Using the 80 / 20 rule to “recharge”

March 7th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

One of the more commonly accepted principles of business is the Pareto Principle – the idea that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort. The Pareto Principle is named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Pareto noticed while gardening that 20% of the pea pods in his garden produced 80% of the peas – which reminded him of an earlier study he had seen that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of Italians.

It turns out the 80/20 split is pretty common in a wide number of fields:

– 80% of crime is committed by 20% of criminals

– 80% of health care cost is attributable to the most expensive 20% of patients

– Microsoft has found the 20% of bugs most frequently reported cause 80% of crashes.

– 20% of the world’s population holds 80% of the world’s wealth.

But it is also applicable to the daily efforts of most of us. And if 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort then the key to productivity is identifying that 20% and making sure you have a system to complete it each day, week and month. One way to do this is by calendaring in the key tasks each day so you know you have time for them. Another way is a Top 5 type system, where you outline the highest impact things you can do and go down that list in order of importance.

Lots of great authors have talked about how to manage your works efforts around the 80 /20 rule. Ruthlessly consider which customers account for 80% of your frustrations and only 20% of your business, and cut these people out.

But one story that I found inspiring, was by a client of mine who implemented this in an uncommon way. She would work hard 60-70 hours a week, and feel the urgent need to “recharge fast”. She tended to get a couple massages a week, but found that this was an expensive way to “recharge.” She felt great when her mind shut off while cooking a gourmet meal, but this often took 6 hours, and left her with lots of dishes to clean after. So, she did an 80 / 20 analysis about how she felt during and after “recharging” activities. And she found that for only 45 minutes of time, she could get same the recharged and re-centered feeling, for less cost, yet still do something “productive” during it. And this was walking her dogs on the beach at her favorite spot. She got outdoors, got some fresh air, got the dogs exercised, and felt just as recharged as any of the other activities for a fraction of the time.

It’s not as important what system you use, but that you have a system. For most of us, 20% of our time is around 2 hours a day. Do you have a plan to identify and accomplish in 2 hours the items which will drive 80% of your results? And further, do you know what recharges you more quickly when you need it? For me, the best recharging ROI activity for me is 60 minutes of hot yoga or hiking. What is it for you?

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