Geoff Woods | Are You Investing Your Time or Spending It?

Adam LeanPodcast

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to think that spending a lot of time on your business will translate into success. 

But being busy doesn’t mean you actually get anything done, says Geoff Woods, VP of The ONE Thing and host of the The ONE Thing podcast (one of the top 5% of podcasts on the globe).

You have to invest that time to actually see a solid return. And, explains Geoff, you do that by focusing your effort on the one thing that would make everything else in your business easier. Otherwise, you’ll never achieve the success you’re capable of.

We talk about how to find that one thing… and what you do next, as well as…

  • Why your business is like a row of dominoes ready to fall – and that’s a good thing
  • The right way to measure results
  • The lie of productivity – and how to avoid it
  • The power of “I don’t know”
  •  And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:


Adam Lean: In this episode, we’re going to talk about how to find the one thing that can deliver extraordinary results. We’re also going to find out how to take back control of your time and get clarity on how you should invest it. This is P is for Profit

Adam: Welcome to P is for Profit. My name is Adam Lean and I, along with the rest of the team at The CFO Project, am passionate about helping business owners improve the profitability of their business. My guest today is Geoff Woods. Geoff is the vice president of The ONE Thing and the host of The ONE Thing podcast. Geoff, welcome to the show.

Geoff Woods: Adam. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here.

Adam: I’m really excited about this episode because you’re a part of The ONE Thing team. You guys wrote a book called The ONE Thing and I actually read that a few months ago. It’s a really inspiring book, so I’m excited to dive in. So, before we really begin, tell us about yourself and how you got started working with The ONE Thing team.

Geoff: Yeah, sure. So, a little bit about me: prior to starting this company, I was in medical device sales. It was a great job, Adam, I woke up every day wearing scrubs. I sold a device that actually saved lives. And I think, like a lot of your audience who have started businesses, there’s a time in your life where you wake up and you realize things are good, yet something’s missing. You feel like you’re called for more. And that’s where I was. 

But the challenge for me, Adam, was I just didn’t have enough pain in my life to make me branch out into the world of entrepreneurship and making good money. It seemed really secure. But two things happened that turned my world upside down. The first thing was a colleague of mine had a stroke. At the time, he was just thirty-five years old. And I remember my wife and I had just bought a house in Orange County. We just had our first child; my wife had made the decision to become a stay at home mom. And, suddenly, as the sole provider, I start asking the question, “If what happened to my colleague had happened to me, what happens to my family?” That was extremely unsettling. 

And then the next week, my company needed to make a change to our commission structure in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. And, overnight, forty percent of my income evaporated. Now, for anybody who’s ever had a big pay cut or a job loss, you know how stressful that time in your life can be. 

And that’s when I heard a very interesting quote from Jim Rohn, Adam, and the quote was, “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” I remember standing in my kitchen, looking down at my scrubs, and asking, “Who are my five?” And I actually made a list. And when I looked at the names on that list, I was overwhelmed with a great sense of gratitude. These are amazing people, people I always want to be in my life. 

And then I had an interesting “aha” because I realized that the people that I was surrounding myself with were not the people I wanted to become. None of them were waking up every day, owning a business that made a massive impact in the world and delivering real security for their family. And that sent me on a journey just to upgrade my five. And, you know, you fast forward to today, all those people are still in my life. I just no longer seek guidance from people on how to build a business who are no longer qualified to give it. 

And you fast forward: it was our national sales meeting for my medical device company, and Jay Papasan, who co-authored The ONE Thing with Gary Keller, was the speaker. And, for the next hour, he just blew my mind. And I remember the entire time wondering, “How could I get in a relationship with this guy? What could I possibly say to him to make him interested in me? What can I give him that would make it worth his time to sit down with me?” And when he came off stage, I basically tackled him. 

And what I didn’t know at the time was that The ONE Thing had already become one of the highest-rated business books of all time. And that created a challenge because Gary and Jay wanted to turn it into a company, but Gary’s “one thing” is running Keller Williams, it’s the largest real estate company in the world. Jay’s “one thing” is running education for KW and writing books with Gary. They needed somebody whose “one thing” was The ONE Thing, and that became my opportunity. 

And you fast forward to today, where the business is four-and-a-half years old, and we teach people how to better invest their time by having a relationship with their goals so they can achieve extraordinary results. 

