"The ONE Thing" by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan


"The ONE Thing" (2013) is written by Gary Keller, the co-founder and chairman of the largest real estate company in the US, and by Jay Papasan, the executive editor and vice-president of publishing at Keller Williams Realty.

The title of the book refers to identifying and accomplishing the single most important task in one’s life at each moment of their life, and then moving on to the next one thing. Everyone has limited time and energy so by focusing on the single most important task at that moment, a person can achieve extraordinary results.

Authors of "The ONE Thing" Gary Keller and Jay Papasan ( image source ).

Authors of "The ONE Thing" Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (image source).

The book helps readers discover their most important goal and gives them tools for managing time to be as efficient and effective as possible. The book also disproves common work-related myths such as multi-tasking, and provides a new set of guidelines to follow. At the end of each chapter, the authors restate key information and give actionable insight to readers.

Towards the end of the book, Gary and Jay give advice on how to live life with priority, purpose, and productivity, without having the other areas of life get out of balance.



1) Everything is NOT Equal

When everything feels urgent and important, everything seems equal. We become active and busy, but this doesn’t actually move us any closer to success. Activity is often unrelated to productivity, and busyness rarely takes care of business.
— Page 33

One of the first lessons readers learn is that not all tasks matter equally and that success doesn’t come from doing the most, yet that is exactly what most people believe. For example, promotions aren’t handed out to the person that sends the most emails, but rather the person who achieves the best results.

Achievers focus on the essential. They pause before working to identify what matters and then get to work. Achievers always have a clear sense of priority even as new tasks are added. They are able to identify their tasks, and then narrow their focus on the most important thing, knowing that that task will achieve the greatest result.


This isn’t just a theory, it’s backed by Pareto’s Principle, also known as the 80/20 Principle. It proves that a minority of the inputs usually leads to a majority of the results (ex. 80% of a company’s revenue comes from 20% of its clients). In other words, a large amount of the results comes from a small amount of effort. This inequality of effort can be found in wealth distribution, employee output, and almost every aspect of work.

So instead of having a to-do list which is long and cluttered. Have a success list, a short list that aims at accomplishing the top five tasks and then focus on the most important one.



2) Multitasking is a Lie

When you try to do two things at once, you either can’t or won’t do either well. If you think multitasking is an effective way to get more done, you’ve got it backward. It’s an effective way to get less done. As Steve Uzzell said, ‘Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.’
— Page 44

The authors write that people can do two or more things at once, such as walk and talk or read a map, but people can’t focus on two things at once. This is an important difference. When someone attempts to multitask, what they are actually doing is bouncing their attention back and forth between two tasks.

This is known as “task switching.”


When switching between easy tasks such as watching television and folding clothes, it is relatively quick and painless. However, if someone is working on a sophisticated Excel spreadsheet and a co-worker comes in to discuss a business problem, the complexity of the tasks will make it almost impossible to easily jump back and forth.

Switching tasks also increases the chance of being distracted since the brain isn’t focused on anything during the switching period. By focusing on two tasks, attention becomes divided and as more tasks come into play, attention drops lower and lower.


Researchers have found that multitasking is ineffective, causes more stress, and takes longer to accomplish tasks. Even talking on the phone while driving can take up to 40% percent of a person’s focus, the same effect as being drunk.

When you find your one thing, give it your absolute attention and don’t multitask, this will lead to real results.


3) Good Habits Equals Good Life

When we know something that needs to be done but isn’t currently getting done, we often say, ‘I just need more discipline.’ Actually, we need the habit of doing it. And we need just enough discipline to build the habit.
— Page 55

Habits make the daily activities of life easier since the task has been repeated so many times it can be done with minimal effort in an autopilot like state. The secret then is to make the hard stuff into habits so that it will become easier (ex. Going to the gym for the first time is hard, going to the gym for a bodybuilder is easy).


Doing the same task over and over again will eventually lead to a moment when it becomes automatic or ingrained in the person’s life. Although some self-help circles claim 21 days is the secret number of days needed, the authors say that modern science doesn’t back that up.

Instead, research shows that it takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit.


Researchers also found evidence of a halo effect around habit creation. Students who successfully acquired one positive habit reported less stress, better diets, and even consumed less alcohol and tobacco. By focusing and achieving one positive habit, it will become easier to develop the next one.

There’s a great quote in the book that says, “People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.” Strive to create the best habits possible so that you create the best future possible for yourself.



When I first heard of this book I wasn’t fond of it because of its click-bait title and get-rich-quick vibe. However, a friend strongly recommended reading this book, and since I trusted him, I bought a copy. I’m glad I listened.

The book provides advice, backed by scientific studies, on how to be more productive and effective. It will teach you how to prioritize tasks, manage time, build good habits, use willpower properly, set goals and more. The authors also provide readers will additional tools and information at their website here. I highly recommend reading this book if you want to be more productive and improve your quality of life.

Rating: 5/5 Stars


If you’re interested in reading the book, click here or on the image below!

  • Book: "The ONE Thing" by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan
  • Pages: 240
  • For: People who want to become better at managing their time and be more productive
  • Lesson: Learn how to manage your time efficiently and effectively, achieve more, and find greater clarity in your career and life


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