Book Review: The One Thing

Book Review: The One Thing
24 July 2013 John Moore

Why do some people achieve great things whilst others struggle to get almost anything achieved in work and in life?

In search of the Holy Grail to success, I have read hundreds of books about time management, personal effectiveness, the secrets of success, the purpose of life; some have been biographies of successful entrepreneurs, sports stars and celebrities, some have been self help books and many have been less useful than others.

So why take time to read The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. It is not that the book holds all of the answers, nor does it provide totally unique ideas and insights. It is because it re-presents lots of ‘stuff’ you already know, but in a thought provoking and enlightening way. It is an excellent self help book which explains how to prioritise tasks when there are is avalanche of things to get done in the near term. The book shows how people quickly lose focus and accomplish little or nothing in an attempt to get too many things done on an immediate basis.

The authors advise people to stick to one thing or a few things until completion before taking on other tasks. This translates to narrowing focus. A corollary is that one thing at a time advances the world. In addition, do the most important thing first when everything seems to matter. A related concept is to choose to do the right things correctly.

The authors discuss the behavioural dimensions of getting things done too. Once a new behaviour becomes a habit, less discipline is required to maintain the new way of doing things. Habits are important because these instilled behaviours help to determine our future success.

The book discusses analysis paralysis and the stultifying effect this has on getting anything done. In essence, the new rule is to get ahead by getting started. Mark Twain warns people of internalized biases in the popular phrase: “What you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

The One Thing is a great little book which addresses the dangers of analysis paralysis and the lack of focus in trying to wade through too many items on the agenda. The authors make it clear how to set priorities to begin getting the right things done the right way. This book will benefit management at virtually every level in an organisation.

The presentation is enjoyable and very easy to read. It is divided into easy-to- read anecdotes and stories, built around some simple, yet effective ideas including:

  • The six lies standing between you and success and how to beat them
  • How willpower is not always ‘on will-call’ and how to use it as effectively as possible
  • How to construct a ‘Focusing Question’
  • How to navigate the path to great answers by using the ‘Great Question Matrix’
  • How to time block

I read the book whilst on holiday as it is an easy read. There are parts that I thought, ‘bla, bla bla’, but it really did help me to reflect and re-connect with some of the ‘One Things’ on which I need to focus. For the serial reader of self help books on personal effectiveness, it is a great refresher. For those who have not explored the topic in any depth, it is a terrific read and one I definitely recommend to anyone seeking to get more from their day to day read.

John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.

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