The One Thing Book Summary (by Gary Keller): My Three Takeaways
Today I want to talk to you about the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. This is my quick summary of The One Thing (and my biggest takeaways).
It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite books. It’s an amazing personal development book that has really helped me focus on what needs to get done, so I can push my businesses forward.
I just finished reading The One Thing a few weeks ago. I’m a little bit behind the times, I know it has been a big book that hit the entrepreneurial scene a few years back. But I just finally got around to reading it. Today, I want to share a couple of my biggest takeaways because I was pretty moved by the book.
Today, I’m going to share with you my three biggest takeaways from The One Thing, and I’m going to give you a bit of “the one thing book summary”.
P.S. I highly recommend you listen to my podcast episode where I go into detail about my takeaways from The One Thing (one of my most popular episodes).
What to Expect
Every time I finish a non-fiction book (personal development or business book), I make three notes in the back of the book. I take a pen and physically write a few notes on the inside of the back cover. I write down my three biggest takeaways that I learned from reading the book. That’s exactly what I did with The One Thing by Gary Keller. That’s is what I am going to share with you today. My three big takeaways, this is what I wrote down in the back of my copy of The One Thing.
The One Thing Book Summary (Quick Summary)
The title is kind of obvious. It is titled “The One Thing”. And that’s what the book is about!
What is the one thing that you can focus on to improve your life, or improve your business?
What’s the one thing that you can focus on every single day that will push your life and your business forward?
That’s basically the entire concept of the book, but the book goes into a lot more detail. That two-sentence summary does not do the book justice and does not cover everything in the book. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the gist of it. In fact, in the book, Gary Keller gives you what he calls “the focusing question”. It’s the question that you ask yourself every single day. The question focuses you for the rest of the day, to focus on one thing that will push your business forward.
The Focusing Question (The One Thing)
The focusing question, to ask yourself daily is: What is the one thing I can do, such by doing it, that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?
It’s a pretty powerful question. I’ve actually been asking myself this exact question every morning since I finished reading the book. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been asking myself What is the one thing I can do today, such by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary in my business?
Since I learned this question, I’ve been reformatting it every single day to make sure I’m focusing on what is pushing my business forward. There are different ways to phrase this question. Gary Keller gives you a bunch of different variations of this question in the book. You can use this question in your personal life, your job, or your business that you’re trying to push forward. Here are some examples of how you can use the focusing question:
- 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 week to be closer with my spouse and children?
- What’s the one thing I can do today to take me one step closer to losing twenty pounds?
- What’s the one thing I can do this month to produce better work, such that by doing so, everything else is easier or unnecessary?
Think on the question after you ask it. Meditate on it. Let it sit and simmer. Think on one real true answer to the question before you take action for the day.
My Focusing Questions
So, in my case, I’m asking myself variations of these questions every day:
- What’s the one thing I can do to push my business forward?
- What’s the one thing I can do to hit this specific goal?
- What’s the one thing I can do to generate $50,000 in monthly income by 2025?
- What’s one small step I can take today? That will put me light years ahead, five years from now, that if I keep doing it every single day, I will get to where I want to be in five years from now in my business and in my personal life.
I’m asking myself these questions so I can focus and get really really narrow and specific on one small task.
That is the big premise of the book The One Thing. In the book, Gary Keller goes into much, much more detail. But that is basically what the book is about, this one focusing question and the one thing that you can do to drive your life, your personal life, and your business forward.
Now let’s get into my three biggest takeaways from the book The One Thing by Gary Keller. For the rest of this blog, I am going to breakdown my biggest takeaways from The One Thing Book.
Takeaway #1: Time Block – Four Hours Per Day on your One Thing
My biggest takeaway from The One Thing, one of my three takeaways, is that you should be spending a minimum of four hours per day on your “one thing”. In the book, Gary Keller calls this “time blocking”. Block off four hours per day to spend time focused on your one thing, the one thing that will push your business and personal life forward (while making all else easier or unnecessary).
With time blocking, Gary Keller recommends blocking off your first four productive hours of the day. That is, the first four hours of your workday or productive day after your morning routine (after walking the dogs, dropping the kids off at school, etcetera…). Block off the first four hours, the first hours that you can sit undisturbed for four hours straight without distraction. In these first four hours, only focus on your one thing. Don’t do anything else. Don’t touch email, don’t go on Facebook, don’t text your friends. Put all else away and focus solely on your one thing.
This really stood out to me. In my case, I’m looking at where I spend my hours each day. Four hours is a big chunk of time, where does all my time go? For me, I spend my hours answering emails, replying to text messages, checking Facebook, checking Reddit, and I’ll find myself going off on tangents and researching a new business that I’m not going to start for five years. I found that my day to day can be really unfocused.
In my case, emails are not my priority. That is NOT my one thing. Answering customer service emails for my online courses, or for my dog website, those activities are not going to drive my life forward. It’s necessary, it has to be done at some point, but it’s not my one thing and it’s not my one priority right now. My one thing, and what I’ve really been focusing on lately after reading this book, is making personal connections. Helping entrepreneurs, coaching, and serving are what will drive my business forward.
So, I am spending my four hours focused on my one thing, by serving people and helping entrepreneurs because that is what will drive my business forward as I launch these new group coaching programs and online courses. I serve people and I build my network, that is what is pushing my business forward.
That is my biggest takeaway from The One thing. Spend four hours per day on your one thing. You have eight productive hours in a day, assuming you are working a traditional eight-hour workday. Take four of those productive hours in your day and time block, the second four hours of your day can be used for housekeeping tasks like emails and social media. Block off four hours per day and focus on your one thing. Don’t let anything or anyone disturb you during these four hours, and don’t multitask. Spend four hours on your one thing, every day, and you will make insurmountable consistent progress toward your goal.
Takeaway #2: Think Big to Act Big (Set 20x goals)
Takeaway number two, and a big one for me, comes in the form of one simple question: Do you think big and act big?
Gary Keller says in The One Thing that the only actions that become a springboard to success are those actions that are informed by big thinking. In the One Thing book, Gary Keller goes on to talk about setting your goals WAY bigger than you have them set right now, setting them five to twenty times bigger than what you have originally set.
This takeaway hit me pretty hard. My goal has been to make $10,000 in income from my online businesses every single month. And I’m now right around that mark. I hit $11,000 in May of 2020 and $9,000 last month. So, I’m right around that mark, that $10,000 per month goal that I’ve set for myself. But I can feel myself being limited by that goal; I can literally feel it limiting me with the actions I take. I’m thinking small.
With my $10,000 goal, I’m thinking, “I need to write two more blogs and get a little bit more affiliate commission from my dog website selling more dog toys.” That’s small-scale thinking. Writing another affiliate blog, one in which I only make about $1 per sale of a dog toy, that’s low margin.
Or, with the $10,000 goal in mind, I’m thinking “let me spend three months writing a new insurance course that will maybe get one sale per month.” That would result in an extra three hundred dollars per month because I just need a couple more thousand in income per month to be consistently hitting that $10,000 per month range. Again, that’s thinking too small.
I’m thinking small because my goal is small.
After reading this book, it hit me. I’m realizing now that I’m not setting big enough goals. Gary Keller goes on to say something along the lines of the bigger the plan and the higher the goal is, even if you fall short and don’t reach that 20x goal, you are going to surpass your original goal. If you 20x your goal but only reach 5x, you are still way further ahead than you would have been if you focused all of your efforts on a smaller goal.
One of my favorite quotes states: “Shoot for the stars, so if you fall, you land on a cloud.” Meaning, if you aim high, even if you fail to achieve your lofty goals you will still achieve far more than if you had not set a high goal. This is the premise of my second takeaway from The One Thing. Aim higher to reach higher levels of success.
My New Goal
My new goal is $50,000 per month. $50,000 in monthly income.
How did I reach that number? Well, all I did was 5x my original goal. My original goal was $10,000 in income per month. So, I multiplied that goal by five. That’s why earlier I stated one of my focusing questions as “What’s the one thing I can do to generate $50,000 in monthly income by 2025?”
This change in my goal, this change to aiming high, has drastically shifted my thinking. Now I’m thinking big. Now my wheels are spinning faster. Rather than thinking about writing a new blog post to get $5 extra dollars through the Amazon Affiliate program, now I’m thinking “What can I do to meet this new goal? $50,000 in income every single month. How do I help more people, how do I reach more people?”
Maybe I need to increase the price of my Scale Your Business Course. If I increase it to $500 per sale, then I need to sell 100 courses per month to reach $50,000. If 1 in every 200 people that visit my website buy a course (0.5% conversion rate) then I need 20,000 people to visit my website every single month (20,000 x 0.5% = 100 sales). Great, how do I do that? Maybe I blog more, maybe I podcast more, maybe I do more coaching to build more superfans. Or maybe I write that book, the one I have been wanting to write, to bring in more qualified leads that are ready to buy my course as an upgrade to the book. Or maybe I look into launching a new product. Maybe my new product is a mastermind, and I charge each member $1,000 per month. Then I only need 50 members in a few mastermind groups to reach that $50,000 per month goal.
You can see how my thinking is expanded here. Rather than selling a couple of new affiliate products here and there, or hustling to get 20 new email subscribers, I’m thinking bigger.
I’m thinking bigger because my goal is bigger.
That is my second biggest takeaway from The One Thing. To think bigger, you must have bigger goals. With bigger goals, your mind will look for conclusions about what actions you need to take to reach that bigger goal.
Whatever your goal is, 5x to 20x it and think bigger. Think bigger and reach higher.
Takeaway #3: Willpower is a Scarce Resource
Willpower is a scarce resource. That is my third and final takeaway from the book The One Thing.
Your willpower is drained throughout the day, every activity you do contributes to the drainage of your willpower. That’s why, at the end of a long workday, you feel drained. That’s why it’s so hard for people to motivate themselves to exercise at the end of the workday. You spend all of your energy during the day in meetings, answering emails, and putting out fires that you have no willpower leftover to exercise by the time you get home. So rather than working out, you sit down and watch TV to recharge. And there is nothing wrong with sitting down to relax and recharge, that’s how willpower works! You don’t have unlimited willpower; it needs to recharge. You need to step back and take a break to recharge it.
That is why it’s so important to focus on your one thing, to focus on the tasks that will push your life and your business forward, and make the most impact. If you focus on meaningless tasks like emails and meetings, your willpower will be drained so you have no energy or motivation left at the end of the day to do that one task that will push you forward.
My Willpower Adjustment
I absolutely feel this in my business and my day-to-day life. When I sit down and I’m answering customer service emails as my first task in the morning and I spend hours replying to emails saying “Oh, here’s how to change your password for your online course”, that doesn’t fill me up with energy. That absolutely drains my energy. It drains my willpower. Then, when I go to coach one of my clients that day or go to serve and help entrepreneurs, I’m mentally not there. My willpower is drained.
I used to do this. I used to start my day by answering emails and checking social media. I used to start my day by draining my willpower.
That is no longer the case. I have absolutely flipped this in my morning routine. Now, my first focus is the four-hour time block. My first focus, where I spend the majority of my willpower, is on my “one thing” I spend it helping, serving, and coaching people because that’s where my mind needs to be. That’s where I need my energy. After my four-hour time block is up, once I’m done coaching and teaching entrepreneurs for the day, then I spend my remaining hours and willpower on the less important tasks (the ones that don’t need my full willpower) like emails and social media.
Your Willpower Adjustment
That is my last takeaway from the one thing. It’s an important one.
Willpower is a scarce resource.
Remember that tomorrow when you begin your morning routine. Make sure your first task tomorrow is your most important task, the number one task that will push your business and life forward because you are going to get drained throughout the day. You don’t have unlimited willpower, so focus your fully charged willpower on your most important “one thing” as the first task of the day.
Remember that your willpower is being drained with each task that you do during the day. Every email you answer, every text you send, every errand you run. You can literally feel the willpower leaving your body. The willpower will be gone for the rest of the day, it’s scarce. It only refills the next day after you rest and step away, and sleep. Remember that willpower is a scarce resource. Make sure you are taking maximum advantage of your willpower. So that first thing, when you feel that willpower in the morning and you are motivated, spend it on something that’s going to push your business or your personal life forward.
The One Thing Book Summary: Conclusion
So that’s it. Those are my three big takeaways from the One Thing book.
- Takeaway #1 – Time block four hours per day. Use the focusing question to determine what you work on in your four-hour time block. The focusing question is “What’s that one thing I can do today, such by doing it, that everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?”.
- Takeaway #2 – Set bigger goals. Dream bigger, think bigger. Set bigger goals and let your mind figure out the “one thing” that’s going to help you reach that bigger goal, that one thing you can focus on every single day that will get you closer to your outrageous goal.
- Takeaway #3 – Willpower is a scarce resource. Focus your willpower on the task that will push your business forward. Focus your willpower on your one thing. Do not waste your willpower on tedious useless tasks that don’t improve your life and your business. Willpower is scarce, it is drained during the day, so focus your willpower on the important tasks that will make a difference.
That’s it! That is the One Thing book summary, the book by Gary Keller, and my takeaways. I highly recommend checking out the book the One Thing. You can purchase the book on Amazon here. It’s a great read and one that I will definitely come back to in the future.
Final Thought – My Process With Personal Development Books
In closing, I want to recap on my process here. As I mentioned earlier, every time I finish a non-fiction book (personal development or business book), I make three notes in the back of the book. I take a pen and physically write a few notes on the inside of the back cover. I write down my three biggest takeaways that I learned from reading the book.
This is something that I have started doing over the past year. I actually picked this up from P.J. Jonas. She was a presenter, a speaker at the Free the Dream conference in 2019, and she briefly mentioned what she does with personal development books. She essentially said, there is so much information to digest and remember in these incredible personal development books and business books, that you just simply cannot remember everything you read. So, what she does, is after she finishes reading the book, she writes down her three biggest takeaways. She doesn’t take any notes throughout the entire book, she reads it through once and when she gets to the last page, she lists her three biggest takeaways. She deliberately does not take any notes until the end because, by the time she gets to the end, there’s so much content to consume that the three biggest points that stand out are probably the most important takeaways. Those three bullets at the end, after you take a little time to digest what you read, are the most important takeaways. Those are the three things that are going to change your life and improve your business the most.
I stole this idea from PJ. Now, every time I read a non-fiction book; I write down my three biggest takeaways in the back. I love it. If you write down those three big takeaways, you can refer back to them later. You don’t have to go back and reread the entire book, just flip to the last page and review your notes of the biggest takeaways. Though, you probably should go back and reread these personal development books. I typically read a good personal development book (like The One Thing) two or three times through. Each time re-reading, I come away with a different perspective or a different takeaway.
For the first time reading through a personal development book, I’m not taking any notes. I don’t take any notes on my way through, I’m just reading and consuming. I’m not trying to remember and take notes on every single minor little detail. I just read, and when I get to the end of the book, THEN I’ll think back on what I read. There are typically a couple of major things that I remember, that stand out and resonate with me. That’s what I write down. I write down my big distinctions and takeaways in the back of the book.
I have been doing this for years now. Now, I can go back to my bookshelf and pick up some of my favorite books like Think and Grow Rich, The Big Leap, Story Brand by Donald Miller. I can go to those books, flip to the last page, and see what were my biggest takeaways at the time. It will spark some ideas for me and encourage me, it brings me back to the time when I was reading that book and I was moved by that book and will give me a little bit of a spark to keep me motivated. It’s a little quick hit personal development because I wrote down a brief note, so when I read my notes I can say “Oh, yeah, I remember from reading Tony Robbins book that if I change my physical state, I can change my emotions!” and I can re-implement that quick bit of personal development back into my day-to-day life.
That’s what I do with personal development books because you can’t possibly soak it all in. You can’t possibly consume every little nugget of knowledge from the book. Just try to take away three big distinctions. That is what I do, and I recommend you do the same.
That’s exactly what I did with The One Thing by Gary Keller. That’s what I shared with you today. My three big takeaways, this is what I wrote down in the back of my copy of The One Thing.
I recommend you do this going forward, it has been a huge help with my personal development.