Don’t Spend Time–Invest It

Adam: Wow. Yeah, I mean, what a story. And I can relate especially to the tribe of five people that you surround yourself with, but, you know, to that, I have some questions for you. But let’s first, just to set the stage, talk about The ONE Thing book and sort of give a summary for people listening that may not have heard of the book.

Geoff: Sure. The ONE Thing is the surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. The challenge that we see today, Adam, is that most people are spending their time–they’re not investing it. And there’s a clear difference between spending and investing. What do you think that is, Adam?

Adam: They don’t know their calling? They don’t know what their mission is?

Geoff: Think about with your money. What’s the difference between spending money and investing your money? There’s an expectation of what?

Adam: Oh, that it’s growing in value.

Geoff: Yeah. Of a return, right? 

Adam: Yeah. 

Geoff: Yet, how many people do you think wake up and view every single second as an investment, meaning they actually expect a return?

Adam: Yeah, not many.

Geoff: Not many. And we know this because, most people, if you go to an office, you open up your computer, and you do what?

Both: Check email.

Geoff: Right? Right. Until you go to a–

Adam: Meeting.

Geoff: And then you get out, and you check–

Adam: Email again.

Geoff: Until somebody asks, “Hey, do you got a minute?”

Adam: Yeah.

Geoff: And this literally repeats all day long. And you get to the end of the day, you’re closing up your computer, and you feel like, “Wow, I was busy… Did I get anything done?” 

Adam: That’s true.

Geoff: Right? So, here’s why I share this with you. The ONE Thing is all about viewing everything that is on your plate like dominoes. And just like the dominoes that you lined up when you were a kid, you don’t go to the eighteenth domino in the line and knock that one down. What do you do, Adam?

Adam: Knock the first one down. 

Geoff: And what happens?

Adam: It makes all the difference.

Geoff: Bingo. When you knock down the first one, they all fall. And that’s what the opportunity is, it’s about, when you look at what you want out of life, how do you view it as a sequence of dominoes? How do you get so clear to that one thing you can do such that, by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?

How To Find Your “One Thing”

Adam: Yeah. And I encourage anybody listening to read The ONE Thing book, it’s very inspiring. So let’s talk about that. How do you find your “one thing?” How does somebody who may feel like they’re in sort of the shoes that you were in, maybe they’re running their business, but something’s missing, and they’re called for more. And they’re in roles, even though they’re the owner, and they’re wearing all the hats, they’re wearing hats they shouldn’t be wearing.

Geoff: Sure. 

Adam: So how do they know what to do?

Geoff: Yeah, sure. Well, I think the first thing we have to acknowledge is we all have more than one thing. So whether we’re working with a small business owner or when we take this into companies, the number one objection we get is, yeah, but I have more than one thing. Congratulations. We all do. 

Adam: The question of “What is my one thing?”

Geoff: And again, it’s not about just doing one thing. It’s one thing at a time. The question is, are you clear what that lead domino is? And to answer your question directly, Adam, your journey to living “the one thing” is less about having the answer and more about learning to ask the right questions. 

And most people, and this is our education system that’s created this, we have an expectation that we should know the answer. We were tested through our entire education to have the right answer, but that’s not actually the way it works in business. It’s about asking the right question and searching for the answer. So let me ask you this, Adam, if you don’t know what your “one thing” is, what do you think your “one thing” is? 

Adam: To figure out what your one thing is.

Geoff: Right. So, we can aim this at any area of our life. If you look at page 114, in “The ONE Thing” they have what they call “the seven circles.” These are the seven most important areas of your life, and I’ll share them with you right now, starting with your spiritual life, because every single one of us, at some point in time, is going to wonder why we’re here. 

Then we have our physical health. Because if you don’t have your body, where are you going to live? And then you might have a “one thing” for your personal life, meaning the things you do for hobbies that make you the best version of yourself. Every single one of us has key relationships. What’s the one thing you can do for those relationships? Every single one of us has a job, even if you’re the owner of the business, you have specific roles and responsibilities in the business. 

And every single one of us has a business. Even if you’re an employee, there is a “one thing” for the organization overall. And then every single one of us has our financial world. So spirituality, physical health, personal life, key relationships, job, business, finances. You can ask the question in any one of those circles. 

What’s the one thing I can do for my spirituality, such that by doing it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary? What is the one thing I can do for my physical health, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary? And it’s about searching for that answer. Because, while the question seems really simple, if I slow it down, and… Adam, let’s just do it with you. Of all the circles that I shared, what was one that really stood out to you?

