What would you say if I told you that 80% of all your work is a total waste of time? And that only 20% of all the things you do is actually worth doing? Will you change things? Will you start to work differently? It is called the 80/20 rule and it may be one of the most important things you need to know in your life. Keep reading.
The 80/20 rule does not only apply to work. It applies to many things in your life! Humans are born to be efficient creatures of habit. When we work, we tend to optimize our processes and make them extremely efficient. Doing that, we create habits that feel comfortable and we stick to them.
But we never stop to think about the thing that really matters: effectivity. Are we focusing on the right things to do? Is the ladder we are climbing standing in the right place? Or should we move it a little bit to the left or to the right?
Take a long, hard look at your workday
Stop for a moment and take a long, hard look at your workday. It is probably filled with things like: making phone calls, sending emails, participating in meetings, using different kinds of applications on your computer and chatting with coworkers. Not to mention the time you spend in traffic or public transportation. Maybe you even use a to-do list to check off the things you (think you) need to do. When you come home after a long day you probably feel you have done a lot of important work. Well, you are probably 20% right…
What would you say if I told you that 80% of all those emails, meetings etc. is a total waste of time? And only 20% of all that stuff is actually worth doing? We call this the 80/20 rule.
Would you change things?
After the initial shock, would you change things? Will you start to work differently? Or will you stick to your comfortable habits?
When you realize this; working harder does not make much sense, does it? Focusing on the right things does! Work smarter, not harder. Try to find out what ‘your 20%’ is and focus on that. Improve the quality of the work you do in ‘your 20%’ and skip the 80% that does not lead to anything.
The 80/20 rule or Pareto Principle
The 80/20 rule comes from a 19th century Italian called Vilfredo Pareto. When he was taking a stroll in his garden he noticed that 20% of the pea plants in his garden generated 80% of the healthy pea pods. When he saw this he started to think about uneven distribution. He thought about wealth and discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. Fascinated, he started investigating different industries and found that 80% of production typically came from just 20% of the companies. The Pareto principle was born: “80% of results will come from just 20% of the action.”
80% of results will come from just 20% of the action
So, how do you know what part of your work actually leads to results?
Trust your gut feeling
Come on! Deep down, you already know what things you do really matter and what things do not. But you are probably afraid to step out of the routine. The routine we copied from our coworkers when we started working. That feeling of “This is what we are supposed to do.”
Sit down and look back on the things you achieved in the last six months. Write them down and trace back the things you did that actually led to those successes. Write those down too.
Write down the time-wasters
Take your time to write down the things you know that are time-wasters. Try to keep these down to a minimum.
Start saying NO
When you are finished analyzing, start with confronting your time-wasters and start saying “no”. Say no to the pointless meetings and time-wasting coworkers. Say no to clients that claim a lot of your time but do not pay the bills. Start giving your undivided attention to the processes, co-workers and clients that are bringing you results.