Prior to reading The “4-Hour Work Week”, I have never heard of the “80/20 principle”. The late Vilfredo Pareto takes full credit for this phenomenon. It is also called “Pareto’s Law” or “Pareto Distribution”.
“Pareto’s Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs.” or “80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.”1
This is a prime example that can be materialized within any role and within any organization. Spend time and energy on things that are going to give you the highest ROI. Cut out or minimize time spent on things that do not give you an ROI. If you’re spending hours answering complaints from people that don’t perform, it might be time to cut them. Better yet, let them know you’re changing your processes. (You get to choose your processes) Something that is important that goes well with this, is communication. Making your clients/co workers, etc, well aware that you’re doing the best you can and what changes they should expect in the future. You don’t always have to respond to their email right away!
There’s another law Ferriss brings to the table which will blow your mind. Remember in high school or college when you’d have a really important project due and you had 3 months to work on it? You’d typically start the weekend before it was due and you’d cram for 48 hours straight.
“Parkinsons’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.”2
I’m sure you’re kicking yourself at this point saying, “Wow. That’s what I’ve been doing these past X years when I’ve needed to get important things done.” You need to get better at time management and choosing which tasks are the most important. Set clear and short deadlines and remove all distractions. If it’s a ‘make or break’ type of situation, turn off your phone, stop checking email and get off social media. Remove the distractions!
Two questions that I think can really help you narrow down the most important tasks are:
“Am I being productive or just active?” And “Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?3
We’re all guilty of doing things to avoid the important. It happens everyday. Especially being in the information age and always being connected to the internet. “OH, I got a ