Do Less, Make More: Work Only One Hour a Day by Mastering Leverage


I’ve been trying an experiment. For the last six months, I’ve been working, on average, only one hour each day on my speaking business. This wasn’t easy at first given my tendency to sometimes work more than 100 hours a week. However, what I eventually learned was that I could be insanely productive by simply shifting my mindset. Long hours aren’t necessarily required to lead a successful career. The fact is, although there are an unlimited number of things that speakers can do to grow or improve their businesses, there is a point of diminishing returns. The upside on additional effort decreases significantly beyond this point.


To successfully work only one hour a day (or at least a greatly reduced amount of time), you need to master the concept of leverage. Leverage is something that gives the greatest return with the least amount of energy. We typically view our work as linear. An hour of work gives us an hour of results. But what if an hour of work could yield 100 hours (or more) of results? Instead of diminishing returns, you get exponential returns. This is leverage. Each morning I ask myself, what is the one thing I need to do today? What is the one thing that will create the most value? What is the one thing that only I can do? That is the activity that I engage in for the day, delegating, deferring or eliminating everything else. The key is to focus on activities that create leverage and maximize results.


In our business, leverage exists in several different ways. The simplest form is through the creation of products. We build it once and sell it many times. There are a number of products and services that you could offer. I categorize them into three buckets:

  • Tell me.
  • Enable me.
  • Do it for me.

TELL ME: These products and services tell others how to do something. They include books, CDs, DVDs, training seminars and membership sites. When people within NSA talk about products, these are the ones they are typically referring to. Although these products are valuable, they are the easiest to replicate, and they require the client to do all of the work.

ENABLE ME: Enablement products go beyond simply telling you what to do. These are “tools” that enable things to happen. For example, in the world of public relations, an “enable me” product might be a press release writer or an article submitter. and HARO, services that send you daily requests from interested journalists, are also enablement tools as they minimize the client’s effort of finding and writing to journalists. These types of products create exceptional value because they are easy to use and eliminate the steep learning curve for the client by “automating” many of the complicated steps. These tools are also harder to replicate, as the content is less static and more interactive.

DO IT FOR ME: At this level, you do all of the work for your client. Think of this as traditional consulting. Using PR again as an example, you could offer a retainer or a pay-for-performance model. Although this most likely creates the greatest value for the client, it is also their most expensive option. And it is the most time intensive from a provider perspective, yielding little leverage. The sweet spot is the middle level — the “enable me” products. You increase the value delivered and therefore can charge a premium. You make it more difficult for others to copy because you have embedded your specific expertise into a product. And you still gain leverage because you can build it once and sell it many times (unlike consulting). Enablement tools package your expertise in a way that makes it like hiring you to do the job (“do it for me”), without you actually having to do the work.

Earlier I mentioned some PR enablement tools. Although I used the word “automate” above, do not assume this means complicated or expensive technology. For example, one of my products, Personality Poker®, is an enablement tool. There is no technology involved. It uses specially designed decks of poker cards that help people determine their personality style. This is done without my clients having to read a book or take a written assessment. And because I “play” Personality Poker with the audience during my speech, it creates demand for the product while I am on the stage, without any type of sales pitch. What enablement products could you develop that you could use during your speech? What if you gave away your “tell me” content and used it primarily for marketing purposes? What if your greatest assets were converted into “enable me” products that bottle your expertise? To me, this is leverage.


Leverage does not just come from the types of products you create. It can also be achieved by altering the way you bring your products to market. Let’s look at leverage through different phases of product creation and launch, called the three D’s: development, delivery and distribution. In each step, there is a way you can invest less time and money, yet still yield substantial returns.

DEVELOPMENT: If you are creating a new product (e.g., a book, online platform or training course) the time and money it takes to build it is development. You, the speaker, could make the investment. Or you could find a partner who will take the risk and pay for development. Self-publishing is the do it- yourself model for books; you pay for and do everything. With the commercial publishing option, the publisher pays you an advance while they incur most of the development costs. This model can be applied to any type of product. For example, instead of developing a training course on my own, I partnered with a large training organization that absorbed both the time and cost to create a two-day workshop.

DELIVERY: Once you have the product built, you need to deliver it to buyers. For example, with training, you could conduct the session yourself. But there is no leverage in this. You could hire a team of independent trainers to deliver the content. Although you make less money per session, your total invested time is considerably less. But if you hire trainers, you still have to educate them, manage them, certify them and more. This would cut into your one hour a day. So instead, consider completely outsourcing the delivery, and everything associated with it, to one training company. That’s what I did.

DISTRIBUTION: This is about reach, access and sales. Commercial book publishing gives you distribution to book stores, but not direct access to the buyers; it is somewhat limited. I am working with a seminar company that puts tens of thousands of people through their own training each year. They are looking to license and white-label one of my products so that they can use it in their seminar and sell it after events. One sale to the seminar company results in thousands of actual sales. This is one way to maximize leverage. Who has access to the people you want to target? I love the expression, “Before you can multiply, you must first learn to divide.” The idea is that if you want to grow your business, you must learn to partner with others — and give them a slice. This means you take a smaller slice of a bigger pie. Working with a speakers bureau is one common example of this. The same concept can be applied to the creation of any new product or service.


Unlike consulting, where you could sell one or two contracts and be set for a year, a speaker typically needs to generate dozens of speeches annually. The best way to increase revenue is to sell to existing customers rather than acquire new ones. How can you leverage your existing clients? Instead of thinking of my speech as a one-time event, I get my clients to see it as the start of a larger process. For example, I always offer a free webinar 30 to 60 days after my keynote. Although this does not directly provide income to me, it is an easy way to stay top of mind with the client and differentiate what I do from other speakers. I also give away “tell me” articles that the client can distribute after the event at regular intervals. These increase the likelihood of my being hired for more work in the future. And offering all of this value up-front, gives me permission to suggest other fee-based products and services (e.g., advisory retainer, enablement products, licensed training) that can help reinforce concepts and allow the company to delve deeper. I have clients that I have worked with continuously for years by using this strategy.


If you master leverage and are able to work only one hour a day, you could spend your free time relaxing. Or you could choose to innovate and develop something new. Instead of squeezing out those few extra drops from your current business model, build a new business or new business model that leverages your past success and creates entirely new revenue opportunities. With the extra time created, I’ve been working on a new book that targets a different audience. I’m developing a television show that will give me massive exposure. And I am building “enablement tools” (leveraging the three D’s concept) that add greater value for my clients without increasing the time I need to interface with them. Even if you don’t believe working only 60 minutes a day is possible, give the thought process a try. Use the “hour a day” mantra as a mental exercise. Determine what you might do if you only had an hour. Even if it ends up taking you four hours, it is still better than the 10 you were previously investing. When you master leverage, you will see exponential returns on your invested time.

Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro

leading keynote speaker, author and advisor on innovation at Stephen Shapiro
Stephen Shapiro is an innovation evangelist. His keynotes, advisory services, books and other products help organizations make innovation a sustainable capability.
Stephen Shapiro
Stephen Shapiro
Stephen Shapiro
Stephen Shapiro

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