Columns / Systems Thinking

The power of purpose, priority & productivity

June 2, 2014
You have internalized the six lies blocking you from your success (April ISHN). And you have come up with a Big Answer to your “Focusing Question?”  (May ISHN) That Focusing Question is Big and Specific and leads to figuring out, “What’s the ONE Thing I can do, such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” 

Gary Keller provides insight into how leaders can draw upon a natural rhythm within us to implement our ONE Thing and achieve extraordinary results. These are purpose, priority, and productivity.1

The power of purpose

As a safety professional how do you view your purpose? 

If you see yourself as truly one who is interested in the safety of others and strives to ensure these individuals are receiving the advice they need to make good personal safety decisions, you definitely have discovered the purpose of a safety professional. According to Keller, as your experience grows, your confidence in your decisions matures to the point where your decisions become the first decisions and often the best choices and the best possible outcomes.2

Be a safety professional long enough and you will encounter setbacks more times than you care to remember. Sticking to your purpose will pull you through these tough times. Staying firm to your purpose will motivate you to persevere, which will lead to extraordinary results.  Keller notes that your purpose is the glue that holds you together when adversity hits and keeps you focused on the path you have set.3  

The power of priority

Purpose without priority is powerless.4  Note Keller centers on “priority” not priorities.  Remember, we are talking about the ONE Thing.

Goals should be set in the here and NOW, not for some time in the future, notes Keller.  In the systems thinking methodology of Interactive Planning, one of the key aspects of the process is to design the system you want NOW because it is what you have the most control over and can shape into implementation. 

Keller suggests connecting goals over a period of time to achieve your ONE Safety Thing.  Break the ONE Safety Thing you can do to achieve your five-year goal, into what you can do this year, this month, this week, this day, and NOW to achieve your five-year goal.  Write down the answers to each goal.  If you do, based on empirical evidence, you have an almost 40% better chance of achieving your goal.5

The power of productivity

Keller’s “Time Blocking” is productivity’s most powerful tool.6 The key is to block your time to focus on your ONE Safety Thing and not anything else. Individuals who master Time Blocking often find the most career opportunities and find they become “irreplaceable.” The opposite is true for those lost in the land of “Everything Else.”7

So how do you protect your time and battle distractions according to Keller?8

1. Build a Bunker – Find a place that allows you solitude. With an office, place a “Do Not Disturb” sign and with a cubicle, block the entrance with a chair and attach a “Not Now” sign.

2. Store Provisions – Whatever you need make sure it is within reach of your workspace.  With the exception of bathroom breaks, avoid leaving your bunker.

3. Sweep for Mines – Turn off your cell phone and your phone, shut down your email, and exit your Internet browser.

4. Enlist Support – Tell those most likely to seek you out what you are doing and when you will be available.

The individuals who achieve extraordinary results don’t achieve them by working more hours; they achieve them by getting more done the hours they work.9

Commitments to achieve Time Blocking10

Keller presents three commitments that are necessary to find the time to devote to your ONE Safety Thing through achieving time blocking.  These commitments include:

1. Adopt a mindset of seeking mastery.  In other words, pursue a path that leads you to mastering your safety skills and knowledge.

2. Seek the best ways to do safety.  Avoid pursuing means that fail to deliver results that are equal to your effort.

3. Live to be accountable for doing everything you can to achieve your ONE Safety Thing.

Research has revealed that mastery takes 10,000 hours of focused practice. Relating to work shows that 10,000 hours amounts to four hours per day for 250 days per year for 10 years.  Therefore, time block four hours per day and you’ll achieve your ONE Safety Thing in 10 years. 

Owning your safety outcomes is the most powerful thing you can do to drive success and achieve extraordinary results.11  Developing a sense of accountability will allow you to absorb setbacks and push forward. Keller suggests seeking out an “Accountability Coach” who you give permission to lay out the unvarnished, honest truth about your quest for your ONE Safety Thing.

The four thieves of productivity

As the Six Lies to Success can mislead and deceive you, the Four Thieves can hold you up and rob you of productivity. The Four Thieves are:

1. Inability to Say “No”

2. Fear of Chaos

3. Poor Health Habits

4. Environment Doesn’t Support Your Goals

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple, he took the company from 350 products to 10 – that’s 340 “Nos.”12 Give your pursuit of your ONE Safety Thing an emphatic “YES” and vigorously say “NO!” to the rest.

As you focus on your ONE Safety Thing, other things are going to mount up, resulting in chaos around you. Make peace with your chaos. 

Your personal energy is critical to your productivity. Build up your energy in the morning to last the day.

Finally, avoid being caught by any negativity surrounding you. Your physical environment will bear heavily on your ability to actually work on those things that will deliver your ONE Safety Thing.

Again, check out Gary Keller’s book, “The One Thing,” and be sure to explore Gary’s website at http://www.the1thing.com/ for more insight and tools.


 1  Keller, G. with J. Papasan. 2012. The ONE Thing – The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results. Bard Press. Austin, TX.
2  Ibid. pp. 143.
3 Ibid. pp. 144.
4  Ibid. pp. 147.
5  Ibid. pp. 154.
6  Ibid. pp. 159.
7  Ibid. pp. 162.
8  Ibid. pp. 172-173.
9  Ibid. pp. 174.
10  Ibid. pp. 175-189.
11  Ibid. pp. 184.
12  Ibid. pp. 192.

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