Gary Keller gives some intensely practical insights in his book “The One Thing.” The title is an allusion to the fact that we are in reality really only capable of focusing on one thing at a time, and by using a focusing question we can get to the bottom of what our top priority is:
“What is the one thing could you do, that by doing it would make everything else easier or unnecessary.”
Really much of the book is summed up in this one sentence, but inquiring minds may need the supporting evidence that Gary Keller goes through in detail about the nature of focus and the evolution of the word “priority” which never had a plural version until relatively recently. The fact that we think we can have more than one is betraying our natural instinct of deep focus. Deep focus essentially is honing on the one most important thing right now and disregarding everything else for a time, and if you have your priority right – this is OK, right and natural. This understanding he says is the key to productivity, not the mindless multitasking popularized in so many workplaces today.
Some deeply practical takeaways from this book include:
- 80% of the results come from 20% of the time – recognize that not all tasks are created equal and some are simply way more important than others.
- You will never finish your entire to-do list – so it’s incredibly important to focus on the top of the iceberg and make sure it’s in order of importance so that you can delve fully into the task at hand knowing that you’re spending time on the right thing.
- There is a domino effect that happens when you focus on the next right thing all of the time. A smaller domino can knock over a larger domino and create momentum, leading to incredibly large domino’s being knocked over in time. But it’s all about focusing on the domino at hand and not getting off track on something that is not your one priority.
- Create a list in the different categories of your life of what your someday goals are, your five-year goals, your one-year goals, your monthly goals, and your right now goal. By connecting this sequence all the way back to the present you can get clarity around your priorities and keep in sync with your broader dream.
There are a lot of books that talk about focus as a huge priority, and this one has to be one of the best I’ve found. I give it a strong 4.5 out of 5 – I think I’d read this one again for sure. Definitely read it if you need a bit of encouragement in the area of productivity and focus.
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