I had picked up and read through this book a long time ago and the one takeaway that I got from the book was to focus on the one thing that is going to make everything else easier. If you are starting a business, focus on selling. If you are developing a keynote speech, you want to work on the outline and message because from there, you’re going to have a much easier time writing out your speech.

But I picked up the book again and decided to re-read it and boy am I glad I did. I found a few more things that while not amazing, were certainly worth reminding myself again. I also like how this book also shares a number of findings and lessons learned about discipline, multi-tasking, willpower, living a balanced life and then talks about how to achieve extraordinary results (read my takeaway above). Here is what I got from the book that I found useful:

Multi-tasking is a myth

I used to think that I could be a good multi-tasker. I would switch from task to task or try to do different tasks at the same time and thought I was really successful, but what I didn’t do was actually measure the time it took me to do the different tasks at once (and then compare that with the time it would take to do them separately) and then assess the quality of the outputs of the different tasks done at the same time vs. done separately. What I probably would have realized would have been the same conclusion as the book shares – multi-tasking is not effective for tasks that require deep thinking. You can certainly multi-task different things – say listening to a podcast while working out or watching TV while washing the dishes. These do not require a tremendous amount of focus or thinking though. What you don’t want to do is try to listen to a podcast while writing that business case. Or have a conversation about your relationship while trying to develop that powerpoint presentation.

Willpower is a finite resource

Preserve your willpower. Minimize the decisions that you have to make early on in the day and save that ‘willpower energy’ for the big decisions, the hardest tasks, the things that you do not want to do but should be doing. It’s why Mark Zuckerberg wears the same clothing every day. Or why President Obama only had two suits. What does this mean for you? Eat the same thing every day for breakfast. Lay out your clothing or minimize the variations in your work clothing when dressing for work (for example, wearing the same suit but changing the shirt). Minimizing the decisions that you have to make also means getting into specific routines that you automatically do so that you don’t have to think about what you’re going to do first thing in the morning (meditate / exercise).

Work life balance does not work

The author talks about the backstory of the concept of ‘work life balance’ and suggests that we reframe it to something else because we will never achieve balance. He calls it ‘counterbalance’. Sometimes you do need to spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy to do something that will propel you forward professionally or personally. The important thing is to make sure that you say no to anything that is not your ‘one’ thing that will significantly help you progress in life.

Here are some things that I thought about as I read the book:

  • What are some of my most ambitious goals that I want to achieve (for example, the book says to multiply your income by a certain number – a number that would be impossible for you to achieve if you continued on your current path) and to then identify the one action that you can take to reach that goal
  • What are things that I can say no to that I’m not currently doing? Are there things that I am saying yes to that are not contributing to my one thing?
  • The overall theme of the book applies to a lot of things – how do we find more customers? Focus on getting one more customer. How do we start writing? Focus on one paragraph every day.