Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Stanford Graduate School of Business marketing professor Jennifer Aaker devised this idea and explains it in a Lean In lecture. Aaker argues that finding such multipliers will help us stay ambitious, feel less rushed and accomplish more.

If you want to be a great athlete and a great partner, go for a run with your partner, she says.  If you want to volunteer at a nonprofit and be a good friend, take a friend volunteering with you.

Aaker calls such productivity pairings “doubles.” Extending the baseball analogy, a home run would be a single activity that advances four or more of your goals.

“When we feel overwhelmed, we often feel like we need to sacrifice goals,” she says. “But instead of giving up on certain goals, might we rethink time and use these tools to become more time affluent?”

The spirit of her advice is spot-on, if not the flimsy examples. Women make the best use of their time when they know what they want and then consciously choose high-impact activities that serve those goals. 

Making Multipliers Work for You

The discussion guide published with the lecture offers some instructions for “operationalizing multipliers.”  In English, that’s increasing your focus and impact.  (See my case against business-school jargon here.)

Check out those tips below, then read on for how I’m using this strategy and add your ideas in the comments.

Tips for Operationalizing Multipliers

Find Multipliers. Find a single activity where you can bring along another person (e.g., friend, partner, child). Doing so creates a “double,” where two goals are achieved at the same time. Can you identify activities that are “triples” or even “homeruns”?

Decide based on Multipliers. When deciding to participate in a new activity, see if you can make it a double or a triple. If no, consider foregoing the activity.

Protect Multipliers. Look for things to do that help you achieve multiple goals simultaneously, and then protect these activities on your calendar.

Source: Rethinking Time: The Power of Multipliers Discussion Guide

The overall framework is very useful, despite the weakness of Aaker’s examples.  I appreciate the new decision-making criteria she offers.  It’s helping me distinguish between good opportunities and great ones, a perpetual struggle for me.

Now when presented with a new project, I can see that the committee or event may absolutely advance one of my goals.  But then I can go further and assess whether it advances four. That’s huge.

So is the third step, which advocates protecting multipliers on our calendars.  Aaker’s lecture doesn’t get into this, but it’s key.  In my case, protecting multipliers would require me to eliminate some lower impact activities to make space for better contributions to the world and/or my personal life.

I’m feeling more powerful already.  Just call me Slim Slugger.

Slugging Percentage

Slugging percentage gauges a player’s power by measuring all of the bases accumulated via base hits. In order to have a high slugging percentage, a batter must  be a successful hitter–and hit frequently for extra bases. The formula divides total bases by at-bats:

Slugging percentage = [singles + (doubles × 2) + (triples × 3) + (home runs × 4)] ÷ at bats

Source: http://baseball.isport.com/baseball-guides/baseball-batting-statistics-explained

Multipliers in Action

Here’s how I’m applying the multiplier screen in my life.

First, I wrote out some goals against which to measure future opportunities and decisions:

  • Be myself—bring forth the unique perspective, talents and influence I was born to express
  • Take care of myself—eat well, work out, meditate and pray in order to fulfill my God-given purpose
  • Be a loving, engaged and encouraging mom/wife/daughter/friend—support the health, well-being and personal growth of everyone I hold dear
  • Be a responsible citizen—facilitate consciousness and connectedness in my immediate community and the world beyond

Next, I identified some multipliers already operating in my life.  This blog is a home run because it:

  • Gives me the time and space to discover my unique gifts and perspectives
  • Facilitates deep thinking on the topics that I care about most
  • Engages friends and others in constructive discussion
  • Shares ideas and strategies that help people
  • Prompts me to write daily and thereby express one of my gifts
  • Contributes to global discussions of women’s issues and development

Serving on the board of the YWCA of Richmond is another home run for me.  It helps me:

  • Have a direct impact in my local community
  • Meet dynamic professionals who also share a desire to have a positive impact in the community
  • Gain nonprofit communication, fundraising, finance, governance and resource management skills
  • Build and demonstrate leadership skills

Aaker’s idea even gave me new perspective on an activity I was planning to quit this year.  I’ve been disappointed in my involvement in one group for years because I think it falls far short of its stated mission.  Yet year after year, I stay involved for some previously inexplicable reason.

Now I know the reason, it’s a home run in disguise.  The group helps me fulfill some goals beyond its official purpose.

  • It gives me a sense of connectedness.
  • It gives me regular opportunities to see friends that I don’t cross paths with elsewhere in my life.
  • It gives me a base of support for initiatives that I launch elsewhere in my life.
  • It keeps me attuned to the breadth of issues plaguing my community (even if this particular organization hasn’t come up with an effective means of addressing them).

I can transform my whole approach to the group now that I know what I’m really there for.  Or, I can quit (for real this time).  Either way, I’m making a better-informed decision now that I’ve considered the group’s relationship to my goals.

Lastly, I’ve got to keep scheduling high-impact multi-goal activities and reject low-to-no-impact or single-goal activities. See my To-Do Or Not-To-Do Lists post for musings on the subject. Written before I discovered the multiplier screen, it shares a devotion to eliminating low-impact activity nonetheless.


Admittedly, baseball is not my sport, but I offer this caveat anyway:  Sometimes nailing a single is better than attempting a home run.

One “single” I intend to hold on to is quiet contemplation.  Every day I’m going to sit silently for as many minutes as I can.  I’m going to give myself a break from thinking and doing.

In those moments, I will just be—with no goal at all, let alone four.


These few words are enough, if not these words, this breath.

If not this breath, this sitting.

This opening to the life we have refused

again and again until now.  Until now.

In this moment of epiphany.

This opening to the life we have refused

again and again

until now.

David Whyte