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The Power of One

People often confuse busy and productive

We’re terrible multi-taskers

The common practice we found among the highest-ranked performers in our study wasn’t at all what we expected. It wasn’t a better ability to organize or delegate. Instead, top performers mastered selectivity.

Business people often confuse business terms. No two words are more confused than busy and productive.

It’s easy to be busy, and hard to be productive. When we mistake the former for the latter, like many of us do, we live outside The Arena. This negative behavior cycle makes us busier but far less productive.

Power of one

To become less busy and more productive, I’ve developed a personal principle called the “Power of One” — the ability to focus all my energies on one thing at a time.

Have a significant impact on a single purposefully-scoped project. Mentor one person. Power one entrepreneur. Teach one student.

The Power of One allows me to strive for one excellent outcome. If I do one thing — and the outcome is excellent — I can do that same thing over again. One becomes two and so on. Inversely, if I do ten things — and the outcomes are average — I will be busy and unproductive.


Here are a few work-related examples:

BUSY people schedule general catch-up work coffees or, worse, attend networking conferences. PRODUCTIVE people set daily goals.

BUSY people continuously monitor their inboxes. **PRODUCTIVE **people respond to emails at pre-designated times.

BUSY people talk about future possibilities. PRODUCTIVE people solve critical real-time problems.

BUSY people measure inputs. PRODUCTIVE people measure outcomes.

BUSY people comment on LinkedIn and like things on Facebook. PRODUCTIVE people make phone calls.

As you schedule your time, say no to busy work. Focus only on the activities that make you productive.