iStock_000018747661XSmallIt is the hardest appointment to keep. It is the one with yourself. But that is the foundation of “the one thing.”

Dr. Stephen Covey in the 7 habits of highly effective people called it habit 3: first things first. Making an appointment with yourself and setting forth the agenda as to which project, or “one thing” you will work on, is at the nucleus of habit 3 and of Gary Keller’s concept of focusing on the one thing. But the biggest problem is not making the appointment, it is keeping it.

In terms of goal-setting Keller believes there are three types of goals, doable, stretch and possibility. (Keller 123).

  • The doable goals are easy and you probably will not have to change much to achieve a normal you have to put out a lot of effort. You already know how to do the doable goal.
  • The next level up are the stretch goals. While it is still within your reach it is a trip to the outer range of your capabilities to get this one done. You might have to do some research and put in some extra effort but it is still within the realm of achievable and probable if you pay the freight. (Keller 123).
  • High achievers however focus on the possibility goals. These are the hardest to come by but by extending yourself to achieve them you’ve expanded and enriched your life for the better (Keller 124). When Kennedy set the mission of going to the moon within the decade that was a possibility goal. The possibility answer exists beyond what is already known and already being done (Keller 124).

I love this goal setting metaphor by the way. It’s useful now as we’re at the end of this year and many of us look to set goals for next year. But as it relates to implementing the One Thing is this a doable goal, a stretch goal or a possibility goal for you? If it’s doable, then do it. For others, it might be a stretch goal, but you can still get there with a little effort. Read on for some strategies on how to do that.

For me, I have known “the one thing” as Habit 3 since 1997 when I first became certified in the 7 habits of highly effective people, but I have yet to successfully implement it in my life. I’m sure many of you have had the same experience. We have been told or taught the “simple” solution but the implementation of that simple solution has been beyond our reach.

If you want extraordinary results sometimes you have to look below the surface. Personal productivity is the building block of success (Keller 24).

So this is my biggest challenge: protecting the time I have scheduled to work on the one thing. I do not see it as a doable goal, nor has a stretch goal but a possibility goal because I will have to adopt new behaviors, that are outside my comfort zone, like ignoring emails, texts and telephone calls during that hour, and I will have to develop new strategies in order to be successful.

It sounds simple, ignoring emails and such, but many of you know that it is not. Even while composing this blog I was interrupted with a very important phone call from tech-support about an issue that is affecting both of my computers. In my business,being without my computer is like a NASCAR driver without his car. It just don’t run. I had to interrupt my “one thing,” time in order to take the call. By the time I was off the call I had another pressing appointment I had to get to.

But these are the decisions that must be made when trying to implement “the one thing. When you schedule a block of time you are instructed to protect it as if you were going to meeting with your most important client or boss. But we also all know that even with our boss or our most important client we must sometimes step out, particularly for issues that could threaten the very business. Also challenging this strategy is that when you have an appointment with yourself you know that you can step out without really upsetting anybody else other than yourself, and you can deal with you. That’s why implementing “the one thing is so hard.


Another important reason, and motivation, to adopt “the one thing,” is that it supports you becoming an expert. When you were focused on doing many things competently, but doing one thing extraordinarily well you will become the expert in your organization or your industry (Keller 161–162).

Both Stephen King and Jerry Seinfeld made writing (books or jokes respectively) their one priority. I think their success validates the power of ‘the one thing.’  Seinfeld also used a calendar and put a big red X on every day that he wrote jokes;  after a few days he got to the point where he did not want to break the chain.

In order to be successful go small. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 he reduced the company from 350 products down to 10. (Keller 192). I don’t need to go into how successful that made that company as I sit here composing this blog on my iPhone, and will shortly upload to my MacBook to get this on the Internet.

You must learn the fine art of saying no (Keller 206) A challenge I have is that whenever I say no I feel I have to explain all of the other things I am doing and the reason I cannot take on whatever task, but unless it is your boss or there is some ramification coming back to you for saying no, sometimes simply saying “I just don’t have time for that right now,”works wonders. You might have to say “I don’t have time to do this right now but I will, [and give them some date].” Sometimes the problem solves itself before that day comes up.

“Will your current actions get you to where you want to be in one year, three years, five years, 20 years?” (Keller 209). Extraordinary results require you to go small. Stephen King focused on writing. That’s it. Of course he has other interests and hobbies but his daily focus was writing. I have just finished the first chapter of “Dr. Sleep,” and was already scared, and I know it’s fiction!

Just look at how getting small and focusing on the one thing, which is quite simple as compared to being focused on everything, can have extraordinary results. A laserbeam is effective because of it’s ability to focus all of that light energy into a very small space.

What are you capable of doing if you took all of your energy and just for an hour each day focused it on one very small space? And what regrets will you have if you never do that? How will you feel if you get to the end of your life and never pursued your life’s mission, your purpose, your dream – maybe this is all we get. This one life and eternity is spent thinking about how we lived it. Failing to focus on the one thing, could be a scarier end for you than King could ever devise.

Keller, Gary, and Jay Papasan. The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth behind Extraordinary Results. Austin, TX: Bard, 2012. Print.

Adopting an Airport Text for Your Classroom?Get it Now