Adam: I would say my business.

Geoff: Your business. Okay, awesome. So here’s what’s about to happen. I’m going to ask you the focusing question. I’m gonna ask you to close your eyes. Take a deep breath. And I’m going to ask you the question, and what’s going to happen is you’re going to start searching. 

And if you’re like most people, Adam, you’re going to hit a wall called “I don’t know.” What I want you to do is, when you hit that wall of “I don’t know,” I want you to acknowledge that that’s where your mind currently stops. And then I want you to keep searching. And I want you to take as long as you need to arrive at an answer. You with me? 

Adam: I think so. 

Geoff: Okay, cool. So close your eyes. 

Adam: All right. 

Geoff: Take a deep breath. Adam, when you think about your business, what’s the one thing you can do, such that by doing it, everything else in your business would be easier or unnecessary? Search.

Adam: I mean, this is powerful. I don’t know, honestly.

Geoff: Okay, great. Great. So, you hit the wall. And now I’m going to help you get there. Okay? Keep searching; search for an answer. What is the one thing you can do for your business, such that by doing it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

Adam: I think continuing to pour into the team. Because that’s sort of the catalyst for everything else–sales operations, building out, and pouring into the team.

Geoff: So, first and foremost, man, kudos to you. You went where most people don’t. You went past the wall of “I don’t know.” Because… how comfortable was that, by the way?

Adam: It was sort of weird. It wasn’t really comfortable. However, I knew it was important because I’m a firm believer in investing my time instead of, you know, just fighting fires or working in the business all day. 

Geoff: Yeah. So your step one was you asked the question, and you searched for an answer. And you held yourself to a standard that you had to keep searching until you arrived at an answer. Now, here’s what happens. People ask the question, and they arrive at an answer, and they go “Oh, that’s my one thing.” But we’re not there yet. Because the question is “What’s the one thing you can do?”

Adam: Yeah.

Geoff: Meaning it’s an activity. 

Adam: Yeah. 

Think Big, Go Small

Geoff: And it’s an activity that you can do, meaning it’s a two-inch domino that’s so small that, effortlessly, with the flick of a finger, it would fall, such that by doing it, because the dominoes are lined up, everything else in your business would be easier or unnecessary. So we have this phrase, “think big.” “Think big” about building an amazing business and “think big.” Go small. Trust the dominoes will fall. So can I help you go smaller? 

Adam: Sure.

Geoff: You and I are about to go down a journey where I’m going to ask you a series of questions that you are going to arrive at a lead domino that is so frickin’ small, it’s going to feel like cheating. But, because we reverse-engineered it, you will understand that the dominoes are lined up.

Adam: You’re right. Yes.

Geoff: Okay. So you said the one thing you could do for your business was what?

Adam: Invest in my team.

Geoff: Okay, cool. So I’m now going to push you for some specificity, right? So, anytime somebody gives a result or an answer that’s a little bit vague, we ask the question, “Adam, how would you know if you were successful?” Investing in your team? 

Adam: The team would deliver even more amazing results. 

Geoff: Okay.

Adam: So, if they’re a CFO, then they’re helping get even more return for our clients, improving their profit and cash flow. If they’re in sales, they’re landing more clients.

Geoff: Excellent. So better results. What’s the one thing you can do that would help them deliver better results?

Adam: Yeah, that’s, I mean, that’s difficult. 

Geoff: Search, baby, you know the model now. 

Adam: Yeah. I would say giving them very clear objectives or clear goals and then having them tell me how they want to accomplish it.

Geoff: Okay. So I’m hearing you say that the one thing you can do to help them get better results is to make sure that they’re clear on the goal and that they have to come up with a plan to get there. 

Adam: Yeah.

Geoff: What’s the one thing you can do that would make them clear on the goal so they could put a plan in place?

Adam: Get clear on what I expect their objective or their goal to be and then plainly lay it out for them in a meeting.

Geoff: So let me ask you a different question: whose job is it to create the goal, yours or theirs?

Adam: Well, I would come up with the goal. They would come up with how to accomplish the goal.

Geoff: Okay. Okay. Can I offer a difference of opinion?

Adam: Sure. Yeah.

