How to Implement The One Thing by Gary Keller

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How do you practically implement the principles of The One Thing by Gary Keller? What difference could it make for your success?

In The One Thing, Gary Keller argues that the key to extraordinary success is focusing daily on the “One Thing” that’s most important for achieving your goal, rather than scattering yourself in many directions. When you know and focus exclusively on the most important thing every day, everything else falls into place.

Keep reading to learn how to implement the principles in The One Thing by Gary Keller.

Implement Your One Thing

In The One Thing, Gary Keller and co-author Jay Papasan explain how to determine your goal or life purpose, and then focus intensely on getting there while avoiding pitfalls such as multitasking, relying on an unprioritized to-do list, thinking too small, misunderstanding willpower and discipline, and neglecting your personal life. Extraordinary focus on One Thing brings extraordinary success.

There are three components to implementing your One Thing and achieving exceptional results: purpose, priority, and productivity. Your big One Thing is your purpose, and your small One Thing is your priority—what you do now—to achieve it.

In The One Thing, Gary Keller shows how purpose, priority, and productivity are like three parts of an iceberg. Productivity is the tip or part you see, priority is directly under the surface, and purpose is deeper. Your purpose determines your priority, and both purpose and priority drive productivity. How well you connect your purpose, priority, and productivity determines your personal level of success.

1) Purpose is the one thing you want your life to be about more than any other.

Following are some tips for discovering your purpose. 

  • Write down a handful of activities you’re passionate about—for example, activities involving family, work, community, or a hobby.
  • List several outcomes you’re passionate about.
  • Pick one activity and one outcome most important to you.
  • Combine your activity and outcome to answer the question, “What’s the One Thing I can do that would mean the most to me, such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?” 

Post your One Thing where you’ll see it often. Try it for a while, even if you’re not completely satisfied with it. You can always revise it or develop a better one later.

2) Priority: Your purpose specifies where you want to go. Your priority is what you do now to get there. Because of the way humans are wired, it can be hard to connect the present—what we’re doing now—with the future. The way to do it is to think in steps, each building on the previous step to reach your final goal/purpose. It’s like lining up your dominoes, so a small action sets off a chain of related actions leading to the result you want. Train your mind to drill down from your big goal, like opening a set of Russian nesting dolls one at a time until you know the most important thing to do in the present.

3) Productivity: Once you know your purpose plus your immediate and future priorities for getting there, you need to use your time productively to achieve the results you want. The key to productivity is scheduling or blocking time on your calendar to focus on your priority and treating that time as sacrosanct.

In The One Thing, Gary Keller shares the four steps to time blocking: 

  1. Block off your vacation time for the year. 
  2. Time block your One Thing (block off at least four consecutive hours of uninterrupted time to focus on it each day).
  3. Block an hour each week for planning time. 
  4. Protect your blocked time.

Beware of four things that can undercut your productivity:

  • Inability to say no: Saying yes to (or focusing on) your One Thing is your priority. This means you have to protect what you’ve said yes to by saying no to everything else that impinges on your time block. To put it another way, one yes must be defended over time by a thousand nos.
  • Fear of chaos: When you focus on your One Thing, it’s a given that other things will be delayed or won’t get done. Knowing there are loose ends and unfinished work can be distracting, but you need to develop a tolerance for such messiness or you’ll never accomplish what matters most.
  • Poor health habits: When you strive for success at the expense of your health, you won’t have the energy to be productive each day and you’ll eventually burn out. Instead, you need to adopt habits and practices that build your energy. Ways to build energy include: Meditate and pray; eat, sleep, and exercise; spend time with loved ones; and plan your day for mental energy.
  • A distracting environment: The people you associate with and your physical surroundings can either help or hinder your productivity. If those around you are negative and have bad habits, their negativity will rub off on you and distract you from your goals. Instead, surround yourself with people who support and motivate you to be your best. In your physical environment, take steps to eliminate distractions as well—for instance, by shutting down browsers, email, and phones during your time block.

Things Fall into Place

In The One Thing, Gary Keller asserts that, when you dream big and then make that dream your goal, you’re on the way to exceptional success. Of course, getting there requires working backward from your goal to determine the specific steps you need to take. Then, build momentum toward your goal by focusing on each One Thing until you master it.

Studies have found that what people regret most at the end of life are the things they didn’t do. The way to avoid this is to make sure that each day you do what matters most, so that everything else falls into place. You are the engineer of your success and are the first domino.

Implementing the principles in The One Thing by Gary Keller can put you on the path toward extraordinary success.

How to Implement The One Thing by Gary Keller

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Gary Keller's "The One Thing" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full The One Thing summary :

  • Why focusing daily on one thing, rather than many, is the key to success
  • How success is like dominos
  • The six common myths about success

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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