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Dayo F Osibamowo
39 min read

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Gary Keller, Jay Papasan (2013)

The ONE Thing

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1. The ONE Thing

Location 83: When you want the absolute best chance to succeed at anything you want, your approach should always be the same. Go small.

Location 85: "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.

Location 93: You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.

2. The Domino Effect

Location 122: So when you think about success, shoot for the moon.

3. Success Leaves Clues

Location 157: If today your company doesn't know what its ONE Thing is, then the company's ONE Thing is to find out.

Location 182: You must be single-minded. Drive for the one thing on which you have decided. - General George S. Patton

Location 220: A singular line of questioning led them down this one path when Melinda asked, "Where's the place you can have the biggest impact with the money?"

Part 1: The Lies

Life is too short to chase unicorns.

Location 258 - 264: Over time, myths and mistruths get thrown around so often they eventually feel familiar and start to sound like the truth. Then we start basing important decisions on them.


  1. Everything Matters Equally
  2. Multitasking
  3. A Disciplined Life
  4. Willpower Is Always on Will-Call
  5. A Balanced Life
  6. Big Is Bad
  7. Everything Matters Equally

1. Everything Matters Equally:

Location 277: Equality is a lie. Understanding this is the basis of all great decisions.

Location 290: Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.

Location 346: A to-do list becomes a success list when you apply Pareto's Principle to it.

BIG IDEAS: Go small.

Don't focus on being busy; focus on being productive. Allow what matters most to drive your day. Go extreme. Once you've figured out what actually matters, keep asking what matters most until there is only one thing left. That core activity goes at the top of your success list. Say no. Whether you say "later" or "never," the point is to say "not now" to anything else you could do until your most important work is done. Don't get trapped in the "check off" game. If we believe things don't matter equally, we must act accordingly. We can't fall prey to the notion that everything has to be done, that checking things off our list is what success is all about. We can't be trapped in a game of "check off" that never produces a winner. The truth is that things don't matter equally and success is found in doing what matters most. Sometimes it's the first thing you do. Sometimes it's the only thing you do. Regardless, doing the most important thing is always the most important thing.

2. Multitasking:

Location 402: Multitasking is a lie.

Location 408: "Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time." - Steve Uzzell

Location 434: Researchers estimate that workers are interrupted every 11 minutes and then spend almost a third of their day recovering from these distractions.

Location 515: Figure out what matters most in the moment and give it your undivided attention.

3. A Disciplined Life:

Location 522: The truth is we don't need any more discipline than we already have. We just need to direct and manage it a little better.

Location 536: Success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.

Location 556: Your life gets clearer and less complicated because you know what you have to do well and you know what you don't.

Location 575: It takes time to develop the right habit, so don't give up too soon. Decide what the right one is, then give yourself all the time you need and apply all the discipline you can summon to develop it.

BIG IDEAS: Don't be a disciplined person.

Be a person of powerful habits and use selected discipline to develop them. Build one habit at a time. Success is sequential, not simultaneous. No one actually has the discipline to acquire more than one powerful new habit at a time. Super-successful people aren't superhuman at all; they've just used selected discipline to develop a few significant habits. One at a time. Over time. Give each habit enough time. Stick with the discipline long enough for it to become routine. Habits, on average, take 66 days to form. Once a habit is solidly established, you can either build on that habit or, if appropriate, build another one. If you are what you repeatedly do, then achievement isn't an action you take but a habit you forge into your life. You don't have to seek out success. Harness the power of selected discipline to build the right habit, and extraordinary results will find you.

4. Willpower Is Always on Will-Call:

Location 643: Everyone accepts that limited resources must be managed, yet we fail to recognize that willpower is one of them. We act as though our supply of willpower were endless.

Location 675: One of the real challenges we have is that when our willpower is low we tend to fall back on our default settings.

Location 699: So how do you put your willpower to work? You think about it. Pay attention to it. Respect it. You make doing what matters most a priority when your willpower is its highest. In other words, you give it the time of day it deserves.


  1. Implementing new behaviors
  2. Filtering distractions
  3. Resisting temptation
  4. Suppressing emotion
  5. Restraining aggression
  6. Suppressing impulses
  7. Taking tests
  8. Trying to impress others
  9. Coping with fear Doing something you don't enjoy
  10. Selecting long-term over short-term rewards

Location 709: Willpower is depleted when we make decisions to focus our attention, suppress our feelings and impulses, or modify our behavior in pursuit of goals.

Location 712: When it comes to willpower, timing is everything. You will need your willpower at full strength to ensure that when you're doing the right thing, you don't let anything distract you or steer you away from it. Then you need enough willpower the rest of the day to either support or avoid sabotaging what you've done. That's all the willpower you need to be successful. So, if you want to get the most out of your day, do your most important work - your ONE Thing - early, before your willpower is drawn down. Since your self-control will be sapped throughout the day, use it when it's at full strength on what matters most.

BIG IDEAS: Don't spread your willpower too thin.

On any given day, you have a limited supply of willpower, so decide what matters and reserve your willpower for it. Monitor your fuel gauge. Full-strength willpower requires a full tank. Never let what matters most be compromised simply because your brain was under-fueled. Eat right and regularly. Time your task. Do what matters most first each day when your willpower is strongest. Maximum strength willpower means maximum success.