Geoff: Why don’t you ask them to set the goal and then you get to check it against what you think it should be? Because here’s what’s gonna happen, you’re gonna get insight into the way that they think. They might set a bar that’s higher than what you would have set, which means you would have imposed a ceiling over their achievement.

Adam: Great idea.

Geoff: Or, on the flip side, if they set the bar too low, then you know they’re a small thinker. And then you get to challenge them to think bigger. 

Adam: Yeah. 

Geoff: But now, as a leader, you gain insight into their thought process. And, by the way, which will they be more invested in, the goal that you give them or the goal they come up with themselves? 

Adam: Yeah, definitely the goal that they come up with.

Geoff: Great, so are we in agreement that it’s actually them that should create the goal? 

Adam: Sure, yes. 

Geoff: Awesome. So let’s go smaller. And by the way, folks, if you’re listening, and you’re like, “Oh, my gosh, he’s still going…” Yeah, man. We’re lining up the dominoes. Stick with me here. 

Adam: Yeah. 

Geoff: This is why people don’t have clarity on “the one thing.” They are unwilling to ask the questions and search for the answers. Adam, what’s the one thing you can do that would make them communicating their goal to you easier or unnecessary?

Adam: Setting a meeting to talk about this.

Geoff: Awesome. How long do you think that meeting needs to last for?

Adam: Thirty minutes.

Geoff: Thirty minutes. When would you like to have those meetings completed by?

Adam: Within two weeks.

Geoff: Great. So what’s the one thing you can do to make sure you have the meeting set and completed in the next two weeks? 

Adam: Schedule it. 

Geoff: How much time do you think you need to schedule it? 

Adam: Five minutes. 

Geoff: When will you do it? 

Adam: Today.

Geoff: What time?

Adam: Four p.m.

Geoff: That’s one thing. That’s it, a five-minute time block from 4 to 4:05 p.m. where you will send meeting invites to all of your people in the next two weeks. That is your “one thing” for your business.

Adam: Now that’s powerful. 

The Number One Lie of Productivity

Geoff: Now, let me ask you another question. 

Adam: Yeah. 

Geoff: What happens when it’s 3:59 p.m. and your phone rings? What will go through your mind?

Adam: That I’ve made a commitment to myself to do that thing. 

Geoff: And, in that moment, on a subconscious level, you are actually going to ask, “Which is more important?” And because you’ve just clearly labeled that time block as your “one thing,” and because it is so small, you just call them back in six minutes. 

Adam: Yeah. 

Geoff: And when you call them back in six minutes, you will call them back with the satisfaction that you have already knocked down the lead domino that truly could make everything else in your business easier or unnecessary. And that’s what we mean by “think big, go small.” Trust the dominoes will fall. 

Adam: Yeah. And it doesn’t really require a whole lot of extra effort other than the process that we just went through.

Geoff: That is the effort. It’s the planning time. It’s the time to truly block for yourself, distraction-free, where you reflect on everything that’s happening. And so you gain perspective so you can put a plan in place. Most people, the way they plan their weeks is they open their digital calendar somewhere between Friday afternoon and Monday morning, they see all the stuff that’s already scheduled, and they just start filling things in the time that remains. 

But what they don’t realize is that, when they do that, they’re falling trap to the number one lie of productivity, which is the lie that everything matters equally. It’s why people spend their time but don’t invest their time. The people who are our students understand that until their “one thing” is done, everything else is a distraction.

Adam: Yeah.

Geoff: Which means they must, first and foremost, have planning time where they can truly ask the question, “Based on what I said my goals were for the year, how do I have a relationship with those goals this week? What dates do I need to go on in the form of a time block so that I am knocking down the lead domino that truly makes the biggest impact?” 

Until that’s done, everything else is everything else. And they make sure that that stuff is what gets blocked on their planner and their digital calendar first and everything that’s currently scheduled–sorry, it has to interview to keep its spot. 

Adam: Ah, this is powerful. 

Geoff: We’re simply changing the way you view your time.

A Life By Design vs A Life By Default

Adam: So do you do that process, are you supposed to do that process, for each of the seven areas? 

Geoff: No, no, no, no. 

Adam: Okay.

Geoff: So this is how it ties in. When, from a high level, when we look at what does it mean to truly be productive… We, every year, we host a couple’s goal-setting retreat, because it’s really interesting. Most people, the people who set goals, often don’t set them with the people who have an absolute stake in their success in the form of a significant other, a business partner, their team, right? So we create an experience where, whether it’s a significant other, you want to come with a business partner, or the team, a bunch of friends, you can actually set your goals together. 

