Review of The One Thing by Gary Keller

The biggest difference

About a year ago I read One Thing by Gary Keller (with Jay Papasan) and its central message really stuck with me. In the book, they ask “What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will become easier or unnecessary?” The book explores these kinds of questions: What’s the one thing that will make the biggest difference to you right now? What steps could you take towards doing it? And crucially: what are you going to stop doing in order to do your one thing? What will you have to say no to? How can you get some balance, and put boundaries in place to protect your home life?

Two ways to use the question

The book also suggests that you use the question in a couple of different ways: in terms of your goal, project or dream as a whole – the end point of the journey if you like – but also “What’s the ONE thing I can do RIGHT NOW?” In other words, you either use it to think of the now, or the end point.

Take another look at your r and rs

Take another look at your top roles and responsibilities, then at those in second place, and the runners up. What one thing would make the biggest difference in each of these areas? Write it down, even if you don’t know how you would achieve it. What specific small step could you take towards it over the next few days? You don’t have to solve the problem, you simply have to take a small step towards achieving that ‘one thing’ in each of your most important roles.

Knowing your why

Don’t forget to use the ‘one thing’ question in both ways – because it produces different results. Asked at ‘dream level’, it will show you the end point to your project or goal. Asked right now it will show you the next right thing to do, today. I found that in order to answer the ‘one thing’ question at either level, I had to know my ‘why’. Why was I asking the question? What was I trying to achieve? If my ‘why’ is about setting up a successful small business, I might need to know my minimum viable product, so I can get selling. In which case, that product becomes my ‘one thing’ for my business. If I want write a novel, my ‘one thing’ is probably going to be ‘turn up at my desk and write it’.


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