Alexandre Lim

The One ThingBy Gary Keller

We often do too much. In reality, extraordinary results happen when we do less and focus on the right thing. It seems simple, but it's actually hard. The One Thing will give you what's needed to accomplish what truly matters to you.


What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.

“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.

Getting extraordinary results is all about creating a domino effect in your life.

The challenge is that life doesn’t line everything up for us and say, “Here’s where you should start.” Highly successful people know this. So every day, they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.

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

Everyone has one person who either means the most to them or was the first to influence, train, or manage them. No one succeeds alone. No one.

The real solutions we seek are almost always hiding in plain sight; unfortunately, they’ve usually been obscured by an unbelievable amount of bunk, an astounding flood of “common sense” that turns out to be nonsense.


  • Everything Matters Equally
  • Multitasking
  • A Disciplined Life
  • Willpower Is Always on Will-Call
  • A Balanced Life
  • Big Is Bad

When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.

Achievers operate differently. They have an eye for the essential. They pause just long enough to decide what matters and then allow what matters to drive their day. Achievers do sooner what others plan to do later and defer, perhaps indefinitely, what others do sooner. The difference isn’t in intent but in right of way. Achievers always work from a clear sense of priority.

Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list—a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results. To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short.

Pareto points us in a very clear direction: the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do. Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realize.

The truth is multitasking is neither efficient nor effective. In the world of results, it will fail you every time.

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.

Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions.

The cost in terms of extra time from having to task switch depends on how complex or simple the tasks are.

You can actually give attention to two things, but that is what’s called “divided attention.” And make no mistake. Take on two things, and your attention gets divided. Take on a third, and something gets dropped.

Do we not value our own job or take it as seriously? Why would we ever tolerate multitasking when we’re doing our most important work? Just because our day job doesn’t involve bypass surgery shouldn’t make focus any less critical to our success or the success of others.

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

When we know something that needs to be done but isn’t currently getting done, we often say, “I just need more discipline.” Actually, we need the habit of doing it. And we need just enough discipline to build the habit.

You don’t need to be a disciplined person to be successful. In fact, you can become successful with less discipline than you think for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.

The trick to success is to choose the right habit and bring just enough discipline to establish it.

When you do the right thing, it can liberate you from having to monitor everything.

The results suggest that it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit. The full range was 18 to 254 days, but the 66 days represented a sweet spot—with easier behaviors taking fewer days on average and tough ones taking longer.

Willpower has a limited battery life but can be recharged with some downtime.

The more we use our minds, the less minding power we have.

Foods that elevate blood sugar evenly over long periods, like complex carbohydrates and proteins, become the fuel of choice for high-achievers—literal proof that “you are what you eat.”

When our willpower runs out, we all revert to our default settings.

Do your most important work—your ONE Thing—early.

The reason we shouldn’t pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes. The dilemma is that chasing the extremes presents real challenges.

Time waits for no one. Push something to an extreme and postponement can become permanent.

When you gamble with your time, you may be placing a bet you can’t cover. Even if you’re sure you can win, be careful that you can live with what you lose.

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.

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.

No one knows their ultimate ceiling for achievement, so worrying about it is a waste of time.

When you allow yourself to accept that big is about who you can become, you look at it differently.

What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow.

Here’s what I found out: We overthink, overplan, and over-analyze our careers, our businesses, and our lives; that long hours are neither virtuous nor healthy; and that we usually succeed in spite of most of what we do, not because of it. I discovered that we can’t manage time and that the key to success isn’t in all the things we do but in the handful of things we do well.

“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is all wrong. I tell you, “put all your eggs in one basket, and then watch that basket.”

Answers come from questions, and the quality of any answer is directly determined by the quality of the question.

How we phrase the questions we ask ourselves determines the answers that eventually become our life.

Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.

If you want the most from your answer, you must realize that it lives outside your comfort zone.

Has anyone else studied or accomplished this or something like it?

The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.

Great businesses are built one productive person at a time. And not surprisingly, the most productive people receive the greatest rewards from their businesses.

Live with purpose. Live by priority. Live for productivity.

