The One Thing

The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
Book Author

Here’s the important things we pulled from the book.

Get Down to One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

I began working with our top people individually to build their careers and businesses. Out of habit, I would end our coaching calls with a recap of the handful of things they were agreeing to accomplish before our next session.

Unfortunately, many would get most of them done, but not necessarily what mattered. Results suffered. Frustration followed. So, in an effort to help them succeed, I started shortening my list:

If you can do just three things this week.

...If you can do just two things this week.

...Finally, out of desperation, I went as small as I could possibly go and asked: “What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” And the most awesome thing happened.

Results went through the roof.

“The things which are most important don’t always scream the loudest.” Bob Hawke

After these experiences, I looked back at my successes and failures and discovered an interesting pattern. Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.

Narrow Your Focus

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.

Long hours spent checking off a to-do list and ending the day with a full trash can and a clean desk are not virtuous and have nothing to do with success.

Cutting down to one thing

No matter how many to-dos you start with, you can always narrow it to one

Things Are Not Equal: The 80 / 20 Principle

Richard Koch, in his book The 80/20 Principle, defined it about as well as anyone:

“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.”

In other words, in the world of success, things aren’t equal. Selected effort creates almost all of the rewards.

20% effort to 80% results.

80% to 20% chart

  1. Go small. Don’t focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day.
  2. Go extreme. Once you’ve figured out what actually matters, keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left. That core activity goes at the top of your success list.
  3. Say no. Whether you say “later” or “never”, the point is to say “not now” to anything else you could do until your most important work is done.
  4. 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.

This is an example of the sort of learning we curate in our digital leadership communities.

A number of large organisations have created an online Leadership Lounge or Club to bring leaders together from across the organisation.

We design and build your community with you - and with the leaders who are going to use it - to help you discover what the best leaders are doing ‘out there’ in your organisation and spread it. And to allow your top team to model how to lead.

Interested? Get in touch »

Extracts copyright Gary Keller.

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