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‘The One Thing’ by Gary Keller

How to narrow your focus to get what you want.

The One Thing

Focus, Dave, focus! I can hear those words in my father’s voice even though he has been gone for some 17 years. As a youngster, battling ADD, which at the time was called daydreaming, mind wandering, lack of concentration, or a host of other things, that nudge from my father brought me back to reality. It usually meant getting back to homework or some household chore.

Gary Keller would have been a lifesaver back then. The founder of Keller Williams Real Estate, the largest real estate company in the world, he built the company through an aggressive focus on training and education. The One Thing is only one of his bestsellers, and his efforts to inspire great achievement in others has made him a go-to source for the business community.

The primary message is one of narrowing your focus to get what you want. Concentrating your efforts as tightly as possible allows you to place an inordinate amount of power and energy at a single point. This leads to the accomplishment of the task related to that single focus and allows you to move one to the next priority.

The secret is to be doing fewer things for more effect, instead of doing more things with side effects. Keller gives examples of how his focus has been directly related to his success. The smaller the beam, the better chance of accomplishment.

He goes on to discuss the domino effect. Small amounts of energy expended on defined tasks multiply over time. The result is extraordinary accomplishments generated by the sum of very small efforts that are consistently applied. The concept of a single step that leads to reaching the mountain’s summit comes to mind.

There is so much packed into this book attempting to cover it all would be a mistake. So, taking Keller’s advice, I will focus on a couple of my favorites.

If everything is important, nothing is. Prioritize. If you’re intent on having tighter focus, determine first what you will focus on. Make those tough decisions.  What are the most critical accomplishments you can imagine? List them, reorganize them, and start at the top. Tip that first domino and watch what happens.

Multitasking is a lie. The brain cannot focus on two things at once. The result of that effort is doing both things at less than your best. Both things suffer. It is estimated that 28 percent of every day is wasted on switching between tasks. This time lost is almost imperceptible at the moment, but it stacks up quickly. This plus the fact that the average worker is interrupted every 11 minutes creates a very inefficient and unproductive environment. Organize your time into chunks of uninterrupted productivity and see how much more you accomplish.

Willpower is like physical energy. Every effort you make saps some of your strength. The point being, if you are depending on willpower to get you across the finish line, you had better push yourself early. To get the most out of your day, get the most important thing done first. Your “one thing.”

I love the concept of the Four Thieves of Productivity:

  • Inability to Say “No”
  • Fear of Chaos
  • Poor Health Habits
  • Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

Learning to say no is a powerful ability. As a pleaser, I know how tough it is to tell someone I can’t do what they want of me. But if you say yes to every request, there will be no time to accomplish your one thing. Again, keep the focus on your priorities.

In any great endeavor there is guaranteed to be chaos. We cannot control all of the outside influences, distractions, and unplanned occurrences that will create the whirlwind within which we have to operate. Accept it, deal with it, and overcome it. Too often I hear the words, “It’s not fair!” Your right, it’s not. Get over it and get back to work.

I will not dwell on the health issue other than to say, “eat, sleep, and exercise.” Without a healthy routine you will beat yourself to death. All the success in the world is useless unless you are healthy enough to enjoy it.

Lastly, your environment will have a great effect on your ability to get what you want. The people around you and your physical surroundings impact every effort you make. If they don’t positively affect you, change them. No one succeeds or fails alone. Build relationships with people who build you up and make you better. Avoid yes men. Interact with people who challenge your opinions and can give you a succinct argument. Not naysayers who are gray clouds of negative energy, but those who push you to grow and evolve.

So, find your “one thing.” Narrow your focus. Start tipping the dominos. Become your favorite success story.

Check out all the titles in Dave Donald’s Business Book Club.