Location 723: Don't fight your willpower. Build your days around how it works and let it do its part to build your life. Willpower may not be on willcall, but when you use

5. A Balanced Life:

Location 733: A balanced life is a lie.

Location 738: Purpose, meaning, significance - these are what make a successful life. Seek them and you will most certainly live your life out of balance, criss-crossing an invisible middle line as you pursue your priorities. The act of living a full life by giving time to what matters is a balancing act. Extraordinary results require focused attention and time. Time on one thing means time away from another. This makes balance impossible.

Location 767: Knowing when to pursue the middle and when to pursue the extremes is in essence the true beginning of wisdom. Extraordinary results are achieved by this negotiation with your time.

Location 770: The reason we shouldn't pursue balance is that the magic never happens in the middle; magic happens at the extremes.

Location 803: Replace the word "balance" with "counterbalance" and what you experience makes sense. The things we presume to have balance are really just counterbalancing.

Location 809: No matter how hard you try, there will always be things left undone at the end of your day, week, month, year, and life.

Location 812: 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.

Location 819: In the world of professional success, it's not about how much overtime you put in; the key ingredient is focused time over time. 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, with only infrequent counterbalancing to address them. In your personal world, awareness is the essential ingredient. Awareness of your spirit and body, awareness of your family and friends, awareness of your personal needs - none of these can be sacrificed if you intend to "have a life," so you can never forsake them for work or one for the other. You can move back and forth quickly between these and often even combine the activities around them, but you can't neglect any of them for long. Your personal life requires tight counterbalancing.

Location 826: The question is: "Do you go short or long?" In your personal life, go short and avoid long periods where you're out of balance. Going short lets you stay connected to all the things that matter most and move them along together. In your professional life, go long and make peace with the idea that the pursuit of extraordinary results may require you to be out of balance for long periods. Going long allows you to focus on what matters most, even at the expense of other, lesser priorities. In your personal life, nothing gets left behind. At work it's required.

Location 835: The question of balance is really a question of priority. When you change your language from balancing to prioritizing, you see your choices more clearly and open the door to changing your destiny.

Location 838: To be able to address your priorities outside of work, be clear about your most important work priority so you can get it done. Then go home and be clear about your priorities there so you can get back to work.

BIG IDEAS: Think about two balancing buckets.

Separate your work life and personal life into two distinct buckets; not to compartmentalize them, just for counterbalancing. Each has its own counterbalancing goals and approaches. Counterbalance your work bucket. View work as involving a skill or knowledge that must be mastered. This will cause you to give disproportionate time to your ONE Thing and will throw the rest of your work day, week, month, and year continually out of balance. Your work life is divided into two distinct areas - what matters most and everything else. You will have to take what matters to the extremes and be okay with what happens to the rest. Professional success requires it. Counterbalance your personal life bucket. Acknowledge that your life actually has multiple areas and that each requires a minimum of attention for you to feel that you "have a life. Drop any one and you will feel the effects. This requires constant awareness. You must never go too long or too far without counterbalancing them so that they are all active areas of your life. Your personal life requires it. Start leading a counterbalanced life. Let the right things take precedence when they should and get to the rest when you can. An extraordinary life is a counterbalancing act.

6. Big Is Bad:

Location 871: When we connect big with bad, we trigger shrinking thinking. Lowering our trajectory feels safe. Staying where we are feels prudent. But the opposite is true: When big is believed to be bad, small thinking rules the day and big never sees the light of it.

Location 877: None of us knows our limits. Borders and boundaries may be clear on a map, but when we apply them to our lives, the lines aren't so apparent.

Location 883: When you allow yourself to accept that big is about who you can become, you look at it differently.

Location 886: Believing in big frees you to ask different questions, follow different paths, and try new things. This opens the doors to possibilities that until now only lived inside you.

Location 896: Thinking big is essential to extraordinary results. Success requires action, and action requires thought. But here's the catch - the only actions that become springboards to succeeding big are those informed by big thinking to begin with. Make this connection, and the importance of how big you think begins to sink in.

Location 911: What you build today will either empower or restrict you tomorrow. It will either serve as a platform for the next level of your success or as a box, trapping you where you are.

Location 915: "The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man's foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher." - Thomas Henry Huxley

Location 928: Asking big questions can be daunting. Big goals can seem unattainable at first. Yet how many times have you set out to do something that seemed like a real stretch at the time, only to discover it was much easier than you thought?

Location 949: Don't fear big. Fear mediocrity. Fear waste. Fear the lack of living to your fullest. When we fear big, we either consciously or subconsciously work against it. We either run toward lesser outcomes and opportunities or we simply run away from the big ones.

BIG IDEAS: Think big.

