Paretos Principle and Personal Effectiveness

wonder technique

In the 19th Century an Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto wrote a book called Cours d’economie Politique. It was in this book Pareto stated that he found eighty percent of the land ownership in Italy at the time was in the hands of twenty percent of the people. Over time many economists, scientists and even farmers started to look at Pareto’s Principal or the 80 / 20 rule as it is sometimes called and came to realize that this principal can be roughly applied to many areas of our lives including our personal effectiveness.

I believe the 80/20 rule is a great way of checking into personal and professional effectiveness and even time management. So when I heard about Pareto’s Principal again last week it was a great reminder for me to look at my life and see what I am really up to. As I work on keeping Pareto’s Principal in mind on a daily basis (I wrote ‘Think 80/20’ at the top of my time planner) I put together three simple steps for you to check in to see the principle’s impact in your life. Review and use these steps if you wish.

Once you complete this exercise you will see you can use Pareto’s Principal to refine your focus so you increase your peace of mind as you realize you are focusing on the right stuff every moment of the day.

First Step

Take the time to review your life in one area and ask yourself does Pareto’s Principal apply here? You could review any one of family, career, financial, spiritual, emotional, mental and physical areas – pick the one that is your focus at this time. For simplicity, let us choose for this article your work habits as they relate to career effectiveness and fulfillment. Now ask yourself: Do I get eighty percent of my results from twenty percent of what I do? The only way you are going to find this out is by documenting your work actions that leads us to step two.

Second Step

Take a pen and paper and write down your daily work activities. Then highlight what are the most effective actions. With our focus here on work habits you can write down in perhaps hourly blocks what you do each day indicating which activities are your highest impact activities. This will help you find the most impactful 20 percent and the less important 80 percent.

Third Step

Over the next month increase the amount of time you spend on the most important ‘twenty percent’ activities because they are creating eighty percent of your results and start to reduce the amount of work time spent on your less effective activities. You may find some of your other ’80 percent of activities’ may not even need to be completed.

A simple Four Step guideline I created is to look at your work – Decide to do it (since it is in the top 20 % of important and relates to 80% of your effectiveness), or Delegate it (since someone can do it better than you), or Defer it (since it is not a top priority at this time) or simply Review it and Delete it – as it does not need to be keep for future reference.

Note: If you are unwilling to ‘Delete it’ please at least get it off your desk into a drawer or special basket. So it does not clutter up your work space taking your mental focus off what is important and relevant to your daily effectiveness.

Your friend on the journey,

David