An Easy Way To Define Your Priorities
I had planned to write this article on the Pareto Principle a week ago. Since I decided on this topic, two other bloggers have published articles on the same subject.
I am old enough and wise enough to realize that if this subject is resonating among the experts, there has to be a reason. So rather than abandon my course for fear of appearing unoriginal, I will forge ahead recognizing that overwork is causing pain among business owners everywhere. It is my expectation that I can propose a few ideas to remedy the situation.
The Pareto Principle
In 1909, Italian civil engineer and micro economist Vilfredo Pareto published a book that contained the findings for a study on wealth distribution in England. Pareto observed that 20% of the people controlled 80% of the wealth, hence the 80/20 principle. He further believed this same distribution held true within any human society regardless of the era or culture.
Upon reading the book, other experts began to realize that the 80/20 principle went beyond the field of economics. They saw that the 80/20 relationship held true across the board—in science, in industry, and in business.
Although the percentages of 80 and 20 may fluctuate, this overriding concept is worth considering.
- Roughly 20% of our efforts yield 80% of our results
- Roughly 20% of our products or services bring in 80% of our revenue
- Roughly 20% of our customers purchase 80% of our products or services
Pareto’s observation may hold invaluable insight for people who are both overworked and time-strapped. If this principle holds true, then we as business owners can apply the principle to do less work and still get better results.
Hmmm. Sounds good so far.
Let’s face it, we all want to work smarter NOT harder.
Okay, so how does it work? Easy. I isolate where my greatest returns are coming from, and focus my efforts there. If I focus on attending to the 20%, then my output will increase dramatically for the same amount of effort. It’s common sense.
One of my favorite self-help writers, Dr. Henry Cloud in his book, 9 Things a Leader Must Do, put it like this—yank the diseased tooth. If something causes you pain and weakens your overall productivity, eliminate it.
Case in Point
One time waster comes while moving from one job to the next. Handling like tasks in one sitting, can eliminate the time loss caused by needing to refocus the mind after each transition.
One area where I was consistently losing time each week was thinking through topics for my blogs. I needed to isolate ideas that would interest readers, and that would provide enough readily available information to make each article substantive. Especially in the technology field, it can take time to research these things out.
Then it hit me. Here was a place to apply the Pareto Principle. I could save an enormous amount of time by doing all of the preliminary research at once.
The other day, I sat down with a cup of hot coffee and mapped out a series for each of my blogs. I did it all in one sitting, and it only took me about an hour. The fact that I now know what I’m going to be writing for my next article, and my next, and my next—has allowed me more time to breathe.
All of this extra time has given me the opportunity to look for other areas where I can eliminate wasted effort.
Businesses have applied the Pareto Principle or 80/20 rule with success for decades.
I may not be able to identify every place where I can cut the 80% all at once. Life doesn’t work like that. But the next time I feel pain, I’m going to stop and ask myself a couple of questions:
- What can I eliminate from this task and still get the same results, without sacrificing quality?
- Where am I spending time that isn’t giving a big enough payoff?
If I keep asking these questions, pretty soon I’m going to be working with far greater efficiency. I challenge you to look for areas in your process where this little idea can buy back some time.Capitalize on The Pareto Principle by Rita Mailheau