Avoid incremental thinking that simply asks, "What do I do next?"This is at best the slow lane to success and, at worst, the off ramp. Ask bigger questions. A good rule of thumb is to double down everywhere in your life. If your goal is ten, ask the question: "How can I reach 20?" Set a goal so far above what you want that you'll be building a plan that practically guarantees your original goal. Don't order from the menu. Apple's celebrated 1997 "Think Different" ad campaign featured icons like Ali, Dylan, Einstein, Hitchcock, Picasso, Gandhi, and others who "saw things differently" and who went on to transform the world we know. The point was that they didn't choose from the available options, they imagined outcomes that no one else had. They ignored the menu and ordered their own creations. As the ad reminds us, "People who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the only ones who do." Act bold. Big thoughts go nowhere without bold action. Once you've asked a big question, pause to imagine what life looks like with the answer. If you still can't imagine it, go study people who have already achieved it. What are the models, systems, habits, and relationships of other people who have found the answer? As much as we'd like to believe we're all different, what consistently works for others will almost always work for us. Don't fear failure. It's as much a part of your journey to extraordinary results as success. Adopt a growth mindset, and don't be afraid of where it can take you. Extraordinary results aren't built solely on extraordinary results. They're built on failure too. In fact, it would be accurate to say that we fail our way to success. When we fail, we stop, ask what we need to do to succeed, learn from our mistakes, and grow. Don't be afraid to fail. See it as part of your learning process and keep striving for your true potential. Don't let small thinking cut your life down to size. Think big, aim high, act bold. And see just how big you can blow up your life.

Part 2: The Truth

Location 1002: Here's what I found out: We overthink, overplan, and overanalyze 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.

Location 1006: If you can honestly say, "This is where I'm meant to be right now, doing exactly what I'm doing," then all the amazing possibilities for your life become possible.

The Focusing Question

Location 1019: "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." Look round you and take notice; men who do that do not often fail. It is easy to watch and carry the one basket. It is trying to carry too many baskets that breaks most eggs in this country.

Location 1023: The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret to getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one.

Location 1037: Questions engage our critical thinking.

Location 1041: MY WAGE By J. B. Rittenhouse
I bargained with Life for a penny, And Life would pay no more,
However I begged at evening When I counted my scanty store.
For Life is a just employer, He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages, Why, you must bear the task.
I worked for a menials hire, Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life, Life would have willingly paid.

Location 1059: The Focusing Question can lead you to answer not only "big picture" questions (Where am I going? What target should I aim for?) but also "small focus" ones as well (What must I do right now to be on the path to getting the big picture? Where's the bull's-eye?). It tells you not only what your basket should be, but also the first step toward getting it. It shows you how big your life can be and just how small you must go to get there. It's both a map for the big picture and a compass for your smallest next move.

Location 1066: The Focusing Question always aims you at the absolute best of both by forcing you to do what is essential to success - make a decision. But not just any decision: it drives you to make the best decision. It ignores what is doable and drills down to what is necessary, to what matters.

Location 1069: Ask it again and again, and it forces you to line up tasks in their levered order of importance. Then, each time you ask it, you see your next priority. The power of this approach is that you're setting yourself up to accomplish one task on top of another. When you do the right task first, you also build the right mindset first, the right skill first, and the right relationship first.

Location 1074: ANATOMY OF THE QUESTION - The Focusing Question collapses all possible questions into one: "What's the ONE Thing I can do / such that by doing it / everything else will be easier or unnecessary?"

Location 1076: PART One: "WHAT'S THE ONE THING I CAN DO... This sparks focused action. "What's the ONE Thing" tells you the answer will be one thing versus many. It forces you toward something specific.

Location 1080: The last phrase, "can do," is an embedded command directing you to take action that is possible.

Location 1083: Part Two: "...SUCH THAT BY DOING IT...

Location 1085: This tells you there's a criterion your answer must meet. It's the bridge between just doing something and doing something for a specific purpose.


Location 1091: It says that when you do this ONE Thing, everything else you could do to accomplish your goal will now be either doable with less effort or no longer even necessary.

Location 1093: In effect, this qualifier seeks to declutter your life by asking you to put on blinders. This elevates the answer's potential to change your life by doing the leveraged thing and avoiding distractions.

BIG IDEAS: Great questions are the path to great answers.

The Focusing Question is a great question designed to find a great answer. It will help you find the first domino for your job, your business, or any other area in which you want to achieve extraordinary results. The Focusing Question is a double-duty question. It comes in two forms: big picture and small focus. One is about finding the right direction in life and the other is about finding the right action. The Big-Picture Question: "What's my ONE Thing?" Use it to develop a vision for your life and the direction for your career or company; it is your strategic compass. It also works when considering what you want to master, what you want to give to others and your community, and how you want to be remembered. It keeps your relationships with friends, family, and colleagues in perspective and your daily actions on track.

Location 1105: The Small-Focus Question: "What's my ONE Thing right now?" Use this when you first wake up and throughout the day. It keeps you focused on your most important work and, whenever you need it, helps you find the "levered action" or first domino in any activity.

Location 1107: The small-focus question prepares you for the most productive workweek possible. It's effective in your personal life too, keeping you attentive to your most important immediate needs, as well as those of the most important people in your life. Extraordinary results come from asking the Focusing Question. It's how you'll plot your course through life and business, and how you'll make the best progress on your most important work. Whether you seek answers big or small, asking the Focusing Question is the ultimate success habit for your life.

The Success Habit

Location 1125: I apply it to the important areas of my life: my spiritual life, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, and financial life. And I address them in that order - each one is a foundation for the next.

Location 1130: Simply reframe the Focusing Question by inserting your area of focus. You can also include a time frame - such as "right now" or "this year" to give your answer the appropriate level of immediacy, or "in five years" or "someday" to find a big-picture answer that points you at outcomes to aim for.

