I have an affinity for reading and watching movies. However, I find myself much more able to recall visual elements and movie quotes then I do recalling what I have learned from books. With that in mind I am setting out to read a lot more in 2018, so I thought I would get a jump start in 2017 by reading 3 books in December. One is short, one is pretty average (The One Thing) and, the last one is really long.
I decided that in order to increase retention I would do two things:
- Before I start reading a book, I place a notecard in each chapter and proceed to take notes after reading each chapter
- Write a book review of every book I read that month
The Focus Question
If you take nothing away from the book this is it:
What’s the One Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
That simple question asked every day can have a profound impact on your productivity.
The focus question encompasses the macro and the micro:
What’s the One Thing you can do this year such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
[break that down further]
What’s the One Thing you can do this month such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
[break that down further]
What’s the One Thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
[break that down further]
What’s the One Thing you can do today such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?
As you can see if you start with the macro you can easily work your way to the micro. Figuring out your One Thing for the year can help you figure out what progress you can make this month, this week, and finally today.
To stay on track I have started using Momentum Dash in Chrome each day as a result of reading this book. It asks you your focus each morning and then you see it every time you open a new tab.
Adapt the mindset of someone seeking mastery. Doing so requires not a sickening work ethic that ruins your diet and keeps you up all night working. But rather, a deep understanding of what’s truly important and effective towards reaching your goal. Then scheduling long, 2-5 hour time blocks to work on them each day and fiercely defending those time blocks.
The idea of the Maker’s Schedule and Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham also appeared in the book which I found to be an extremely pragmatic approach to working. The idea isn’t complicated at all. There are two types of schedules:
The Manager Schedule is where you schedule in one-hour time blocks throughout the day to accomplish single tasks. This schedule is perfect for meetings, admin work, phone calls, and managerial work.
The Maker Schedule is the schedule of people who make things, such as designers, writers, and programmers. Typically, they prefer to use time in units of half a day at the very least.
When operating on a Maker’s Schedule, a meeting in the middle of your half-day time block can be a disaster. It can ruin your creativity by taking you out of your state of flow, or worse can prevent you from really starting or finishing your One Thing for the day.
I’ve since adopted a Maker’s Schedule for the mornings between 4:30 and 7:00. This time block is where I get the bulk of my writing and creative work done. The Manager’s Schedule takes up the rest of my day at work and when I get home I perform admin work for my writing like researching, editing, and publishing articles.
A Tale Of Two Brothers
One of my favorite stories from the book was an exchange between two brothers.
Alex Van Halen would go out each night and Eddie Van Halen would be in his room practicing lead guitar. Alex would come back many hours later from a party or visiting friends and find Eddie in the exact same spot he left him practicing guitar.
That short story is a really cool testament to something we all face which is Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). What makes the story really cool is that even though Eddie Van Halen was likely experiencing the desire to want to go out and be like his brother he instead stayed true to his craft and kept working on his One Thing. This work ethic is likely what took him from being alone with his guitar on Saturday nights to selling out arena’s not too long after.
Building A Bunker
My final note on the idea of time blocking is I that loved Gary’s idea of “building a bunker.” The bunker you build is where you go to work on your One Thing with minimal or no distractions.
It has necessary elements like the tools you need to work. For me, it is my laptop or tablet. But it also includes things that you might otherwise be forced to leave to acquire in a time of need like a sweater if you get cold, a glass of water, snacks, headphones, pen and paper, your research materials, etc.
This bunker should be figuratively impenetrable when you are in the zone each day.
They even went as far to include a door hanger for your bunker that you can rip out of the book.
Challenge What’s Possible
How much did I make freelancing in 2017?
Think about how much effort it took to get there. If you doubled that effort and focused on the right One Thing each day could you make double the income?
Gary Keller says to double it again, then triple it, quadruple it, and keep going until the number scares you.
Is it possible? Can it be done?
The book also pushes you to find a coach or teacher in everything you do. Find someone who has done what you have set out to accomplish and learn as much as you can from them.
Asking The Right Questions
I’m a big fan of the Socratic method which in short is the disciplined practice of questioning our assumptions often so we can better determine if they are valid or not. Utilizing the Socratic method really stimulates critical thinking and can draw on some truly amazing realizations and even change the way we think and approach our learning experience.
Gary Keller’s book is riddled with really good questions that get your mind racing and debating itself. Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers.” This book has got me starting to make lists of excellent thought-provoking questions. Ones that push right through all the bullshit I feed myself, right past any excuses or limiting beliefs and gets down to the core of what I’m capable of doing and what I should be doing.
The One Thing Summary
To be honest, it is one of the best books I have read since first reading the 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss back in 2012. This isn’t a book that I’m going to read once and let it sit on the shelf. I can see myself reading it at least once a year. I’ve already recommended it to friends and
Buy your copy on Amazon. [no affiliate link]
What did you think of the One Thing?
Tell me in the comments below.
or we can discuss these two quotes I found really thought-provoking:
“Anyone who dreams of an uncommon life eventually discovers there is no choice but to seek an uncommon approach to living it.” – Gary Keller
“Work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls– family, health, friends, integrity– are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” – Gary Keller