I used to say that I don’t have enough time very often. Way too often. I actually liked saying that I need at least 30 hours in every day to manage to accomplish everything I was aiming for. Till the moment I was introduced to the 80/20 Pareto Principle – not very long ago.
Since that moment I feel it is rather arrogant to complain about time. Not because it showed me how to squeeze a million things in minimum time. It didn’t. Instead, it helped me realise how many of all these things I didn’t really need to do in order to accomplish certain goals.
The great productivity misconception
Before jumping into the 80/20 principle, it is important to clarify one thing that most people get somehow wrong: productivity. Productivity is a big thing for me and so it is for this blog as well. Whether from the standpoint of habits and routines that result in seamless workflows or applications and other tools that facilitate processes, I am constantly looking for ways to maximise production volume in a given time increment.
I am confident that everyone who follows this blog understands that I value efficiency more than productivity. Work smart is better than work hard. Applying hard work to an efficient process can increase your productivity in multiples. On the other end, if you don’t apply efficiency in hard work, you may be left wondering how some people produce 10x your volume in the same time. No, they are not 10x smarter than you. They are just mindful to take a step back and judge not only what they do but also how they do it.
And exactly in that last sentence lies the most overlooked question in the life of any entrepreneur or business. What do you do? Yes, you do need to ask how, but this doesn’t mean you should totally neglect what.
While I value efficiency more than productivity, I need to strongly address that I value effectiveness more than efficiency and I encourage you to stick the next line in your head for the rest of your life:
And this is the point where the 80/20 principle comes into play as a proof of concept.
Pareto principle: the 80/20 rule
The Pareto Principle, more widely referred to as the 80/20 principle or rule, states that in most events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. For the history of it, in the late 19th century Wilfredo Pareto showed that the 80% of the land in Italy was owned by the 20% of the population. He later observed that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas. And then you can imagine that this started expanding in every area and direction.
In business, it has become the rule of thumb among marketers that the 80% of the sales come from 20% of the clients. And if you run a business and think it a bit more, I guess that there is a series of other things subject to the 80/20 principle. I guess for example that 80% of the customer service time is spent dealing with complaints from the 20% of the clients – who are not the same 20% that generates the 80% of the sales, thus, on another note, you may want to consider if you really need them as customers at all.
Amazingly enough, this is true for our personal lives as well. It’s around the 20% of your friends that you really enjoy your time with and make you happy. You produce 80% of your work in 20% of your working hours. It’s just the 20% of the emails you receive that are worth looking at. It’s the 20% of your clothes that you wear 80% of the time. And it is that last rep in a set of 5 that will trigger muscle growth and will account for the majority of your gains in muscle mass. The list can go on and on.
The 80/20 proportion might deviate a bit occasionally being 75/25 or 90/10 but don’t lose the point: the minority of the causes produce the majority of the results.
The small things get you supersized
So if you struggle with time, I suggest you stop complaining about it since this will not change the fact of the matter. Instead, take on the challenge to identify the 20% of the things that really matter in your everyday life and account for most of your results. Focus on them and eliminate the rest 80% completely if possible. Be ruthless with the latter. And don’t narrow it down only to work and related to it processes. Expand it to physical possessions as well as personal relationships.
Getting rid of things that you don’t need, other than anything else, will give you a great feeling of relief. It will also give you more space in that drawer, that wardrobe or that room which will result in a more pleasant living. And if you sell any of the items that you don’t need you will get a financial token as well. When it comes to personal relationships, cutting off the miserable people from your life will make you happier. Plain and simple. Unless you are the miserable one! Are you? I hope not, but if you are, try to identify the 20% of the thoughts that account for most of the moments of misery and erase them from your mind!
Sample ideas applying the 80/20 principle for maximum effectiveness
Business: Identify the 20% of the clients that cause you the 80% of your problems and cut them off! You will lose some revenue temporarily but you will save some money from reducing excessive customer service. You will also free some of your time and you will be less stressed. Eventually you will use that newly found time to acquire new, better customers. Think long-term.
Email: Identify the 20% of the emails that really matter. For the rest 80%, unsubscribe if it is a newsletter that you never read or, if you really need those emails to be in your archive, create a folder and a related rule to send them directly in that folder so that they don’t appear in your inbox. You may take a step beyond and allocate specific times to check emails – probably once or twice per day to eliminate associated distractions.
Clothing: Open your wardrobe. Take out all your T-shirts. Identify the 20% of the T-shirts that you wear 80% of the time. If you have 20 T-shirts, that would leave you with 4 most used ones. Put them back into the wardrobe. Look at the remained ones with no emotion. Remember: you have to be ruthless! Get rid of the ones that you haven’t worn for more than a year – gift them, send them to charity, sell them or throw them away if they are too worn out (some of them will not be since you never wear them, some might have been too worn out during a distant period of time buried somewhere in the past). Judge whether to keep the rest depending on wearing frequency. Discard them if in doubt. Apply the same exercise for the rest of your clothing.
Let go to go faster
The lighter we are, the faster we move. Let go of things, people and feelings that weigh you down. Keep only the ones that push you forward. And this is not an one-off exercise. You need to set a periodical purging season. If you eliminate most of your T-shirts, it doesn’t mean you will not buy any new T-shirt ever again.
You will accumulate possessions, relationships and emotions over and over again. But the more you repeat the purging exercise the more selective you become. Essentially you uncover additional layers of inner understanding. You learn to learn yourself. And over time, additions become less in quantity and higher in value.
I am not arguing that the Pareto Principle, or any principle, is the answer to every problem and that by applying this you will sky-rocket your business or you will find peace of mind, love and happiness. But if you want to see progress in any field, you need to demonstrate skill. Hence, you need to train yourself. And this is a great place to start.
Thank you for reading! If you have any thoughts on what you just read, either good or bad ones, I would appreciate it if you leave a comment below and let me know. Feedback is invaluable in one’s strive for progress. And if you choose to share this post it would mean the world to me! Until soon!
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