Location 1134: Here are some Focusing Questions to ask yourself. Say the category first, then state the question, add a time frame, and end by adding "such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?" For example: "For my job, what's the ONE Thing I can do to ensure I hit my goals this week such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?" FOR MY SPIRITUAL LIFE... What's the ONE Thing I can do to help others... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to improve my relationship with God... ? FOR MY PHYSICAL HEALTH... What's the ONE Thing I can do to achieve my diet goals... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to ensure that I exercise... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to relieve my stress... ? FOR MY PERSONAL LIFE... What's the ONE Thing I can do to improve my skill at ________... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to find time for myself... ? FOR MY KEY RELATIONSHIPS... What's the ONE Thing I can do to improve my relationship with my spouse/partner... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to improve my children's school performance... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to show my appreciation to my parents... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to make my family stronger... ? FOR MY JOB... What's the ONE Thing I can do to ensure that I hit my goals... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to improve my skills... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to help my team succeed... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to further my career... ? FOR MY BUSINESS... What's the ONE Thing I can do to make us more competitive... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to make our product the best... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to make us more profitable...? What's the ONE Thing I can do to improve our customer experience... ? FOR MY FINANCES... What's the ONE Thing I can do to increase my net worth... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to improve my investment cash flow...? What's the ONE Thing I can do to eliminate my credit card debt... ?

BIG IDEAS: So how do you make The ONE Thing part of your daily routine?

How do you make it strong enough to get extraordinary results at work and in the other areas of your life? Here's a starter list drawn from our experience and our work with others. Understand and believe it. The first step is to understand the concept of the ONE Thing, then to believe that it can make a difference in your life. If you don't understand and believe, you won't take action. Use it. Ask yourself the Focusing Question. Start each day by asking, "What's the ONE Thing I can do today for [whatever you want] such that by doing it everything else will be easier or even unnecessary?"When you do this, your direction will become clear. Your work will be more productive and your personal life more rewarding. Make it a habit. When you make asking the Focusing Question a habit, you fully engage its power to get the extraordinary results you want. It's a difference maker. Research says this will take about 66 days. Whether it takes you a few weeks or a few months, stick with it until it becomes your routine. If you're not serious about learning the Success Habit, you're not serious about getting extraordinary results. Leverage reminders. Set up ways to remind yourself to use the Focusing Question. One of the best ways to do this is to put up a sign at work that says, "Until my ONE Thing is done—everything else is a distraction."We designed the back cover of this book to be a trigger —set it on the corner of your desk so that it's the first thing you see when you get to work. Use notes, screen savers, and calendar cues to keep making the connection between the Success Habit and the results you seek. Put up reminders like, "The ONE Thing = Extraordinary Results"or "The Success Habit Will Get Me to My Goal."Recruit support. Research shows that those around you can influence you tremendously. Starting a success support group with some of your work colleagues can help inspire all of you to practice the Success Habit every day. Get your family involved. Share your ONE Thing. Get them on board. Use the Focusing Question around them to show them how the Success Habit can make a difference in their school work, their personal achievements, or any other part of their lives. This one habit can become the foundation for many more, so keep your Success Habit working as powerfully as possible. Use the strategies outlined in Part 3: Extraordinary Results, for goal setting and time blocking to experience extraordinary results every day of your life.

The Path to Great Answers

Location 1187: People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures. - F. M. Alexander


Location 1194: The Focusing Question helps you ask a great question. Great questions, like great goals, are big and specific. They push you, stretch you, and aim you at big, specific answers. And because they're framed to be measurable, there's no wiggle room about what the results will look like.

Location 1206: Low goals don't require extraordinary actions so they rarely lead to extraordinary results.

Location 1216: You'll have to stretch what you believe is possible and look outside the standard toolbox of solutions.

Location 1217: When you ask a Great Question, you're in essence pursuing a great goal. And whenever you do this, you'll see the same pattern: Big & Specific. A big, specific question leads to a big, specific answer, which is absolutely necessary for achieving a big goal.

Location 1219: So if "What can I do to double sales in six months?" is a Great Question, how do you make it more powerful? Convert it to the Focusing Question: "What's the ONE Thing I can do to double sales in six months such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?"Turning it into the Focusing Question goes to the heart of success by forcing you to identify what absolutely matters most and start there. Why? Because that's where big success starts too.


Location 1224: The challenge of asking a Great Question is that, once you've asked it, you're now faced with finding a Great Answer.

Location 1225: Answers come in three categories: doable, stretch, and possibility.

Location 1231: High achievers understand these first two routes but reject them.

Location 1237: If you want the most from your answer, you must realize that it lives outside your comfort zone. This is rare air.

Location 1243: Anytime you don't know the answer, your answer is to go find your answer. In other words, by default, your first ONE Thing is to search for clues and role models to point you in the right direction.

Location 1252: The research and experience of others is the best place to start when looking for your answer.

Location 1261: Because your answer will be original, you'll probably have to reinvent yourself in some way to implement it. A new answer usually requires new behavior, so don't be surprised if along the way to sizable success you change in the process.

BIG IDEAS: Think big and specific.

Setting a goal you intend to achieve is like asking a question. It's a simple step from "I'd like to do that" to "How do I achieve that?" The best question, and by default, the best goal - is big and specific: big, because you're after extraordinary results; specific, to give you something to aim at and to leave no wiggle room about whether you hit the mark. A big and specific question, especially in the form of the Focusing Question, helps you zero in on the best possible answer. Think possibilities. Setting a doable goal is almost like creating a task to check off your list. A stretch goal is more challenging. It aims you at the edge of your current abilities; you have to stretch to reach it. The best goal explores what's possible. When you see people and businesses that have undergone transformations, this is where they live. Benchmark and trend for the best answer. No one has a crystal ball, but with practice you can become surprisingly good at anticipating where things are heading. The people and businesses who get there first often enjoy the lion's share of the rewards with few, if any, competitors. Benchmark and trend to find the extraordinary answer you need for extraordinary results.

