The One Thing by Gary Keller

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The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

Thousands of books that have been written about time management. I even wrote one myself! Of all the books out there on the subject, The One Thing is among my favorite.

This book really resonates with me for the most important time management tips. Many of the concepts, Gary Keller speaks about are synergetic with the concepts in my book: The Productivity Zone: Stop the Tug of War with Time.

Reading the book helped me open my eyes to see what is in the gap for me. I like reading multiple books on the same topic, I pick up nuances and new perspectives that help me create greater awareness and improve myself. It is like golf, a millimeter of improvement can change your game entirely.  Other times you can find new ways of doing things that create explosive growth when you are willing to start over and learn to do something completely different. I experienced this when I learned a new way to punch in karate. It felt awkward, uncomfortable and unnecessary, but when you get it down it is more efficient and more effective.

What I like about the “The One Thing” is it removes the complexity that we create for ourselves. We use “time” and time management as a scapegoat for why we couldn’t do something. We over complicate the situation, avoid setting priorities and allow ourselves to go into a state of stress and overwhelm. Come on, I know this isn’t just me. From time to time, you too have experienced this too, right?
The One Thing has reminded me to keep it simple. It doesn’t have to be complex. We make it complex. Reduce the complexity, reduce stess.

The One Thing. That sounds simple but what does that mean? and… How do I do that? That is what you are thinking right? Me too! Let’s have a look at a few simple points the book makes. I advise you to get a copy for yourself because my summary doesn’t replace you reading it. The time management tips you will get from this will be worth your time and effort. It is an investment in your time management skills.

The One Thing: 5 Key Points

  1. Use Your Goal As Your Filter:

Your goal is the bullseye your targets must hit. Unfortunately, our goals often fall out of sight and we get stuck in the minutia of the day-to-day. We get stuck in mundane tasks, competing priorities, the shiny bells that distract us, and so on. It’s critical that we truly connect with our goal on a daily and even hourly basis and use it as our filter for determining what is most important. When we lose sight of our goal, it’s easier to get caught up in overwhelm.

Overwhelm comes from an inability to prioritize and plan. Overwhelm ultimately stems from a lost connection to your goals. Think about it, when you are highly connected you are driven and committed. It is that drive and determination that gets you planning and prioritizing. How do you stay connected to your goals?

  1. Ask An Impactful Question:

Similar to Keller, I am also a believer that questions are powerful; more powerful than most people think.

Questions are the source of our thoughts and answers.

Most people put focus their effort on the answers but, the truth is, asking the best questions will change your thoughts and produce better answers. Einstein said if he had 1 hour to solve a problem he would spend 55 minutes on coming up with the right question and 5 minutes for the answer.

Keller asks us to use the question..“What’s the ONE Thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”  To simplify that question, I ask “What one thing will have the greatest impact?” This question is about creating leverage.

I use this question all the time in my coaching with entrepreneurs. They always have too much to do and always have many urgent things to be done. It comes down to investing your time in what will create the biggest impact on reaching your goals.

Can it be that simple? To improve your time management skills, to create more focus and clarity, and get faster results, you just need to ask one question? Yes, it can be that easy. Remember we add unnecessary complication. Just change the questions you are unconsciously asking.

What question are you currently asking?

  1. Know When To Move On:

Keller talks about Understanding Pareto’s Principle, otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. If you are effective but not using this rule you are not efficient. This means that 20% of your time and energy investment usually account for 80% of your returns. It is important that you know what that 20% is. He suggests to take 20% of your to-do list and focus on that. By setting the parameters in this way as if you could only do 20% what would you do, you will find the most important aspects. A simple method to get clear on what is really important.

I, also, want to highlight another aspect of the 80/20 rule. After you have focused on the most important thing, you need to know when it is time to move on to the next thing. In my book The Productivity Zone, I talk about the dangers of over-functioning or getting caught in procrastination as it brings your productivity to a screeching halt. You must know when to stop. When is the quality good enough for your purpose, when is the investment no longer providing the same payoff, and when managing diminishing returns will help you know when to shift your focus again. Moving on can also be done by asking the powerful question above again. As you keep asking this question over and over as the answer will change.

  1. Process of Elimination

Sometimes determining the biggest priority proves hard to do.

keep your goal in mind you can ask yourself, “is A or B or important to reach the goal?” It becomes less complex to choose an answer when approaching it like this. You can quickly go through your whole list to find out the most important items.

We simplify things when we follow a process and create structure. While following a process, we put ourselves into action which will break down the overwhelm and put us on the path to clarity.

  1. Proactively Avoid Productivity Killers

The book says “focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re NOT going to do.”  The fact is we often know what we need to do but don’t. Let’s shed some light on what holds you back from Keller’s perspective.

  1. Inability to Say “No”
  2. Fear of Chaos
  3. Poor Health Habits
  4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

The first section of this article helps us overcome the first 2, so let’s have a quick look at the last two.

Energy is Everything

Keller says that “Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity”. I couldn’t agree more as I am a proponent of energy management being the core of our productivity. We can not manage time but we can manage our energy. In addition to my book and the talk about energy management, another incredible book called The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal, that comes at energy management from a sports psychology perspective and how that applies in business.

Most people take their health for granted until you don’t have it. You must be proactive in taking care of your health and your body with what and how you move eat and sleep. The people who say “sleep when you are dead” are burning themselves out and will not have productive long-term success.

Environment Is Paramount 

In my book, The Productivity Zone I talk about one of the fundamentals of a championship psychology is managing your environment. Environment is paramount. The reality is, you can control many aspects of your environment yet you choose not to. Start to recognize people, places and things in your environment that are supporting you and detracting from your goals and desires.

Simplification can lead to living a more free and happier lifestyle as a result. What is your one thing right now? Write it is the comments and make your declaration.

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