The ONE Thing: Book Review

The ONE Thing was written by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan and first published in Great Britain in 2013 by John Murray Press, Hodder & Stoughton.

The best books usually make the argument that so-called time management is really about choice, focus and self management rather than attempting to manage time. Thousands of books have been written on the subject and I have wasted time reading a few of them – finding bits here and there that work for a while but never quite give me the answers I am looking for.

While Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People made sense at the time and it definitely made me change my thinking, I have found that seven things are too much for my tiny brain to remember! 😉

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen was another book that influenced me a number of years ago. But I would be hard-pressed to remember the five steps he suggests or any other snippets of advice that I could quote today as having become a part of how I manage myself or my time. 

The ONE Thing is different. In arguing for focus, it really keeps things simple with a very clear and uncluttered approach. Being based on one question repeatedly asked (in very slightly differing ways which could admittedly get old or annoying quite quickly) to drill from big picture to small detail it feels easy to remember and to adopt straight away. For me, it’s very reminiscent of the Toyota way of asking Why? five times.  

I won’t ruin the book for those who want to read it, and I’m sure the authors wouldn’t be too pleased if I gave away the key question. 

The authors quote research that says it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit. So even in its simplicity, they are not promising quick wins like so many self-help evangelists do. 

The ONE Thing is based on a premise provided by a Russian proverb, За двумя зайцами погонишься – ни одного не поймаешь (Za dvumya zaitsami pogonish’sya – ni odnovo nye poimaesh’)  If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither.

It espouses blocking off time each day to focus on something (not a new idea and one which I have read in many books), which I think ignores relationships. It is not as easy as simply turning down a meeting request from your manager. But it is hard to argue with the logic that time devoted to key goals rather than being bogged down or disturbed by less important stuff has a compound effect. 

The authors use a domino metaphor and illustrate quite well that from research proven in 1983 that a smaller domino is capable of knocking down a domino fifty percent larger than its own size: starting with a standard domino (which would in turn knock down a domino 1.5 times its size) by the 10th iteration, the domino would be the height of an American football quarterback; by the 23rd, the Eiffel Tower; and the 31st taller than Everest. Their metaphor is not lost on the reader in saying that by working on important things each day in a focused way, we can achieve great things.

Ask me in 66 days if I got results!

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