Part 3: Extraordinary Results

Location 1281: There is a natural rhythm to our lives that becomes a simple formula for implementing the ONE Thing and achieving extraordinary results: purpose, priority, and productivity. Bound together, these three are forever connected and continually confirming each other's existence in our lives. Their link leads to the two areas where you'll apply the ONE Thing - one big and one small. Your big ONE Thing is your purpose and your small ONE Thing is the priority you take action on to achieve it. The most productive people start with purpose and use it like a compass. They allow purpose to be the guiding force in determining the priority that drives their actions. This is the straightest path to extraordinary results.

Live with Purpose

Location 1395: I believe that financially wealthy people are those who have enough money coming in without having to work to finance their purpose in life.

Location 1402: Happiness happens when you have a bigger purpose than having more fulfills, which is why we say happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.

Location 1404: The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it. When you have a definite purpose for your life, clarity comes faster, which leads to more conviction in your direction, which usually leads to faster decisions. When you make faster decisions, you'll often be the one who makes the first decisions and winds up with the best choices. And when you have the best choices, you have the opportunity for the best experiences.

Location 1409: Purpose also helps you when things don't go your way.

Location 1411: Knowing why you're doing something provides the inspiration and motivation to give the extra perspiration needed to persevere when things go south. Sticking with something long enough for success to show up is a fundamental requirement for achieving "extra-ordinary" results.

BIG IDEAS: Happiness happens on the way to fulfillment.

We all want to be happy, but seeking it isn't the best way to find it. The surest path to achieving lasting happiness happens when you make your life about something bigger, when you bring meaning and purpose to your everyday actions. Discover your Big Why. Discover your purpose by asking yourself what drives you. What's the thing that gets you up in the morning and keeps you going when you're tired and worn down? I sometimes refer to this as your "Big Why." It's why you're excited with your life. It's why you're doing what you're doing. Absent an answer, pick a direction. "Purpose" may sound heavy but it doesn't have to be. Think of it as simply the ONE Thing you want your life to be about more than any other. Try writing down something you'd like to accomplish and then describe how you'd do it.

Live by Priority

Location 1457: While we may pull from the past and forecast the future, our only reality is the present moment. Right NOW is all we have to work with.

Location 1467: Hyperbolic discounting - the further away a reward is in the future, the smaller the immediate motivation to achieve it.

Location 1479: To understand how Goal Setting to the Now will guide your thinking and determine your most important priority, read this out loud to yourself: Based on my someday goal, what's the ONE Thing I can do in the next five years to be on track to achieve it? Now, based on my five-year goal, what's the ONE Thing I can do this year to be on track to achieve my five-year goal, so that I'm on track to achieve my someday goal? Now, based on my goal this year, what's the ONE Thing I can do this month so I'm on track to achieve my goal this year, so I'm on track to achieve my five-year goal, so I'm on track to achieve my someday goal? Now, based on my goal this month, what's the ONE Thing I can do this week so I'm on track to achieve my goal this month, so I'm on track to achieve my goal this year, so I'm on track to achieve my five-year goal, so I'm on track to achieve my someday goal? Now, based on my goal this week, what's the ONE Thing I can do today so I'm on track to achieve my goal this week, so I'm on track to achieve my goal this month, so I'm on track to achieve my goal this year, so I'm on track to achieve my five-year goal, so I'm on track to achieve my someday goal? So, based on my goal today, what's the ONE Thing I can do right NOW so I'm on track to achieve my goal today, so I'm on track to achieve my goal this week, so I'm on track to achieve my goal this month, so I'm on track to achieve my goal this year, so I'm on track to achieve my five-year goal, so I'm on track to achieve my someday goal?

Location 1511: Your last step is to write down your answers. Much has been written about writing down goals and for a very good reason - it works. In 2008, Dr. Gail Matthews of the Dominican University of California, recruited 267 participants from a wide range of professions (lawyers, accountants, nonprofit employees, marketers, etc.) and a variety of countries. Those who wrote down their goals were 39.5 percent more likely to accomplish them. Writing down your goals and your most important priority is your final step to living by priority.

BIG IDEAS: There can only be ONE.

Your most important priority is the ONE Thing you can do right now that will help you achieve what matters most to you. You may have many "priorities,"but dig deep and you'll discover there is always one that matters most, your top priority - our ONE Thing. Goal Set to the Now. Knowing your future goal is how you begin. Identifying the steps you need to accomplish along the way keeps your thinking clear while you uncover the right priority you need to accomplish right now Put pen to paper. Write your goals down and keep them close. Pull your purpose through to a single priority built by Goal Setting to the Now, and that priority - that ONE Thing you can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary - will show you the way to extraordinary results. And once you know what to do, the only thing left is to go from knowing to doing.

Live for Productivity

Location 1538: In the end, putting together a life of extraordinary results simply comes down to getting the most out of what you do, when what you do matters. Living for productivity produces extraordinary results.

