Tim Gittos

I'm an Australian currently living in Austin, TX in the USA.

I currently earn a living programming, though I wouldn't call myself a programmer. If I had to attach a label to myself, I'd use the term autodidact.

I love learning, and my favorite things to learn about are programming, computer graphics, AI & machine learning, robotics, painting and creativity.

Book Notes: The ONE Thing

Last updated on 30 Jan 2014

Amazon: The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results
(referral link – help me buy new books!)
ISBN: 1885167776
Read: 2013-12-18 (stopped)

I stopped reading this book about 30% in. Not because I thought it was bad, or the advice in the book was bad, but because I feel like I’d extracted the major point of the book – working on the one most important thing that reaches your goals will be more productive than trying to get lots of irrelevant tasks finished faster.

After transcribing my notes, however, I realise I was learning more from reading than I thought, so I will probably revisit this book as soon as I’m done with what I’m currently reading.


Like The Creative Habit , I intended to synthesize my one sentence excerpts into cohrerent sentences, but didn’t. Also, due to the fact that I didn’t finish this book, I don’t think that I could do it justice to do so.

Following are one sentence notes/excerpts from the book that I wrote down in my notebook as I read, in their raw form. They still probably contain some value.

“What’s the one thing you can do this week such that by doing it everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”
Success follows focus- success varies when focus does
Go small – do less things that have a large effect instead of many things that have a small effect
Geometric progressions of dominoes – a dominoe can knock down another dominoe 50% larger – tasks are dominoes
Find the first (dominoe) and work on knocking it over
Success is built sequentially over time – not simultaneously
One thing manifests in many ways:
– One person
– One passion/skill
(The one thing can change)
Passion → Skill → Results → Enjoyment → back to Passion
One thing should be specific, not generic – “be totally awesome” is not valid
Don’t trust everything you hear – especially if it sounds true.
6 lies between you & success -
1. Everything is equal
2. Multitasking
3. A disciplined life
4. Willpower is always on Will-Call
5. A balanced life
6. Big is bad

1. Everything is equal
Not everything important is urgent – when everything feels urgent & important, everything seems equal. Active & busy != productive
Achievers work with a clear sense of priority
Instead of todo list, succes list – list of stuff that will make you successful
What matters most right now?
A todo list with Paretos principle applied is a success list
Apply Pareto continuously until left with one thing
Say “no” more often – doesn’t matter whether it’s “not now” or “never”

2. Multitasking
Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time
The cost in terms of extra time from having to task switch depends on how complex or simple the tasks are – it can range from time increases of 25% or less for simple tasks to well over 100% or more for very complicated tasks
Our brain has channels, and as a result we’re able to process different kinds of data in different parts of our brain
Take on two things and your attention gets divided. Take on a third and something gets dropped.
The problem of trying to focus on two things at once shows up when one task demands more attention or if it crosses into a channel already in use (senses – sight, smell, hearing, touch, taste)
Multitasking short-circuits us:
1. Limited brain capability – dividing tasks up incurs cost in time and effectiveness
2. The longer you’re switched from a task, less likely to switch back. Loose ends pile up
3. Lose time switching tasks. Lose 28% of avg. workday to context switch.
4. Chronic multitaskers think tasks take longer to complete than actually required
5. Multitasking causes mistakes – make poorer decisions by favoring new information over old, even if old is more valuable
6. Causes stress
Multitasking can be fatal – surgeosn and pilots are expected to focus on their jobs.
Rest of us live by another standard – is our job less valuable or important?
Your work deserves no less respect

3. A disciplined life
Achievement doesn’t require full time discipline – sprint of discipline for long enough for habit to take over
We need just enough dicipline to build the habit
Disciplined people have just trained habits
Success is about doing the right thing, not doing everything right
Takes an average of 66 days to acquire a new habit
Build one habit at a time (no multitasking!)

4. Willpower is always on Will-Call
Powerful motivation won’t guarantee willpower
Using willpower effectively should be a high priority
When you have will, harness it
Willpower has limited battery lif, can be recharged with downtime
Each act of will decreases available willpower
When willpower fails, fallback on default behavior
What are your default behaviors? (linking back to habit)
Make doing what matters most a priority when your willpower is highest

5. A balanced life
Viewed wistfully as a noun, balance is lived practically as a verb (not something you have, something you do)
If balance is middle, out of balance is when away from middle
Living in middle is unextraordinary
Knowing when to pursue middle and when to pursue extremes is wisdom
Magic never happens in the middle – magic happens at the extremes
Don’t strive for balance – strive for counterbalance
Never go so far in one direction that you can’t find your way back, or stay so long that there is nothing waiting for you when you return (don’t neglect one aspect so long it atrophies)
Act on priority, automatically go out of balance
Challenge is in how long you stay on priority

6. Big is bad
Fear that big success causes pressure and stress