The Main Idea : By doing less, you can actually end up achieving more.
The key is to make sure you’re doing less of what adds only marginal value (most likely 80-percent of your current tasks) and focus instead on doing better whatever generates the majority of the value you add (the other 20-percent). To find the time to do this, don’t even try doing your marginal value tasks. Instead, focus on your key tasks and completely drop everything else.
First, describe your destination – something personally motivating which cuts through all the irrelevancies and spells out where you want to end up in terms of personal evolvepment, career, money,relationships and quality of life. Define what you really want. Next, figure out your 80/20 route possibilities. Usually there will be a number of options for reaching your specified destination. Your 80/20 route will be many times more productive than all the other options, and it will be easier for you to do.
Finally, get into action – do the very few things which will help you achieve more with less effort than you ever thought possible. It is only when you actually take action rather than merely knowing what you should be doing that changes will start to occur.
“If you could work a two-day week and yet gain much better results and pay than you do for a full week now, would you be interested? You can transform your life if you follow the 80/20 way. If we understand the way the world is really organized – even though that might be completely opposite to what we expect – we can fit in with that way and get much more of what we care about with much less energy. By doing less, we can enjoy and achieve more.”
– Richard Koch
The underlying 80/20 principles and laws
The 80/20 principle states in every field of human endeavor, a mathematical relationship holds true under which 20-percent of the items provide 80-percent of the value. High performers achieve that status by focusing more intensively on the key 20-percent activities. In this way, they can achieve spectacular results with less effort, not more. This principle is so well established in business that it would be a shame not to take advantage of it in other areas of your life as well – in self development, in your personal relationships and in your approach to money, work and success.
• In almost every developed country of the world, 20-percent of the cities contain 80-percent of the population.
• In most businesses, 20-percent of the customers generate 80-percent of the profits earned.
• About 80-percent of the books sold worldwide come from 20-percent of the authors.
• About 20-percent of thieves make off with 80-percent of the proceeds of crime.
• Less than 20-percent of the Earth’s surface produces in excess of 80-percent of its mineral wealth.
• Less than 20-percent of all recorded music is played on commercial radio more than 80-percent of the time.
• Successful venture capitalists work on the basis 20-percent of their investments in new ventures will generate 80-percent of their profits.
• More than 80-percent of the food produced worldwide comes from far less than 20-percent of land.
• In any large retail store, 20-percent of the sales staff will generate 80-percent of the sales in dollar terms.
• In almost every country of the world, less than 20-percent of the population owns more than 80-percent of the wealth.
• A number of studies in different countries have consistently shown 80-percent of all accidents are caused by 20-percent of motorists.
This principle may seem counterintuitive at first glance, since we are programmed to have a sense of fairness. We therefore automatically assume causes and results will balance over the long run. Instead, the 80/20 relationship has been shown to exist right across the board in all human activities, and in virtually every aspect of life. There are always a smaller number of powerful forces and a larger number of less important ones.
In fact, the 80/20 principle is so commonly found it can almost be described as being “the grain of the universe”. The 80/20 principle underpins and leads to two universal laws:
* The Law of Focus
* The Law of progress
The law of focus states: “Less is more”. Modern work and living habits always stress the idea more is more – to get more money or to build a better career path, put in more time and effort. Pay your dues, and then you can sit back and reap the rewards at some unspecified point in the future. The 80/20 principle goes in the opposite direction. It suggests there are some activities which are super-productive and others that are only marginally productive if at all. With 80/20 thinking, you’re attempting to do more of what actually generates results and less of the other activities – even if this course of action seems antisocial, outside the expected norms or unusual behavior.
The law of progress states: “We can create more with less.” All of human history and the advancement of civilization involves getting more results with less resources. For example, computers are continually getting cheaper, smaller, easier to use and yet more powerful. Similarly, the industrial revolution occurred because everyone didn’t need to be working the farms all the time. Instead, a few farmers could produce all the food required using agricultural machinery and better knowledge. If it was not possible for farmers to create more with less, everyone would still be required to grow their own food and to farm their own block of land.
“Companies and countries that devise ways to deliver more value for less effort, people power, and money flourish; but they can never rest on their laurels, because there is always a way to deliver even more for even less and somebody will soon find it. Because of the 80/20 principle, economic progress cannot stop.” – Richard Koch
The paradox, however, is that these two laws have not been consistently applied in the organization of private and social lives. Instead, many people feel it is necessary and desirable to give more and more to the building of their careers.
Consequently, some people get to the point where they have no available time or energy for other activities like spending time with family and friends to recharge creative batteries. It’s very easy to fall into the “fast lane” trap.
