I love to read, yet there is rarely a book that I will bother to read more than once. There are just too many other good books out there waiting for me to get to them!
But there are a handful that I have read more than once, including this one: “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results“ by Gary Keller.
If I could give you one book to read to better your life (outside the Bible :)), it would be this one followed closely behind by “The 4-Hour Workweek“ by Tim Ferriss (much more than how to shorten your work week and more about how to truly “live” an extraordinary life).
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A Yearly Read
I just started my fourth read of this book, once again listening to it on Audible (a monthly subscription service from Amazon that lets you download and listen to ebooks — ideal for people who want to read more but who are short on time because it’s perfect for when you’re driving).
It’s become a tradition for me, because over the course of a year, I forget the book’s core principles. The ideas in this book help me to orient myself and remind of me of what’s most important in my life and what I’m doing to make that a priority.
I find it completely inspiring — and simple! (you know I like to keep things simple for travel and beyond!) — to get back on track.
I reached a point this week on some tough problems where I just didn’t know what to do next. Then, it occurred to me: Read “The ONE Thing”. Boy, do I feel better now as the book helped me frame the issues properly and put a plan in place.
But you’re probably wondering, OK, but HOW does this book do all that? I’m about to give you a quick look. Hang with me…
The Basics Behind “The ONE Thing”
I realize this is a travel blog, but what Keller teaches in this book applies just as much to travel as it does to getting healthy as it does to success in business. It’s the answer we’re all looking for to stop feeling so overwhelmed, find more TIME TO TRAVEL, and be dramatically more productive.
You may have heard of the 80/20 principle, which is the driving theory behind “The ONE Thing.” If you haven’t heard of it, the 80/20 principle is an economic theory, which holds that 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs. For our purposes, it means that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts.
While the percentages may not be exact, the idea is the same: most of what results comes from only a small portion of what we do.
So the key is: TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THAT 20% IS AND DO THAT; let go of the other 80%! When you let go of the other 80%, you get back a lot of your time that you can instead use to focus on the 20% most impactful tasks — and travel more!
“The ONE Thing” Step-by-Step
Think of what is currently taking up time in your life from faith and health to friends, family and work. Study WHICH of the things you do in these areas CAUSE the best results.
Can you narrow down each area of your life to only those small percentage of tasks that have the most impact?
The Focus Question
To help you focus on the right tasks, Keller encourages you to ask yourself the question:
What is the ONE thing I can do such that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?
You can also add in a timeframe or a desired result, such as:
What is the ONE thing I can do [FILL IN TIMEFRAME] to [FILL IN DESIRED RESULT]….
Ask that question about each area of your life, then drill down even further. Can you narrow it to the 20% of the 20%? Those will be some REALLY impactful tasks and efforts!
Example Focus Questions
- What is the ONE thing I can do (such that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary) to grow closer to God/improve my faith life this year?
- What is the ONE thing I can do to grow my blog to 100,000 monthly visits by the end of 2018?
- What is the ONE thing I can do to lose 20 pounds by spring break?
- What is the ONE thing I can do to help my child improve their grades this semester?
- What is the ONE thing I can do right now to help my friend through a difficult situation?
- What is the ONE thing I can do right now to relieve my stress?
- What is the ONE thing I can do to pay off my credit card debt in 3 years?
- What is the ONE thing I can do to earn my Southwest Companion Pass as quickly as possible?
- What is the ONE thing I can do to travel to Europe next summer?
- What is the ONE thing I can do to travel as much as possible? (Hint: Earn the Southwest Companion Pass ;-0)
Get the idea? Do you see how this stops you from trying to do 50 little things and allows you to focus on just the 1 or 2 things that will have the greatest impact? What a relief and what a timesaver!
Discern Your Ultimate Purpose
To help you answer those questions, it’s helpful to first consider your ultimate purpose in life. This question (not an easy one to answer) helps you get there… THINK BIG or you will limit yourself.
What’s the one thing I could do in my life that would mean the most to me and to the world, such that…? OR
What’s the one thing you want your life to be about more than any other?
Having your ultimate purpose in mind will help you find the best “one things” that will further that purpose and allow you to lead a meaningful life!
In other words, you don’t want all your one things to be just about getting the most urgent, but unimportant tasks done. If you do that always, you’ll have lived a life where you completed a bunch of non-meaningful tasks that really had no lasting impact…
Keller also suggests setting and writing down goals, and even finding an accountability partner.
To set your goals, start by asking yourself:
What’s the ONE thing I can do to achieve my purpose/meet my ultimate goal in the next five years, such that…?
Then, break that down to your current day…
- What’s the ONE thing I can do this year to meet my five-year goal…?
- What’s the ONE thing I can do this month to meet my one-year goal…?
- What’s the ONE thing I can do this week to meet my monthly goal…?
- What’s the ONE thing I can do TODAY to meet my weekly goal…?
He also advises blocking time off on your calendar for thinking through/planning the above both monthly and weekly.
Get Your ONE Thing Done FIRST
Once you are able to narrow down to your “one things,” do those tasks FIRST in your day. We all know the things that don’t get done first, often don’t get done at all.
Allot them as much time as you can. Keller suggests spending FOUR hours per day on your “ONE thing” and blocking this time on your calendar, fiercely protecting it as if it was any other appointment you can’t cancel.
I know four hours sounds like a lot, but it will put you on the path to a life of meaning. It also comes from the idea that put forward by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “Outliers” that after 10,000 hours of focusing on one area (say a sport, an art, etc.), you become an expert. If you spent four hours a day, five days a week for about 10 years, you’d hit your 10,000 hours.
Keller also advises posting a sign as a reminder: “Until I finish my ONE thing, everything else is just a distraction.” Ask yourself: Am I inventing things to do to avoid my ONE thing? (Ie: checking email, surfing the web, completing simple tasks just to check them off, etc.)
The Role of Habits and Willpower
Keller also discusses in detail the role of habits and how habits shape our lives. Choose GOOD habits.
He notes our brain can really only develop one new habit at a time and that, despite commonly held beliefs, developing a new habit takes 66 days. Keep at it for 66 days and then add a new positive habit.
If you make something a habit, you no longer have to think about it and thus allot energy toward it, and you can put that energy toward something else (perhaps another positive habit).
Willpower is also key. It is a limited resource that comes and goes. You’ve got to work on your ONE thing when your willpower is strongest (usually at the beginning of the day, at least for me!) and NOT when your willpower is at its weakest.
Recognize when you do or don’t have willpower and work accordingly. He also notes that foods that keep our blood sugar even also help us stabilize our willpower.
This is a GREAT book if you truly want to achieve amazing things in life. Who doesn’t?!
“The ONE Thing” is one of the most influential books I’ve ever read. It’s an easy read and I highly advise you make it the ONE thing you read this year! I hope it has the same impact for you as it has for me.
What book has had the most impact on your life?
More Favorite Inspirational Books
Here are some of my other favorite inspirational books:
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield – How to fight through procrastination to be the be the artist you were designed to be (this could be a writer, painter, etc.)
- Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines and Habits of Billionaires, Icons and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferriss
- The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss
- Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly