The Business Book Review: The ONE Thing, Gary Keller

At the beginning of the year, I decided to sign-up for a business book club. I used to read business books all the time, but in eliminating my former commute by moving steps away from my office, and becoming a mom with a full-time business, reading time got squeezed out of my day. I’ve always been a big believer in continual learning though, so I was determined to get back into the habit. A book club meant a group to be accountable to, and a good resource for recommendations.

Fortunately, the pace isn’t too crazy. We cover one book per quarter, and meet once per month either in person or virtually (members of the book club are spread out across the country). As you might imagine—this being a business book club—the meetings are either bright n’ early, or in a conference room with BYOL (bring your own lunch). No wine and cheese here.

We recently wrapped up The ONE Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan. The book was initially published in 2013, so it’s entirely possible you may have already read it. To that I say: it is also a keeper for re-reading. And if you haven’t read it yet, you’ll want to add it to your “to read” list, even though I felt a bit prickly when I first started reading it. Why? Because it forces you to take a good look at how you’re really spending your time. It calls into question the value of ye olde to-do list, and states plain and simple: multi-tasking doesn’t work.

Once I got past the first section though (titled “The Lies: They Mislead and Derail Us”) and had accepted some of the errors of the typical ways, I started to really “get” the book, especially once I gained an understanding of the “Focusing Question”—“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” The question may seem a bit unwieldy at first, but when you really start thinking about it, you can’t help but focus on what you should truly be doing at any given moment. Keller further breaks down the question into three parts, and then also frames the question as a “Big-Picture Question: What’s my ONE Thing?” and also as a “Small-Focus Question: What’s my ONE Thing right now?”

The Focusing Question kicks of Part 2 of the book that centers on productivity, including habit building and benchmarking. Part 3, “Extraordinary Results” helps the reader put it all into action, including the concept of time blocking—one of my favorite strategies for making progress on my ONE Thing.

Each chapter summarizes the key action items with “Big Ideas” and the book comes pre-underlined, as if you’ve got someone else’s copy and they did the highlighting for you (although I still covered mine in my own yellow highlighter, and my kiddo added in a few drawings of her own).

A whole program has grown out of the book, including training, workshops, podcasts, helpful worksheets, and live events. Check it out here. And if you happen to get a physical copy of the book, be sure to remove the book jacket for a little “aha” moment.