That’s when you look at the seven circles and ask, “What does an extraordinary life in each of these areas look like for me, someday from now?” I’m talking five years, ten years, twenty years down the road. Which, by the way, if you think you had a hard time searching for the answer, wait till you ask that question. 

But once you actually search and arrive at that answer, you can then ask, “Where would I need to be five years from now to be on track for my someday?” And that still is a bit challenging. But once you have a sense of where you want to be five years from now to be on track, then you can say, “Great, now what actually matters this year?” 

Then you start to hit your strategy, like, okay, these are the things that really matter this year. And then that’s when we start using a formula or a format called a “411.” This is a tool that gives you clarity on your priorities and helps you have a relationship with your goals. It takes your annual goals and breaks them down to the monthly and the weekly, so you know what dates you need to go on this week to be on track for having a relationship with that annual goal. And that’s what you then block on a planner, which goes over to a digital calendar, and that’s how it all flows.

Adam: So what if you don’t know what your annual goal is? Is that the “one thing” then, to figure that out? 

Geoff: Yeah, you just haven’t searched. You have not searched. I guarantee. Let’s put it this way: I’ve never had a person show up to our retreat and not get clarity on what the goal is if they were willing to ask the question and search for the answer. The big challenge is usually somebody who is either saying, “I’m not a goal setter,” or, “I’m a goal setter, but my significant other is not.”

Adam: Yeah.

Geoff: How do I get them on board? 

Adam: Hmm. 

Geoff: And for those people, it’s just about, do you want to live a life by design or a life by default, right? You know, when you wake up and just look forward and tackle the day one day at a time, you are truly living a life by default because something can look shiny and attractive in the short term that can genuinely be taking you in the wrong direction. 

I’m sure there are plenty of people who are listening to this podcast who started a business because one day they realized they were sick of climbing the corporate ladder and realized it was leaning against the wrong wall.

Adam: It’s a good way to put it. Wow. Where can people go, Geoff, to find what you’re talking about? 

Geoff: Yeah, so the website is And that’s with the number one in the URL. The title of the book and the title of the podcast is “The ONE Thing,” but the website is with the number one. If you go to the “Free Stuff” page, you can download a “411” template there. 

If you want a training video on how to actually fill that out, on the “Training” page, under the “Basics” course section, you can get a free course on how to actually fill out your “411” and you can learn more about the couple’s retreat, we’ve got a couple’s course there as well, there’s all that stuff on the “Training” page, but that’s where I would suggest going. 

Adam: Wow, okay, and we’ll put the link for The ONE Thing with the number one in the show notes so that people can click on that and go directly to the website. I mean, Geoff, this is very powerful. What is, last question, what is the one piece of advice that you want to leave for our listeners?

Geoff: The purpose of a goal is actually not to achieve a result. I thought it was. And my partner Gary asked the question, “What do you think the purpose of a goal is?” and so many people shared ideas that were lining up with the idea of “Oh, it’s to achieve a result” and he said, he suggested that it’s actually to be appropriate in the moment. 

It’s not about… Yeah. The purpose of the goal is not whether or not you get to the finish line. It’s to determine how you have to behave on a daily basis. That’s why we say the world does not need a new way to set goals. They need a way to have a relationship with them. 

My question for you is, based on the things you said you want this year, what specifically do you have to do this week to absolutely know that you are appropriate this week, that you are on track for your goal? Or if you don’t have that level of clarity, which, by the way, taking you off the hook, because 99.99999% of people don’t, then you just need to realize that there is a better way. There is a better way. 

And that’s what we teach with a tool like the “411.” And we would hope that you would be curious enough to at least explore a way to start investing your time, so you can have that relationship with your goals and achieve extraordinary results.

Adam: Wow. Yeah. No, I love it. Well, Geoff, thank you so much for being with us today. 

Geoff: My pleasure, Adam. Thank you for having me.

Adam: Yeah. So, you know, anybody listening, if you want to see if Geoff and the team there at The ONE Thing can help you get clarity and to figure out your “one thing,” please reach out, his website is with the number one. 

I’ll put that in the show notes again, but thank you so much for listening, and remember, the goal of your business, or the “one thing” of your business, should be to make more profit than last year and turn that profit into cash that you get to keep. Thanks for listening.