3 Takeaways from The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan

Essentialism by Greg McKeown 3 Takeaways | ProductiveandFree.com

If you can relate to increasing demands from work, your business, your relationships, or elsewhere, if you feel like you’re doing too much and at the end of the day, accomplishing too little, then The One Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is for you. 

This book is all about examining everything you have on your plate and boiling it down to your ONE thing, your priority, your first domino, such that by doing that one thing, this would help you be productive, align with your purpose, and reach your goal.

Here are my 3 takeaways:


01. Implement Goal-Setting to the Now

The authors introduce this powerful process called “goal-setting to the now” where basically you think about one goal, any goal, that you want to achieve one day. Whatever it is, list it down. 

Next, in order to reach this someday goal, identify the one thing you can do in the next five years. Now that you have your five-year goal, ask yourself, what’s the one thing you can do this year? Then again based on your one-year goal, what’s the one thing you can do this month? After, based on your one-month goal, what’s the one thing you can do this week? Based on your one-week goal, what’s the one thing you can do today? Lastly, based on your goal today, what’s the one thing you can do right now?

And, as you can see, this process can be extremely insightful. You can take your someday goal, no matter how big or small it is, and connect it to what you should do right this moment. 

To reach big things is possible, all you have to do is start small. Start with the ONE thing. 

This is also effective in reverse — given the one thing you’re doing right now, ask yourself, will this activity help you reach your goal today, your goal this week, this month, this year, in five years, and your ultimate someday goal?

Now think of the domino effect. If you’ve played with dominos before, then you know that a single push of one domino that’s part of a sequence of dominos is enough to knock them all down one after the other. 

The amazing thing is that a single domino can actually knock down one that’s bigger than the first, up to 50% larger. So mathematically speaking, this is called geometric progression — even if your first domino is only 2” tall, it could later topple objects as high as a building, a mountain, and eventually, even the distance of the earth to the moon. 

All because of that ONE push. 


02. Habitually Ask the Focusing Question

The Focusing Question is this:

What's the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary? 

Here's the breakdown:

  • What’s the one thing - not three things, or 10 things, ONE.

  • I can do - meaning a possible action you’re indeed capable of

  • Such that by doing it - meaning there’ll be an effect to your action

  • Will make everything else easier of unnecessary - this refers to the first domino, the first task that will cause a chain reaction or become leverage against any other future action.

Now, what you can do is ask yourself this question in relation to the area of your life you’re focusing on. It could be for your career, your finances, your personal life, or any other.  

So, for example, in your business: What’s the ONE thing I can do to offer the best product…

Or in terms of your physical health: What’s the ONE thing I can do to become healthier and stronger… 

Now, in order to achieve extraordinary results, we need to consistently identify and do the one thing. In short, we need to habitually ask the Focusing Question. Research, according to the book, states that habit formation takes 66 days so try that out and by the end of it, you’ll no doubt see yourself much closer to your goal.


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03. Protect Your One Thing with Time Blocking

The third and last takeaway I want to share with you is time blocking which the authors refer to as “productivity’s greatest power tool.”

The same principle is applied when you schedule important activities — a doctor’s visit, a DMV appointment, a client meeting — these things rarely get postponed because they’ve been scheduled, or, in essence, time blocked. And so, the act of doing your one thing should be protected in the same way, or even more. 

This means scheduling a non-negotiable amount of time each day devoted to doing your one thing. Of course, this means no distractions or multi-tasking. Turn off all notifications, avoid emails and meetings, close your door and hang a “do not disturb” sign if you have to. 

Remember, identifying your ONE thing is only one part of the equation. The other part is actually ensuring that it gets done.



It was a nice surprise for me that these concepts are exactly what I’ve actually been writing about even before reading this book. The value of identifying your Single Most Important Task Now, or SMITN as I call it, the importance of scheduling, prioritizing tasks in your to-do list… these concepts aren’t uncommon when it comes to productivity and yet, this book explains everything in a simple and straight-forward manner. It even has illustrations to help drive home the point.

So if you haven’t yet, I highly recommend picking up The ONE Thing. It’s definitely one of my favorite books! Then feel free to leave a comment below: what are YOUR three takeaways? What’s YOUR one thing right now?


Since one of the best ways to improve ourselves is to commit to continuous learning, this post is part of the blog mini-series called 3 Takeaways where I discuss three insights from thought-provoking leaders, books, and podcasts. 

My purpose initially was to simply read more books, but the learnings were too valuable to keep to myself.  My goal has since been to share the vital lessons that will help you be productive and free. 

Want to read this book yourself?

Click here to grab your copy of The ONE Thing from Amazon.com* 

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*Disclosure: These are affiliate links which means if you click and purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.