Acknowledge the Waste
You’re wasting 80% of your time doing things you’re not good at or that bear little accomplishment for you. Think about it.
We achieve 80% of results with 20% of our time, and 20% of results with 80% of our time. If these numbers seem disparaging, they are.
The scientists and math savvy among you are probably thinking “I actually achieve 79% of my results with 23% of my time”. When applying the concept to your life, the exact numbers aren’t important, and no, they won’t always add up to 100.
It’s the concept that is important. The numbers will vary.
This doesn’t include sleeping. If you think about your productive time, let’s say it’s 8 hours a day, how much of that time is spent performing at your highest level, and how much is just minutiae or time spent doing work that is boring, tedious, and/or not your best work?
Success is Not Linear
The take away here is that wealth and success aren’t linear. If you just work harder, you won’t be proportionately more successful.
You could work 16 hour days, 7 days a week at a dead end job and never be as successful as the consultant who charges $500/hour and works 10 hours a week. The universe isn’t fair.
Now I’m not saying don’t work hard, not at all. Work hard at work/tasks where you perform at your highest level, not just work for works sake.
The good news is that if you spend 80% of your time on what you’re good at, you will see disproportionately large success.
Origins of the 80/20 Principal
The 80/20 principle, or Pareto Principle, was originally discovered by economist Vilfredo Pareto, who found it through math and quantitative research. He noticed trends like that 80% of wealth was owned by 20% of the population.
The principle was later purported by others and applied to subjects such as business and management consulting. It was masterfully adapted to business and life by Richard Koch, in his book The 80/20 Principle, which I highly recommend for further reading.
It has more recently been hailed by the likes of Tim Ferriss in his book, The Four Hour Work Week. This is actually how I first came across it.
The usefulness of this principal is that if you acknowledge that you achieve 80% of your results in 20% of your time, and you repeat that 20% you can multiply your effectiveness without working harder, but working smarter.
For example, if 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your product, then why are you wasting your time focusing on the 80% of your products that only yield 20% of your profit? Would it not be much more effective to focus on that top 20%, by expanding marketing or product development?
As another example, if 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers, then why are you focusing on the 80% of customers that only make up 20% of sales, but likely take up 80% of your time? The answer to more success is to focus on the top 20% by getting more sales from them, improving service to them, and getting more customers like them.
We spend so much time catering to the people who serve us least. When you apply this to your personal life, similar findings bear true.
People tend to spend 80% of their time with the friends who benefit them least, and only 20% of their time with their best friends.
The obvious question you should ask is, are you hurting your best relationships in order to try to nurture poor/temporal ones, which ironically require more of your time? And why are you doing that?
A Bit Radical?
The logical conclusion of this principal is to cut out the wasteful 80% and multiply the best 20%. But wait, this is where it gets dicey for most people.
To apply the principal fully is indeed a bit radical. For example, to multiply that 20% you might have to quit your job and work for yourself.
The 80% of time yielding the least results might include activities such as meetings, data entry, checking email, and other tasks that are vital to your job. So how do you cut those activities? That’s for you to decide.
Think about that 20% of your time you spend making innovations, writing persuasive reports that get results, giving stellar presentations, or applying your creativity and getting things done. How could you do more of that to achieve even more?
This can be implemented to whatever degree you like, but the most ambitious will want to take the principal to its radical conclusion. That is, if you did what you’re best at for 80% of the time instead of 20%, you achieve theoretically 400% more.
Keep in mind that these numbers can be smaller but also much, much greater.
How to Apply 80/20 to Your Life
So how exactly can you apply the 80/20 Principal to Your Life? Let’s get started.
- Cut Out Waste
Think about what you do for 80% of your time. Think about anything wasteful you could cut out from those activities (i.e. watching T.V., socializing, playing video games, web surfing, trolling Facebook, checking email 5000 times/day).
For some people waste even comes from trying to be productive but actually sitting around or working slowly because we don’t prioritize properly or don’t have a solid plan.
When working on your website, do you spend all the time altering the design? That’s great but is that getting you more results? How about focusing on marketing the website instead which will yield much greater results.
Take 30 minutes and do this right now, this article will be here when you come back. Use the time to think and write down your answers on paper or a word document.
- Multiply Results
This is essentially the opposite. Think about the 20% of your time where you achieve your best results. You’ll want to think about things you’re proud of, your achievements, things you’re good at, etc.
For example, if you’re really proud of that marathon you ran, how can you do more of those? Or if you really like making art how can you spend more time doing that?
Again, take 30 minutes and do this right now, this article will still be here, I promise (or I hope). Use the time to think and write down your answers on paper or a word document.
- Make a Plan
Now that you’ve identified the waste and the best use of your time, it’s time for implementation. You need a plan.
Craft a plan with specific things you can do over the next month to cut back on wasteful activities and multiply the effective ones. Be as radical or as mild as you want.
For the last time, take 30 minutes and do this now. It may be best to take an actual calendar and right down what you’ll do over the next month giving specific dates and deadlines.
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