I grabbed this book from the library because it's been so highly recommended, and because I've been enjoying the backlash to Busy Culture the last couple of years. I've been finding that my life feels much better when it's not packed to the gills and I can focus on only a couple of things that matter. Because I started that process years ago, many of the ideas here are ones I've seen elsewhere. I think if I'd read this five years ago it would have been a life-changer.
The ideas in this book are simple to articulate but not easy to implement: some tasks will have bigger results than others, so you should spend more time on them. Don't try to do everything at once, think of it as dominoes that fall one at a time—the first one should set you up for the second one. Multitasking is a lie. You should get enough sleep if you want your brain to work. Your purpose should inform the things you choose to work on. Focus means saying "no" (with the obligatory Steve Jobs reference).
The central question they pose is this: what's the ONE thing I can do such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? They suggest applying it to many different areas of your life: spiritual, physical, personal, relationships, job, business, and finances. So "For my physical health, what's the ONE Thing I can do to ensure that I exercise such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?"
I wish they'd unpacked this question more, and included even a single example. It's not obvious in my work what is most important—there are many skill areas I could focus on. It also makes it seem like learning or skill development are the most important things, and Doing The Work is an afterthought, which is a little puzzling. The devil is in the details here and the book is very short on details. (This seems like a gap that Top Performer is meant to fill, since it helps you figure out what matters most for success in your field)
I did find it useful to get some reminders of these ideas, and leave these here as notes to myself:
- Set your goal a little higher than you think you can get.
- Start the day on uninterrupted time on your one thing, and then spend the rest of the day on everything else.
- Clear a path to your timeblock—see if you are getting waylaid by distractions.
- Other things will fall by the wayside and feel chaotic, and you will probably feel guilty about it. You might just have to be ok with this. (This is related to saying 'no' to things in order to do the one thing well). I struggle with this!
- There is a difference between trying to do the best you can do and trying to do the best that can be done.
Bottom line: it's a quick read, so pick it up if your life feels full and cluttered, or if you don't currently have a regular planning session built into your week and month. It'll take you hours to read and years to implement the ideas.