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SME Guide

Secrets of the Super Successful: What Top Performers Know About Focus from “The ONE Thing”

Book Overview

“The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan is a bestselling time management book that reveals the simple secret behind extraordinary success – finding and relentlessly focusing on your most important goal or priority. Through case studies of top performers, Keller and Papasan provide a practical framework to identify your “ONE Thing” and systematically remove distractions to achieve phenomenal results.

Core Idea of the Book

The core concept of the book is that being laser-focused on your top priority goal is the key differentiator between success and mediocrity. Based on the Pareto Principle, the authors posit that around 80% of results flow from just 20% of activities focused on a single “ONE Thing”. By saying “No” to almost everything and consistently investing time in the most high-leverage activity, true success and fulfilment can be attained.

Six Lessons from the Book

The book distils key lessons on achieving extraordinary success through focus:

Lesson 1: Success Demands Focus on a Singular Priority

Super successful people are disciplined in identifying and staying focused on their ONE most important task or objective. They avoid getting distracted by multitasking or pursuing too many priorities.

Lesson 2: Focus on Activities That Best Leverage Your Time

Focus your time where it counts the most. Eliminate low-value activities and shift the freed-up time to high-value activities with the biggest payoffs aligned to your goal.

Lesson 3: Follow the 80/20 Rule

80% of your results come from just 20% of your activities focused on the ONE priority that matters most. Identify and spend time on high-impact tasks within your control.

Lesson 4: Don’t Just Set Goals, Schedule Them

Turn your top priority goal into specific, scheduled actions rather than leave them as vague aspirations. Book focus time on a calendar and protect it from interruptions.

Lesson 5: Beat Distractions to Maintain Focus

Distractions are everywhere trying to steal your focus. Overcome them by working in quiet isolated places, shutting off devices and avoiding energy drainers.

Lesson 6: Focus Takes Mental and Physical Energy

Stay mentally sharp and energized through proper rest, nutrition and mindfulness practices. Renewal precedes focus. Manage your energy, not just time.

Applying the Lessons in Business and Life

The 6 powerful lessons from “The ONE Thing” can be applied by professionals, entrepreneurs and individuals to accomplish extraordinary outcomes:

For Professionals

Professionals can apply the focus principles to excel in their careers:

  • Identify your ONE objective for the year to propel your career like getting a promotion or new skill.
  • Focus on high-leverage activities that make an impact like building key relationships or taking on strategic projects. Stop low-value activities.
  • Schedule focus hours for important work. Block your calendar to avoid disruptions during these times.
  • Beat distractions by shutting email/phones during focus time and working from quiet spaces.
  • Maintain energy with exercise, proper sleep and healthy eating habits.

For Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs can use the concepts to rapidly grow their ventures:

  • Determine the ONE make-or-break priority for your business, whether it is perfecting product-market fit or building a sales engine.
  • Focus on vital revenue-driving tasks each day like lead generation and sales conversions rather than get overwhelmed by distractions.
  • Create a rock-solid routine that allows you to consistently invest time on your ONE priority daily. Guard this time zealously.
  • Block distractors by delegating, automating and outsourcing peripheral activities. Work in isolation.
  • Recharge regularly with short breaks amid intense work. Maintain energy through proper sleep, diet and exercise.

For Individuals

Individuals can apply the lessons to achieve personal goals:

  • Identify just ONE worthy life goal you want to achieve whether career growth, starting a business or getting healthy.
  • Focus daily on incremental progress through priority actions like learning new skills or exercising. Don’t get sidetracked by TV or social media.
  • Schedule focus time into your calendar and protect it from interruptions. Set office hours for important projects.
  • Remove distractions by keeping phones away, shutting email notifications and minimizing social obligations.
  • Rejuvenate yourself through meditation, family time, weekends or vacations before continuing your focus.

Critique of the Book

While the book provides many powerful insights on achieving extreme success through focus, it has some limitations:

  • The concepts are directed more towards ambitious professionals and entrepreneurs. Implementing them may be difficult for average performers.
  • It does not address how to balance focus on work with responsibilities outside like family, health and community.
  • The notion of ONE priority is debatable. Some scenarios may require managing multiple priorities simultaneously.
  • The book focuses on time management more than energy management. Greater emphasis on renewing mental energy could have been beneficial.
  • There is limited discussion of teamwork, collaboration and people management, which are key success factors in business.

Key Takeaways

The core takeaways from “The ONE Thing” are:

  • Success requires an extreme, laser-like focus on your most important goal by saying no to almost everything else.
  • Schedule your biggest priority into your calendar and protect focus time zealously.
  • Follow the 80/20 rule – focus on the 20% of activities that drive 80% of results.
  • Beat distractions to maintain focus through isolation, turning off devices and blocking energy drainers.
  • Focus requires managing mental and physical energy through proper nutrition, sleep, exercise and renewal activities.


“The ONE Thing” provides a simple yet powerful roadmap for professionals, entrepreneurs and anyone seeking extraordinary success to identify their most important objective and systematically focus their time and energy on it. While extreme prioritization may not suit everyone, the book does offer many takeaways on eliminating distractions, beating procrastination and achieving laser-like focus to excel. By blocking out mental clutter and relentlessly focusing on your number one priority day after day, truly phenomenal outcomes become possible.

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