In 1848 a man by the name of Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was born in Italy who would provide the world with one of the most intriguing rules of time management and productivity. The 80/20 Rule, better known as the Pareto Principle, denotes this simple reality:
“80% of results will come from just 20% of the action.”
And to think Pareto didn’t have near the number of distractions, tasks, and obligations we have today. However, he was probably thinking more along the lines of how to produce more goods efficiently.
80/20 in Today’s World
If you search the 80/20 Rule, you will find articles to Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Inc, and Forbes. Each article will showcase the important lessons people have learned in attempting to apply this rule. It would seem we are attempting to apply this to all facets of life.
“Doing less is not being lazy. Don’t give in to a culture that values personal sacrifice over personal productivity.” — Tim Ferriss
Whether you are applying it to your sales job, workout routine, time management, and more, we are finding it works. There is something about how we created additional tasks for ourselves which do not produce or barely produce toward our goals.
How Might the 80/20 Rule Apply for You Today
So, how might this matter? How can we apply this rule to our lives? What I found while looking to apply this to my day-to-day workings at my day job came from a little review. I looked at all the tasks I complete in a day. (To Note: I am an insurance claims adjuster, my job is to settle injury claims with attorneys.) I looked at my end goal and started focusing on what major actions help me to get there.
I found there were only a few things, specific tasks moving me toward my end goal. Those became priorities. I decided I would always do those tasks first, and do them in my peak productivity times. All other tasks could wait or some could even be eliminated.
What ended up happening was I started to become more efficient at my job. I started to get more done and create more margin for myself personally. All of the sudden, I was getting the production I needed and still getting those other tasks are done that were less important to my production. And it all started from one early morning where I woke up overwhelmed and stressed by work.
Implement Your 80/20 Experiment in Five Easy Steps
So often, we think that trying some new productivity experiment might be too much for us when we are in a panic over our exhausting workload. That's why I suggest you start with just five days. In five days, you won't really get any further behind than you already are. But, you could gain a lot of ground too. Here is what you need to do.
1. Complete a Review
If you are struggling with work, or not sure how to best start. Try starting with a review of your tasks just like I did. Look at what your product or major output item is and work backward to figure out what makes you most efficient.
2. Find Your Peak Time
Figure out your peak work time. Are you a morning person? Start doing these really essential tasks in the morning. Are you a night-owl? Do these tasks late afternoon or evening. This was probably one helpful aspect for me. I am a morning person and I found out doing things in the afternoon, wasn’t increasing my productivity. It was really just hurting it.
3. Start Your Trial Week
Once you have figured out what is most important and when is the best time to do them. Start a trial week. Focus on doing this for one week. Record your results. It was during the first trial week I found out I needed to be working in peak times. Others find out they might have added a task that was part of the 20% of most productive actions.
4. Adapt and Do Another Trial Week
Take another quick review. See what worked and didn’t work. Find out if there were tasks that don’t belong in your 20% of action and move them out. Were there tasks that do belong? Add them in. Review your results, where you more productive? If so, great. If not, why not? Make your adjustments and do another trial week and review again.
5. Implement and Share
This can be the hardest part. When I finally made it through a couple of trial weeks and adjustments. I started to see some major productivity gains. As my efficiency at work was my biggest opportunity, I knew I needed to get out in front of my productivity.
As I became more productive, I was seeing I was becoming more efficient. At this point, I decided it was time to share my results with my supervisor. While reviewing what I was doing to get better at my job, she provided me with some feedback and focus which was able to implement as well. Today, I am on my way to production and efficiency.
The Importance of Doing More with Less: Margin
We only have so much time in the day. Ultimately, I wanted to be more productive and efficient at work so I could take my full lunch to write and to be able to leave on time at night to go home to my family. I wanted to create the margin in my life to do the things most important to me.
Margin looks different for everyone though. For some of us, the margin is more time with family. Others of us, its working on our side hustle. Yet margin can focus on our health and wellbeing. Whatever it is, we need to create the room to focus on our priorities and be living our best life now.
I implore you to be thinking about your priorities as you decide how to best implement your 80/20 experiment. When you know why you are trying to be more productive and create more margin you will be more bought into doing this well.