The usual reaction to a call for greater personal productivity is to attempt to do more of what is already being done. Perhaps a better approach would be to pause and identify which specific activities generate a disproportionate amount of results, and then find ways to do more of those things alone. If this were done consistently, it would be reasonable and feasible to expect your personal productivity to move forward in a huge leap rather than in small increments. Achieving a much better income for lower rather than greater effort sounds incredibly alluring.
The world’s leading scientists, creative people, philanthropists and business leaders have always organized themselves to get a huge return on their efforts. They invest in a personal infrastructure which will empower them to achieve more with less effort on their part. This same principle can and should be applied at a personal level. The first step might be as simple as pausing before you plunge into any new projects and asking:
“How can I get more with less in this project? What few things could I focus on that will generate the bulk of the benefits from this project?” If you then organize yourself to work most intensively on those key activities, you position yourself to take full advantage of the 80/20 principle.
“We get more reward with less energy if we adopt rewarding habits earlier rather than later. We get more happiness with less effort if we carefully select a few excellent habits we’d like to have and master these, not bothering about all the other good habits we could in theory cultivate. There’s a limit to the number of good habits most of us can practice. Yet a few habits can have a phenomenal effect on our happiness throughout life – we get a massive bonanza from a little up-front effort.”– Richard Koch
Personal time management is probably one of the best examples of the power of the 80/20 principle. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably agree 80-percent of what you achieve at work takes just 20-percent of your time. When you realize that, it becomes clear there really is no such thing as “too little time”. Instead, you need to organize yourself to stay in your most productive zone for as long as possible. Typically, when you’re totally absorbed in a task you’re very good at, time just seems to fly by. You can get done in hours what would ordinarily have taken days, weeks or even months of hard slog. You get an impressive return on your time invested when you hit this zone.
So how can you get into this zone more often and more consistently? Some ideas:
* Look for your own personal “achievement islands” – those times when you’ve come up with a great new idea. For most people, these creative ideas come when they’re goofing off and not really focusing on anything else. Think back to when great ideas have come to you in the past and then plan on putting yourself on these achievement islands more often in the future.
* When doing your day-to-day tasks, engage your mind in creative thinking – by pondering questions like: “How can I build an income and a career around my personal interests and passions?” or “What projects could I initiate that would allow me to expand the time I can spend on things that most interest me?”
* Throw away your “To Do” list and develop your own “Not To Do” list – or in other words, act less and think more. Spend some time reflecting on what ’s genuinely important . Completely stop doing the things that add only marginal value and do more of the things you enjoy. This will require an unconventional approach. You might find it useful to dump your cell phone, purge your diary of appointments you’re not interested in and stop going to meetings that are boring.
Reclaim some lost time for yourself and to spend with those whom you care about the most. Be prepared to make your key decisions in a relaxed and thoughtful state rather than in a blind rush of trying to fit more activities into your calendar.
These ideas are revolutionary rather than evolutionary. Instead of trying to manage your time, slow down, stop worrying and try to do the important things well rather than attempting to cram more and more activity into each day. Relax more and work less. Think and ponder more. Stop doing anything that will not add value. If this means you have to swim against the tide and be classified as eccentric, so be it.
If you try and live in the present moment rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, you will also achieve more. Be proud of what you’ve achieved in the past, and optimistic about the future, but live fully in the present moment. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll give yourself permission to enjoy life when such-or-such is accomplished. Relax. Enjoy the individuality of the present moment, and do the things that absorb your attention and energy.
“Technology has been a rapid heartbeat , compressing housework, travel, entertainment, squeezing more and more into the allotted span. Nobody expected that it would create the feeling that life moves too fast.” – Theodore Seldin
“Those who make the worst use of time most complain about its shortness.” – French novelist La Bruyere
“If we only make good use of a small portion of our time, there can’t be any great shortage of it. If 80-percent of our time leads to 20-percent of value to us, then the return on this time is only 20 divided by 80, or 25-percent. The issue is not time, but what we do with it. We can get a paltry 25-percent return on our time, or 400-percent.”
“If we are self-employed and spend two days a week on our most valuable type of activity, we should be able to get 160-percent of the value that used to take five days to generate – and still have three days left over for whatever we want.”
“We can sharply boost the quality of our lives by changing our use of time. If we do more of the things that make us happy and productive, and much less of the many activities that take most of our t ime but don’t lead to high levels of happiness or achievement, we can improve our lives in a sensational way – all with less effort!”
“Of course, happiness and personal effectiveness can’t be measured precisely. The 80/20 numbers are approximate. Still, multiplying the value of our time by four – a good rule of thumb – is like living to be 320 instead of 80, without any of the disadvantages of old age!”
“The 80/20 principle works everywhere in life. It’s surprising and amazing. It’s not what we expect. There is a big imbalance between causes and results.”
"It is not necessary to do extraordinary things to get extraordinary results.” – Warren Buffett
“Many might go to heaven with half the labor they go to hell.” – Ben Johnson
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