Location 1552: And the most important thing I learned from these experiences is that the most successful people are the most productive people.

Location 1571: So, go to your calendar and block off all the time you need to accomplish your ONE Thing. If it's a onetime ONE Thing, block off the appropriate hours and days. If it's a regular thing, block off the appropriate time every day so it becomes a habit. Everything else - other projects, paperwork, e-mail, calls, correspondence, meetings, and all the other stuff, must wait. When you time block like this, you're creating the most productive day possible in a way that's repeatable every day for the rest of your life.

Location 1592: Time blocking works on the premise that a calendar records appointments but doesn't care who those appointments are with.

Location 1595: To achieve extraordinary results and experience greatness, time block these three things in the following order:

  1. Time block your time-off.
  2. Time block your ONE Thing.
  3. Time block your planning time.

Location 1599: Extraordinarily successful people launch their year by taking time out to plan their time off.

Location 1602: By planning your time off in advance, you are, in effect, managing your work time around your downtime instead of the other way around.

Location 1604: Take time off. Block out long weekends and long vacations, then take them. You'll be more rested, more relaxed, and more productive afterward. Everything needs rest to function better, and you're no different.

Location 1609: After you've time blocked your time off, time block your ONE Thing.

Location 1610: You can't happily sustain success in your professional life if you neglect your personal "re-creation" time.

Location 1620: The key to making this work is to block time as early in your day as you possibly can. Give yourself 30 minutes to an hour to take care of morning priorities, then move to your ONE Thing. 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.

Location 1650: To experience extraordinary results, be a maker in the morning and a manager in the afternoon. Your goal is "ONE and done."

Location 1653: The last priority you time block is planning time. This is when you reflect on where you are and where you want to go.

Location 1657: First, ask what needs to happen that month for you to be on target for your annual goals. Then ask what must happen that week to be on course for your monthly goals.

Location 1681: The best way to protect your time blocks is to adopt the mindset that they can't be moved. So, when someone tries to double-book you, just say, "I'm sorry, I already have an appointment at that time," and offer other options. If the other person is disappointed, you're sympathetic but ultimately unmoved.

Until My ONE Thing Is Done, Everything Else Is A Distraction!

Location 1693: Try it. Put it where you can see it and others can see it as well. Then make this the mantra you say to yourself and everyone else. In time, others will begin to understand how you work and support it. Just watch.

Location 1697: So when stuff pops into your head, just write it down on a task list and get back to what you're supposed to be doing. In other words, do a brain dump. Then put it out of sight and out of mind until its time comes.

Location 1700: Here are four proven ways to battle distractions and keep your eye on your ONE Thing. Build a bunker. Find somewhere to work that takes you out of the path of disruption and interruption.

Location 1706: Store provisions. Have any supplies, materials, snacks, or beverages you need on hand and, other than for a bathroom break, avoid leaving your bunker.

Location 1709: Sweep for mines. Turn off your phone, shut down your email, and exit your Internet browser.

Location 1710: Enlist support. Tell those most likely to seek you out what you're doing and when you'll be available.

Location 1712: If, ultimately, you continue a tug-of-war to make time blocking take place, then use the Focusing Question to ask: What's the ONE Thing I can do to protect my time block every day such by doing it everything else I might do will be easier or unnecessary?

Location 1719: Block time early in the day, and block big chunks of it - no less than four hours! Think of it this way: If your time blocking were on trial, would your calendar contain enough evidence to convict you?

The Three Commitments

Location 1729: Achieving extraordinary results through time blocking requires three commitments. First, you must adopt the mindset of someone seeking mastery. Mastery is a commitment to becoming your best, so to achieve extraordinary results you must embrace the extraordinary effort it represents. Second, you must continually seek the very best ways of doing things. Nothing is more futile than doing your best using an approach that can't deliver results equal to your effort. And last, you must be willing to be held accountable to doing everything you can to achieve your ONE Thing.


  1. Follow the Path of Mastery
  2. Move from "E" to "P"
  3. Live the Accountability Cycle

Location 1738: When you can see mastery as a path you go down instead of a destination you arrive at, it starts to feel accessible and attainable.

Location 1742: I believe the healthy view of mastery means giving the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work.

Location 1756: Now, if your ONE Thing relates to work and you put in 250 workdays a year (five days a week for 50 weeks), to keep pace on your mastery journey you'll need to average four hours a day. Sound familiar? It's not a random number. That's the amount of time you need to time block every day for your ONE Thing.

Location 1761: When you commit to time block your ONE Thing, make sure you approach it with a mastery mentality.

Location 1777: Continually improving how you do something is critical to getting the most from time blocking. It's called moving from "E" to "P."

Location 1785: But when you're going about your ONE Thing, any ceiling of achievement must be challenged, and this requires a different approach - a Purposeful approach.

Location 1795: The Purposeful person follows the simple rule that "a different result requires doing something different." Make this your mantra and breakthroughs become possible.

Location 1824: Taking complete ownership of your outcomes by holding no one but yourself responsible for them is the most powerful thing you can do to drive your success.

