The One thing by Gary Keller book summary and PDF

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller [BOOK SUMMARY & PDF]

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller is a must-read for anyone interested in productivity and personal improvement. This book clearly defines why productivity is the perfect vehicle for getting what you want an living an extraordinary life. The advice in this book is incredibly practical and the full copy of the book is well worth the read.




For a great summary of The ONE Thing, check out this video review from one of my favourite bloggers, Pat Flynn:




Who is this book for?

The ONE Thing by Gary Keller is a must-read for anyone interested in productivity and personal improvement. This book clearly defines why productivity is the perfect vehicle for getting what you want and living an extraordinary life. The advice in this book is incredibly practical and the full copy of the book is well worth the read.

About the author

Gary Keller initially excelled in the Real Estate world, originally a sales manager he became co-founder and chairman of Keller Williams Realty International. Considered to be the worlds biggest real estate company. He puts the rapid growth down to his leadership, teaching, and coaching. Named a finalist for Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the World there’s no doubt that Keller is a successful businessman. He aims to educate as a leader, an author, and a keynote speaker.

In this summary

We’ll begin the summary by discussing the concept of the ONE thing and how it’s applicable to everyone. We’ll move on to summarise the six lies that Keller believes we need to ignore before we reach his explanation of the path to productivity. Finally, we’ll examine Keller’s advice on achieving the results you want and how to unlock your own potential.



The ONE thing is really as simple as it sounds, it’s about finding out what matters, and ignoring the rest. As Keller explains “going small” means focusing purely on what you should be doing, not simply what you could do. Equality is great, but when it comes to tasks and priorities, they don’t all matter equally. If you can identify the things in your life that are most important and matter the most, you’ll be able to connect with them and be more successful.

”It’s realizing that extraordinary results are directly determined by how narrow you can make your focus.”Click To Tweet


We can all picture a lineup of dominoes and what happens when you knock over the first one. Keller explains that unfortunately, real life is not quite so simple. It’s not a matter of everything being lined up in a simple and straightforward line, with a clear starting point and a clear destination.

”Highly successful people know this. So every day they line up their priorities anew, find the lead domino, and whack away at it until it falls.”

Be successful

Keller explains that successful people understand and live the ONE thing. This is because it’s an actionable and functioning truth that leads to success. If you can find a way to apply the ONE thing to your work life and your personal life then you’ll find yourself on the road to success.


Keller believes that there are six lies that we get told over and over, these seem like truths and are detrimental to our success. We have to acknowledge these for what they are, lies, discard them, and move on.

Majority vs. Minority

The first lie that Keller talks about all about effort and results. He explains that the Pareto principle explains that: the majority of what you want will come from the minority of what you do.

”Extraordinary results are disproportionately created by fewer actions than most realise.”

the one thing pareto principle

Keller expands upon this and explains that it doesn’t stop there. If you take 20% of the 20% and continue this pattern, you’ll find the one single thing that matters the most.

Starting with a large list doesn’t mean you won’t get there in the end, you just have to eliminate the non-essential until you reach the ONE thing that is essential, the ONE things that gets the results.

Is multitasking productive?

In today’s fast-paced world it’s easy to assume that we simply do not have enough time in the day. But, Keller points out that this is not true. We have plenty of time, the problem is that we try to squeeze too many things in that time. If we took a little bit of pressure off and used our time appropriately, we would be able to focus on the ONE thing and reach success.

”We double and triple up in the hope of getting everything done.”

the one thing multitasking

Discipline = success ?

An easy assumption to make is that successful people are all disciplined. However, Keller wants you to know that this is a myth.

”You can become successful with less discipline than you think, for one simple reason: success is about doing the right thing, not about doing everything right.”


A common comparison that many authors make is the one between willpower and a muscle. Keller explains that just like your muscles, willpower needs rest when it is over-used. Although it may be incredibly powerful when used appropriately, it simply can’t go on forever. Success cannot be credited to willpower alone, everyone’s willpower dwindles, no one is exempt.

the one thing willpower

Life balance

Everyone’s always going on about maintaining an appropriate balance. That your energy and focus must be shared. However, Keller explains that in order to reach your goals and to have extraordinary results, you need to focus on the ONE thing that matters most, it may require all of your time but is necessary to reach the success you are after.

”When you act on your priority, you’ll automatically go out of balance, giving more time to one thing over another.”Click To Tweet


”I learned that success comes down to this: being appropriate in the moments of your life. If you can honestly say, “This is where I’m meant to be right now, doing exactly what I’m doing,” then all the amazing possibilities for your life become possible.”

The #1 Question

Keller explains that there is only one question that you need to be able to answer. And when you have the answer, you’ve already uncovered the route to success and results:

the one thing one question


Habits, both good and bad are something we all have. Keller explains that although they are difficult to both break and create, we are actually creating new habits all the time. Just by starting to think or act a new way, and by continually doing this over a period of time, new habits re-established. Keller emphasises the choice you have in your own habits. If you want to establish new habits that will help drive you in the direction you want to go in life, then you absolutely have the ability to. Ask yourself Keller’s number one question: “Whats the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”

Questions & Answers

We’ve all heard the saying that there’s no such thing as a stupid question. But Keller encourages you to ask GREAT questions. By doing this, you are trying to figure out how you can pursue your great goal. If your question is big and specific then you’ll likely receive a big and specific answer, just what you need when you are pursuing your goals.


