A few years ago, Gary Keller and Jay Papasan wrote a book they called The One Thing. They distilled their primary message into one sentence:

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

This is not an easy question to answer. It will be different for everyone. It also won’t be that obvious.

What’s my one thing?

You’re probably wondering what my one thing is. I’ll tell you. It’s going to bed on time the night before.

That’s it.

If you listened to the recording when you signed up, then you’ll know that I’m a morning person. I like getting up around five AM. I feel as though I’ve lost an important window of opportunity if I get up after 5.30.

For you, that may still be the middle of the night, but for me it’s essential if I expect to have a chance of accomplishing the things that I want to on any given day.

Of course, to get up at five means being in bed, lights out, no later than nine. While I’m sleeping, you may be watching the news or still waiting for it to come on.

We’re different. You have to accept that.

Your one thing is different from mine, but you’ll still have to find it.

Nothing will change until you do.

A different perspective

Now I want you to think about this from a different perspective, one which the authors overlooked.

Here’s my question:

What is the one thing that you can do such that by doing it everything else will be harder or necessary?

I want you to think about that because my guess is that there is one thing that you do every day that does more to prevent you from accomplishing what you set out to do than anything else. There is something you do that sabotages your best efforts.

I’ll pick on the obvious ones.


Are you in your Inbox first thing in the morning?

What about social media? Are you “dying” to find out what has happened in the lives of your friends since you went to bed the night before? (They were probably sleeping, too.)

Or the news? Maybe there’s a big story that you’re following, or maybe you’re a closet news junkie that has to know everything that’s going on in the world.

What do these things have in common?

What do all of these things have in common, and how could knowing what they share help you to find that one thing that I’ve been talking about; that one thing that is holding you back?

The one thing they all share is that they are distractions.

When we think about distractions, it’s usually in the sense that one thing led us to do something else and that led us to do something else, and so on. Surfing the web is like this. You go to a page to read one thing, and then you see a link that looks interesting. When you click on it, you see two more. Pretty soon you can’t remember what you had intended to read in the first place.

But there’s another side of distractions that you need to be aware of. It’s that they break your concentration.

When you allow that to happen, that is you give yourself permission to be distracted from the task at hand – because that’s what you’re doing –  you deliberately divert your attention from one thing to something else; and in so doing, lose the ability to concentrate. This is why distractions hold you back.

Let me say that again: When you allow yourself to become distracted, you break your concentration.

Why does this matter?

Why does it matter if you let your guard down?

Why is it so important to remain focused?

It’s for the simple reason that if you don’t, then you’ll find it almost impossible to get back to where you were. There will be too many other things swirling around in your head. That’s one of the real dangers of letting yourself become distracted.

You know this to be true for yourself.

Maybe you’ve experienced it while reading a novel or watching a television program or something else. You’ve stopped to get a drink, a snack, to make a phone call, or to play with the dog.

When you allow your mind to be interrupted, it’s always harder to concentrate again on whatever you were doing before.

And it doesn’t have to be willful distractions either. Managers also experience this problem. It’s why so many of them go to work before everyone else arrives. They know that once the interruptions begin, they’ll never be able to concentrate for long enough to accomplish anything.

What’s your one thing?

So what’s your one thing?

What’s the one thing you can do such that by doing it everything else becomes easier or harder, unnecessary or essential?

When you can answer those questions, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish.

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