Location 1856: One of the fastest ways to bring accountability to your life is to find an accountability partner. Accountability can come from a mentor, a peer or, in its highest form, a coach. Whatever the case, it's critical that you acquire an accountability relationship and give your partner license to lay out the honest truth. An accountability partner isn't a cheerleader, although he can lift you up. An accountability partner provides frank, objective feedback on your performance, creates an ongoing expectation for productive progress, and can provide critical brainstorming or even expertise when needed. As for me, a coach or a mentor is the best choice for an accountability partner. Although a peer or a friend can absolutely help you see things you may not see, ongoing accountability is best provided by someone to whom you agree to be truly accountable. When that's the nature of the relationship, the best results occur.

BIG IDEAS: Commit to be your best.

Extraordinary results happen only when you give the best you have to become the best you can be at your most important work. This is, in essence, the path to mastery - and because mastery takes time, it takes a commitment to achieve it. Be purposeful about your ONE Thing. Move from "E" to "P."Go on a quest for the models and systems that can take you the farthest. Don't just settle for what comes naturally; be open to new thinking, new skills, and new relationships. If the path of mastery is a commitment to be your best, being purposeful is a commitment to adopt the best possible approach. Take ownership of your outcomes. If extraordinary results are what you want, being a victim won't work. Change occurs only when you're accountable. So stay out of the passenger seat and always choose the driver's side. Find a coach. You'll be hard-pressed to find anyone who achieves extraordinary results without one.

The Four Thieves


  1. Inability to Say "No"
  2. Fear of Chaos
  3. Poor Health Habits
  4. Environment

Location 1911: The way to protect what you've said yes to and stay productive is to say no to anyone or anything that could derail you.

Location 1925: Remember, saying yes to your ONE Thing is your top priority. As long as you can keep this in perspective, saying no to anything that keeps you from keeping your time block should become something you can accept. Then it's just a matter of how.

Location 1934: Of course, whenever you need to say no, you can just say it and be done with it. There is nothing wrong with this at all. In fact, this should be your first choice every time. But if you feel there are times you need to say no in a helpful way, there are many ways to say it that can still lead people forward toward their goals.

Location 1947: The rule is simple: A request must be connected to my ONE Thing for me to consider it. If it's not, then I either say no to it or use any one of the approaches I shared above to deflect it elsewhere.

Location 1959: Messes are inevitable when you focus on just one thing.

Location 1962: One of the greatest thieves of productivity is the unwillingness to allow for chaos or the lack of creativity in dealing with it.

Location 1970: When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up. In fact, other areas of your life may experience chaos in direct proportion to the time you put in on your ONE Thing.

Location 1983: Your alone time may have to be at a different time of day for a while. You may have to trade off time with others so they protect your time block and you in turn protect theirs.

Location 1985: If you have to beg, then beg. If you have to barter, then barter. If you have to be creative, then be creative.

Location 1998: Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity.

Location 2005: High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy. The trick is learning how to get it and keep it.

Location 2007: Begin early with meditation and prayer for spiritual energy; starting the day by connecting with your higher purpose aligns your thoughts and actions with a larger story. Then move straight to the kitchen for your most important meal of the day and the cornerstone of physical energy: a nutritious breakfast designed to fuel your day's work.

Location 2011: Fueled up, head to your exercise spot to relieve stress and strengthen your body. Conditioning gives you maximum capacity, which is critical for maximum productivity.

Location 2014: Now, if you haven't spent time with your loved ones at breakfast or during your workout, go find them. Hug, talk, and laugh. You'll be reminded why you're working in the first place, and motivated to be as productive as possible so you can get home earlier.

Location 2017: Next, grab your calendar and plan your day. Make sure you know what matters most, and make sure those things are going to get done. Look at what you have to do, estimate the time it will take to do them, and plan your time accordingly. Knowing what you must do and making the time to do it is how you bring the most amazing mental energy to your life.

Location 2021: When you get to work, go to work on your ONE Thing.

Location 2023: Around noon, take a break, have lunch, and turn your attention to everything else you can do before you head out for the day. Last, in the evening when it's time for bed, get eight hours of sleep.

Location 2025: You need your sleep so your mind and body can rest and recharge for tomorrow's extraordinary productivity.

Location 2027: Protect your sleep by determining when you must go to bed each night and don't allow yourself to be lured away from it.


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

Location 2044: Your environment must support your goals.

Location 2055: Ultimately, being with success-minded people creates what researchers call a "positive spiral of success" where they lift you up and send you on your way.

Location 2071: No one succeeds alone and no one fails alone. Pay attention to the people around you. Seek out those who will support your goals, and show the door to anyone who won't.

BIG IDEAS: Start saying "No."

Always remember that when you say yes to something, you're saying no to everything else. It's the essence of keeping a commitment. Start turning down other requests outright or saying, "No, for now"to distractions so that nothing detracts you from getting to your top priority. Learning to say no can and will liberate you. It's how you'll find the time for your ONE Thing. Accept chaos. Recognize that pursuing your ONE Thing moves other things to the back burner. Loose ends can feel like snares, creating tangles in your path. This kind of chaos is unavoidable. Make peace with it. Learn to deal with it. The success you have accomplishing your ONE Thing will continually prove you made the right decision. Manage your energy. Don't sacrifice your health by trying to take on too much. Your body is an amazing machine, but it doesn't come with a warranty, you can't trade it in, and repairs can be costly. It's important to manage your energy so you can do what you must do, achieve what you want to achieve, and live the life you want to live. Take ownership of your environment. Make sure that the people around you and your physical surroundings support your goals. The right people in your life and the right physical environment on your daily path will support your efforts to get to your ONE Thing. When both are in alignment with your ONE Thing, they will supply the optimism and physical lift you need to make your ONE Thing happen.

