your life, there should only be one thing that is in line with your purpose and that sits atop your priorities and it is the most productive thing you can do to launch you towards the best you can be.[1]

At any point in time, there’s something that matters more than others. It might change over time, but at a particular time, there’s only one thing that matters more than every other thing.

When the one thing aligns with your priority and purpose, then life becomes really productive. And greatness follows. Whatever you do, do not lose your one thing.

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