”Your big ONE Thing is your purpose and your small ONE Thing is the priority you take action on to achieve it.”

Keller explains that if you want to be productive, you need to use your purpose as our compass. Use it to guide you to your next actions. This, according to Keller is the key to success and results.

Without personal productivity, business and profit will suffer. It’s inevitable that you need to be productive in order to achieve the results you are after. Businesses being run by unproductive people aren’t going to succeed. Keller explains that are great business is literally built one productive person at a time, that without these sturdy, productive foundations, the business will crumble.

Have purpose and prioritise

”Purpose is the straightest path to power and the ultimate source of personal strength—strength of conviction and strength to persevere. The prescription for extraordinary results is knowing what matters to you and taking daily doses of actions in alignment with it.”

Keller explains that not only is purpose our path to power, but it shapes our lives in relation to whatever priority we assign to our purpose. If you don’t prioritise your purpose, then you’ll have no power behind it and you’ll get nowhere.

In relation to long-term goals, Keller explains that once the goal is set, you need to break it down into individual actionable steps that you can be actioning right away.

the one thing goal setting


By now, Keller has made it pretty clear that productivity is the driving force behind your successes. Keller explains that using your calendar to block off time dedicated to your ONE thing is the key to making sure you get the work done. Make sure you physically block of the hours you want to dedicate to your ONE thing. And do it every single day, you want this to become an established habit.

”Everything else—other projects, paperwork, e-mail, calls, correspondence, meetings, and all the other stuff— must wait.”

the one thing time blocking

Keller really believes in time blocking as the key to scheduling your work. By making an appointment to work on your ONE thing you are making a commitment to yourself.

”Great success shows up when time is devoted every day to becoming great.”Click To Tweet

Make three commitments

Keller believes that there are 3 key commitments you need to make when time blocking with the purpose of reaching your goals:

  1. Adopt the mastery mindset. By committing to mastery, you are aiming to be your absolute best at whatever you choose to focus on. By being your best you’ll achieve the best results.
  2. Continually be learning the better way to do something. Just because you’ve been doing something for awhile and it’s working doesn’t mean it’s the only or best way to be doing it. Always be learning.
  3. Hold yourself accountable. You are responsible for your ONE thing and only you. Make sure you do everything you possibly can to reach this goal.

Kellers 4 thieves

Keller’s already explained that there are 6 lies but further to that, he outlines the 4 thieves, these are what will prevent you from reaching your goals by getting in your way, wasting your time and affecting your productivity. You’ve got to do everything you can to prevent these from getting in the way of your goals:

  1. Inability to Say “No”
  2. Fear of Chaos
  3. Poor Health Habits
  4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

Keller’s parting words

”A life worth living might be measured in many ways, but the one way that stands above all others is living a life of no regrets.”

Keller explains that by having a purpose that you prioritise, and are able to be productivity you are well on the road to achieving the extraordinary results you dream of.


Key Takeaways

  • You need to determine what your ONE thing is, what’s the ONE thing you want to really focus on and work towards achieving?
  • This ONE thing becomes your purpose. Now you need to prioritise this.
  • Action this by implementing time blocking in your calendar, schedule the time required to work on your ONE thing and commit to it.
  • Remember that the majority of what you achieve may only come from the minority of what you do. It’s not necessarily an equal distribution.
  • Multitasking is not the answer. You might get more things done but at a lower quality. Focus on your ONE thing.
  • Life balance isn’t always going to be achievable if you want truly extraordinary results, you have to give everything to your ONE thing.
  • Learn how to say no to unnecessary commitments.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed The ONE Thing then definitely check out Essentialism by Greg McKeown. This a must read for people interested in productivity and getting more done. It's a real eye-opener which challenges you to think about what's important and how you're spending your time. The book guides you through the process of saying “no” to the “trivial many” so you can focus more on the “essential few”.

It is worth checking out Leo Babauta’s book; The Power of Less. A guide on how to de-clutter your life and work to create more time for the important things. Leo explains how identifying the essential aspects of your life and eliminating all of the non-essentials can allow you to focus on goals and aspirations that can continue to change your life for the better.

While Keller’s approach is focused on business, Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up focuses on similar concepts but within your personal life. Her book is a really interesting read all about being more organised and intentional with what you choose to own. She explains how this can impact your way of thinking and perspectives on life. This book is ideal for anyone who is looking to transform their life a little bit and get rid of the non-essential.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps

  • Establish what your ONE thing is.
  • Commit to using a calendar and try time-blocking.
  • Focus primarily on your ONE thing. This is now your priority, the rest can wait.
  • Download the complete book on Amazon

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above-mentioned author and publisher.


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