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Hijacked - Four Thieves of Productivity

Posted by Douglas A Wick on Mon, Feb 22, 2016

The_One_Thing_-_Extraordinary_Results-3In Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results Keller shared Six Lies that prevent you from achieving your One Thing.

Just as there are the Six Lies that will deceive and mislead you, there are Four Thieves that can hold you up and rob you of your productivity. No one will protect you from these thieves.  It’s up to you to be aware and build a defense system to help keep you on track to Your One Thing.  

We all start out with good intentions, and we all are guilty of being sidetracked.  We must recognize as John Carmack, co-founder of id Software states, “Focus is a matter of deciding what things you’re not going to do.”


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

Let’s explore each briefly providing the necessary understanding to be aware of the consequences of poor vigilance to these bandits.

  1. Inability to Say “No” Early in his career Keller was told one “yes” must be defended over time by 1,000 “nos.” Simply put, the way to protect what you’ve said yes to and stay productive is to say no to anyone or anything that could derail you.  When you say yes to something, it’s imperative that you understand what you’re saying no to.

Screenwriter Sidney Howard, of Gone with the Wind fame, quote sums this up well, “One-half of knowing what you want is knowing what you must give up before you get it.”

To succeed big is to go small. When you go small, you say no—a lot. Best example of this is Steve Jobs. He was famously proud of the products he didn’t pursue. In the two years after his return in 1997, he took the company from 350 products to ten. That’s 340 nos, not counting anything else proposed during that period.  At the 1997 MacWorld Developers Conference, he explained, “When you think about focusing, you think, ‘Well, focusing is saying yes.’ No! Focusing is about saying no.” The mentality you must maintain is, you can’t please everyone, so don’t try.

When do you say yes? Only when a request is connected to your ONE Thing should it be considered.

  1. Fear of Chaos When you focus on just one thing, messes are inevitable. Focusing on ONE Thing guarantees a consequence: other things don’t get done. Even though that’s exactly the point, it doesn’t automatically make us feel any better about it. There will always be people and projects not a part of your biggest single priority. You will feel them pressing for your attention. There will always be unfinished work and loose ends lying around to snare your focus. The deeper you commit to your ONE Thing, the more the pressure mounts for you to come up for air and address everything you’ve put on hold. Eventually it can feel like even the tiniest leak might trigger an all-out implosion. Keller explains it this way, When this happens, when you give in to the pressure of any chaos being left unattended, it can be a total relief. But not when it comes to productivity. It’s a thief!  The truth is, it’s a package deal. When you strive for greatness, chaos is guaranteed to show up.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola warns us that “anything you build on a large scale or with intense passion invites chaos.” Keller’s advice, get used to it and get over it.

“The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook.” — William James. When you commit to your ONE Thing each day, extraordinary results ultimately occur. In time, this creates the income or opportunity to manage the chaos.

  1. Poor Health Habits Personal energy mismanagement is a silent thief of productivity. We’ve discussed this many times previously in this blog, most often referencing Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz’s The Power of Full Engagement Oscillate.  Keller notes, “When people don’t understand the power of the ONE Thing, they try to do too much—and because this never works over time, they end up making a horrific deal with themselves. They go for success by sacrificing their health. They stay up late, miss meals or eat poorly, and completely ignore exercise. Personal energy becomes an afterthought; allowing health and home life to suffer becomes acceptable by default.” High achievement and extraordinary results require big energy. Here’s Keller’s simple plan he calls


  • Meditate and pray for spiritual energy.
  • Eat right, exercise, and sleep sufficiently for physical energy.
  • Hug, kiss, and laugh with loved ones for emotional energy.
  • Set goals, plan, and calendar for mental energy.
  • Time block your ONE Thing for business energy

Keller notes the productivity secret of this plan: when you spend the early hours energizing yourself, you get pulled through the rest of the day with little additional effort.

  1. The_One_Thing_Create_a_Productivity-Specific_EnvironmentEnvironment Doesn’t Support Your Goals Have you ever moved and been without your office for any length of time? You quickly understand how environment impacts your productivity.  I’ve recently gone through this.  Unable to utilize my office felt like chaos. Your environment must support your goals.  To achieve extraordinary results, the people surrounding you and your physical surroundings must support your goals. People influence you daily. These individuals impact your attitude, your health—and ultimately, your performance. To surround yourself with the right people is the right thing to do. While attitude thieves will rob you of energy, effort, and resolve, supportive people do the opposite. They encourage and assist you. Being with success-minded people creates what researchers call a “positive spiral of success.” They lift you up and send you on your way. Your mother was right when she cautioned you to be careful of the company you keep.  No one succeeds alone and no one fails alone. Pay attention to the people around you. Seek out those who will support your goals, and show the door to anyone who won’t. The people in your life will influence you and impact you—more than you give them credit for. Give them their due.  Make sure the sway they have on you sends you in the direction you want to go.


Start saying “no.” Always remember that when you say yes to something, you’re saying no to everything else. It’s the essence of keeping a commitment. Start turning down other requests outright or saying, “No, for now” to distractions so that nothing detracts you from getting to your top priority. Learning to say no can and will liberate you. It’s how you’ll find the time for your ONE Thing.

Accept chaos. Recognize that pursuing your ONE Thing moves other things to the back burner. Loose ends can feel like snares, creating tangles in your path. This kind of chaos is unavoidable. Make peace with it. Learn to deal with it. The success you have accomplishing your ONE Thing will continually prove you made the right decision.

Manage your energy. Don’t sacrifice your health by trying to take on too much. Your body is an amazing machine, but it doesn’t come with a warranty, you can’t trade it in, and repairs can be costly. It’s important to manage your energy so you can do what you must do, achieve what you want to achieve, and live the life you want to live.

Take ownership of your environment. Make sure that the people around you and your physical surroundings support your goals. The right people in your life and the right physical environment on your daily path will support your efforts to get to your ONE Thing. When both are in alignment with your ONE Thing, they will supply the optimism and physical lift you need to make your ONE Thing happen.

This concludes my guided tour of Gary Keller’s The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

Have you ever had someone say to you, “people don’t change.” Do you believe them?  Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland offers an interesting take on change.  You’ll learn more about Scrum and what the person who told you, “people don’t change is actually telling you next blog.

Topics: One Thing, change, Focus, productivity

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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