The One Thing | Gary Keller


Published: 2012

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A goal without prioritization is not a goal, because a clear prioritization is required in order to decide how to spend our time. A good goal also has a well-thought-out purpose such as; “I do x which takes me in the direction of y”. Ask yourself what you need to do to be able to retire when you are 50 years old. This is more effective than aiming to retire when you turn 50. Start at the end and then break everything down into goals and milestones. Spend a lot of time on “The one thing” that can take you to the goal, and think carefully on how you can build the necessary habits to keep the right course in the long run.

 “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” – F. M. Alexander

AN INTERVIEW WITH YOUR OLDER SELF. Pretend you are interviewing yourself as an 80-year-old and ask yourself to look back on life. This exercise can help set priorities right. By all means, consider studies on what old people have often regretted with their lives. For example, a study has shown: (1) that they too late realized that happiness was a choice, (2) too often built up too many emotions that became difficult to deal with, (3) spent too much time trying to support themselves so that they did not have time to build a life and (4) wished they dared to live a life true to themselves – not according to the expectations of others.

LOOK AT THE FULL PICTURE. Life is like juggling five balls; work, family, health, friends and integrity. The work ball is made of rubber and the other four are made of glass. If you drop the work ball, it bounces up and you can catch it. If you drop any of the other balls, they will break. The environment is very important for your well-being as health, inspiration, instincts and behaviors are contagious according to many studies.

80/20 PRINCIPLE. 20% of the activities do 80% of the work. 20% of the 20% most important activities are 4%. These 4% make a bigger difference than the other 16%. Once you have found out what your top 4% are, remind yourself each morning. Study others who have entered the same field. And most important of all: dare to close the door to less valuable activities: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone”.

THE ONE THING. Successful people build their lives and their schedules around their “one thing”. Focusing on the most important things by definition gives an unbalanced life, but having a “balanced life” is not necessarily normal. For millions of years human life has been about working – it might not be a bad thing.

”The people who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours. They achieve them by getting more done in the hours they work”. “If disproportionate results come from one activity, then you must give that one activity disproportionate time”

SEINFELD´S CHAIN. What do you need to do in order to do what you want in 5-10 years? Connect today with days ahead, otherwise you will walk without a compass. Seinfeld said that the way to become a good comedian is to write at least one joke every day. To build a habit, he made a cross in the calendar every day when writing a new joke. No day was allowed to pass without a cross, the chain would be unbroken. It takes three months to build a habit before momentum and motivation take over. “Success is actually a short race – a sprint fueled by discipline just long enough for habit to kick in and take over”.

WRITE DOWN GOALS. Studies have shown that those who have written goals had 40% greater chance of reaching them, and those who also sent follow-up to friends had a 77% greater chance of reaching the goals (you are held responsible for your results). Also, do not be afraid to set high goals – if you want to do x, focus on how you can do 2x. If you set high goals, you are in principle guaranteed to achieve at least the first goal.

SET ASIDE 4 HOURS A DAY. Each morning we have a full battery but will use up the willpower during the day. Do not fight against this, but design your days so that you have time for four hours “the one thing” when the energy is high – every day. Preferably try to find a job that overlaps with “the one thing”. If you get 4 hours per working day, it will be about 900 hours per year. If you also get four hours a day in self-study, it will be 1,460 hours. In one year there are almost 2,400 hours in “the one thing” and in four years the 10,000-hour rule is met.

SWIPE FOR MINES. “The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook”. Multitasking is bad for productivity. Studies show that on average we are disturbed every 11 minutes and spend about a third of the working day recovering from distractions. Mute the phone and shut down all web pages.

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