Who we are and where we want to go determine what we do and what we accomplish.

One of our biggest challenges is making sure our life’s purpose doesn’t become a beggar’s bowl, a bottomless pit of desire continually searching for the next thing that will make us happy. That’s a losing proposition.

I believe that financially wealthy people are those who have enough money coming in without having to work to finance their purpose in life.

Live with purpose, and you know where you want to go. Live by priority, and you’ll know what to do to get there.

Hyperbolic discounting—the farther away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it.

Where are you going, and where do you want to be someday?

If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time.

Question for your blocked time: “Today, what’s the ONE Thing I can do for my ONE Thing such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

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.

Resting is as important as working. There are a few examples of successful people who violate this, but they are not our role models. They succeed in spite of how they rest and renew—not because of it.

My recommendation is to block four hours a day. This isn’t a typo. I repeat: four hours a day. Honestly, that’s the minimum. If you can do more, then do it.

Normal business culture gets in the way of the very productivity it seeks because of the way people traditionally schedule their time.

To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon.

Block an hour each week to review your annual and monthly goals.

Your own need to do other things instead of your ONE Thing may be your biggest challenge to overcome.

Mastery is a commitment to becoming your best, so to achieve extraordinary results, you must embrace the extraordinary effort it represents.

Most assume mastery is an end result, but at its core, mastery is a way of thinking, a way of acting, and a journey you experience.

Many elite performers complete their journey in about ten years, which, if you do the math, is an average of about three hours of deliberate practice a day, every day, 365 days a year.

The path of mastering something is the combination of not only doing the best you can do at it, but also doing it the best it can be done.

The Purposeful person follows the simple rule that “a different result requires doing something different.”

When life happens, you can be either the author of your life or the victim of it. Those are your only two choices—accountable or unaccountable.

One of the fastest ways to bring accountability to your life is to find an accountability partner.

Individuals who wrote their goals and sent progress reports to friends were 76.7 percent more likely to achieve them.

The single most important difference between these amateurs and the three groups of elite performers is that the future elite performers seek out teachers and coaches.


  • Inability to Say “No”
  • Fear of Chaos
  • Poor Health Habits
  • Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.

You can’t please everyone, so don’t try. In fact, when you try, the one person you absolutely won’t please is yourself.

A request must be connected to my ONE Thing for me to consider it.

Your talent and abilities are limited resources. Your time is finite. If you don’t make your life about what you say yes to, then it will almost certainly become what you intended to say no to.

One of the greatest thieves of productivity is the unwillingness to allow for chaos or the lack of creativity in dealing with it.

If you have to beg, then beg. If you have to barter, then barter. If you have to be creative, then be creative. Just don’t be a victim of your circumstances.


  • Meditate and pray for spiritual energy.
  • Eat right, exercise, and sleep sufficiently for physical energy.
  • Hug, kiss, and laugh with loved ones for emotional energy.
  • Set goals, plan, and calendar for mental energy.
  • Time block your ONE Thing for business energy.

No one succeeds alone, and no one fails alone. Pay attention to the people around you.

No matter how big you can think, when you know where you’re going and work backwards to what you need to do to get there, you’ll always discover it begins with going small.

I’m not saying there will only be one thing, or even the same thing, forever. I’m saying that at any moment in time there can be only ONE Thing, and when that ONE Thing is in line with your purpose and sits atop your priorities, it will be the most productive thing you can do to launch you toward the best you can be.

A life worth living might be measured in many ways, but the one way that stands above all others is living a life of no regrets.

The five most common were these: I wish that I’d let myself be happier—too late they realized happiness is a choice; I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends—too often they failed to give them the time and effort they deserved; I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings—too frequently shut mouths and shuttered feelings weighed too heavy to handle; I wish I hadn’t worked so hard—too much time spent making a living over building a life caused too much remorse.

The most common regret was this: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me.

Success is an inside job. Put yourself together, and your world falls into place. When you bring purpose to your life, know your priorities, and achieve high productivity on the priority that matters most every day, your life makes sense, and the extraordinary becomes possible.

Last Updated

July 29th, 2022