The 80/20 Rule

This was going to be called, the 2 things you can do to get the most out of training, in essence a lesson on effectiveness.

What can philosopher, Vilfredo Pareto, teach you about productivity and effectiveness?

Quite simply put that a relatively small amount of effort, organized in an appropriate fashion can lead to a staggering amount of success, or that a relatively small amount of things are yielding the majority of your stress and difficulty in life.

Either way he formed the basis of what is now often called the Minimal Viable Dose, or the minimal amount of anything that will yield the greatest (most?) desired results.

If you are stuck on getting something done, sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back, give your mind a break and follow up with some self-analysis. To improve your productivity, and consequently your effectiveness, one such analysis is the 80/20 Analysis.

An analysis common in business. It is widely assumed that 20% of your customers are largely 80% of your business. In fact, it seems that you can apply this principle to change anything, from your level of fitness, to your job, your family life, your social sphere and many other walks of life too.

Let’s look at a general level for now. Write down what you do in a typical day (Need a hand with this? Try something like Rescue Time), and categorize quickly what you would view as productive and what you would view as unproductive. I recommend having at least a 3 day cross-section, with 2 weekdays and 1 weekend from which to really draw a good but simplistic life analysis.

Try a tool like iDoneThis if you need additional help (it’s free and will prompt you to record what you did that day, qualitatively, each day at a predetermined time) and then look at a nice cross-section of data to see how productive your days ACTUALLY are.

From there:

1) Identify the 20 percent of activities that produce 80 percent of the results you are looking for (based upon your objectives in that particular realm of your life).

2) Identify the 20 percent of activities that consume 80 percent of your time.

I’ll give you a hint; nutrition, sleep and exercise are all productive. This exercise is really about identifying priorities in your life and finding a positive balance.

You need to be able to identify good uses of time and activities that are not particularly useful. This is a really difficult task when done correctly as most things serve some kind of a purpose, but what most people discover is that they spend a lot of time doing insignificant or inconsequential activities, rather than focusing on things that truly matter to them. To cut more stuff out, refer to the ‘Stop-Doing List,’ advocated by author, Jim Collins.

However, if over-consumption is holding you back, you need to find a way to break that cycle. For example, I think it’s fair to say that most people over-consume television and they know it.

What strategies then could you explore that would reduce the amount of time you spend watching TV?

Look to start by cutting one thing, instead of all 20% of your bad habits that lead to productivity leaks at once. Get some social support, tap all your resources to change one thing for a month or more until it sticks, then move on to another activity consuming too much time. This is an on-going process — it’s part of my year-end review — but you can make big strides in a short amount of time and save yourself a lot of headaches.

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