One Big Thing

William Liao
2 min readMar 30, 2022

Yesterday, I came across a document of ‘Big Lessons’ written by Shaan Puri.

In it, he introduces a helpful concept that he calls ‘One Big Thing’ or ‘OBT’ for short, which is inspired by Gary Keller’s book “The ONE Thing.”

The concept is powerful and straightforward: identify the one highest impact thing you can do each day. And once you execute on that One Big Thing, everything else you do is icing on the cake.

Puri makes a valuable distinction, noting that ‘impact’ isn’t the same as ‘difficult.’

Some days your One Big Thing will be an all-day affair where you make as much progress on a project as possible; other days your One Big Thing might be as simple as reaching out to someone you’ve been meaning to connect with.

I like the spirit of picking One Big Thing because it’s very much akin to the idea of Working Smart. Unlike a conventional to-do list, it forces you to think more carefully about quality versus quantity, Busy versus Effective, and Return on Energy — the amount of progress you make per unit of energy that you commit to something.

Identifying One Big Thing at the beginning of each day is a quick way to help ensure that your efforts are fruitful instead of wasted — that what you do will create meaningful outcomes.



William Liao

Taiwanese American, daily blogger of ideas about impactful work in service of others, photographer (