Location 2109: Live with Purpose, Live by Priority, and Live for Productivity.

The Journey

Location 2120: Write down your current income. Then multiply it by a number: 2, 4, 10, 20 - it doesn't matter. Just pick one, multiply your income by it, and write down the new number. Looking at it and ignoring whether you're frightened or excited, ask yourself, "Will my current actions get me to this number in the next five years?" If they will, then keep doubling the number until they won't. If you then make your actions match your answer, you'll be living large.

Location 2127: The challenge is that living the largest life possible requires you not only to think big, but also to take the necessary actions to get there. Extraordinary results require you to go small. Getting your focus as small as possible simplifies your thinking and crystallizes what you must do. 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.

Location 2135: When you choose a big life, by default, you'll have to go small to get there. You must survey your choices, narrow your options, line up your priorities, and do what matters most. You must go small. You must find your ONE Thing.

Location 2138: 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.

Location 2151: Your journey toward extraordinary results will be built above all else on faith. It's only when you have faith in your purpose and priorities that you'll seek out your ONE Thing.

Location 2153: Faith ultimately leads to action, and when we take action we avoid the very thing that could undermine or undo everything we've worked for—regret.

Location 2155: As satisfying as succeeding is, as fulfilling as journeying feels, there is actually an even better reason to get up every day and take action on your ONE Thing. On your way to living a life worth living, doing your best to succeed at what matters most to you not only rewards you with success and happiness but with something even more precious. No regrets.

Location 2164: Effort is important, for without it you will never succeed at your highest level. Achievement is important, for without it you will never experience your true potential. Pursuing purpose is important, for unless you do, you may never find lasting happiness. Step out on faith that these things are true.

Location 2170: 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.

Location 2189: Honoring our hopes and pursuing productive lives through faith in our purpose and priorities is the message from our elders.

Location 2193: So, how do you live a life of no regrets? The same way your journey to extraordinary results begins. With purpose, priority, and productivity; with the knowledge that regret must be avoided, and can be; with your ONE Thing at the top of your mind and the top of your schedule; with a single first step we can all take.

Location 2220: Success is an inside job.

Location 2221: 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.

Part 4: Putting The ONE Thing to Work

Location 2231:
Let the ONE Thing bring clarity to the key areas of your life. Here's a short sampling. What's the ONE Thing I can do this week to discover or affirm my life's purpose... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do in 90 days to get in the physical shape I want... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do today to strengthen my spiritual faith... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do to find time to practice the guitar 20 minutes a day... ? Knock five strokes off my golf game in 90 days... ? Learn to paint in six months... ?

Location 2237:
Use the ONE Thing with your family for fun and rewarding experiences. Here are some options. What's the ONE Thing we can do this week to improve our marriage... ? What's the ONE Thing we can do every week to spend more quality family time together... ? What's the ONE Thing we can do tonight to support our kid's schoolwork... ? What's the ONE Thing we can do to make our next vacation the best ever... ? Our next Christmas the best ever... ? Thanksgiving the best ever... ?

Location 2244: And don't forget time blocking. Time block with yourself to make sure the things that matter get done and the activities that matter get mastered. In some cases, you'll want to block time to find your answer and, other times you'll just need to block time to implement it.

Location 2247:
Put the ONE Thing to work taking your professional life to the next level. Here's a few ways to get started. What's the ONE Thing I can do today to complete my current project ahead of schedule... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do this month to produce better work... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do before my next review to get the raise I want... ? What's the ONE Thing I can do everyday to finish my work and still get home on time...

Location 2253:
Pull the ONE Thing into your work with others. Whether you're a manager, executive, or even a business owner, bring ONE Thing thinking into your everyday work situations to drive productivity upward. Here are some scenarios to consider. In any meeting ask, "What's the ONE Thing we can accomplish in this meeting and end early... ? In building your team ask, What's the ONE Thing I can do in the next six months to find and develop incredible talent... ? In planning for the next month, year, or five years ask, What's the ONE Thing we can do right now to accomplish our goals ahead of schedule and under budget... ? In your department or at the highest company level ask, What's the ONE Thing we can do in the next 90 days to create a ONE Thing culture...

Location 2263: At work, this is usually about either a short-term project you must complete or an ongoing long-term activity you're committed to doing repeatedly. No matter, an appointment with yourself is the surest path to ensuring you achieve extraordinary results. Casual open discussions or short in-house workshops around key concepts in the book might really help everyone at work find their own understanding and get on the same page.

Location 2270: To ignite your life you must focus on ONE Thing long enough for it to catch fire.

Location 2279:
5. YOUR COMMUNITY: What's the ONE Thing we can do to improve our sense of community... ? Help the homebound... ? Double our volunteerism... ? Double voter turnout... ?

Location 2283: The ONE Thing forces you to think big, work things through to create a list, prioritize that list so that a geometric progression can happen, and then hammer away on the first thing - the ONE Thing that starts your domino run. So be prepared to live a new life! And remember that the secret to extraordinary results is to ask a very big and specific question that leads you to one very small and tightly focused answer.

Location 2288: So don't delay. Ask yourself the question, "What's the ONE Thing I can do right now to start using The ONE Thing in my life such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?" And make doing the answer your first ONE Thing!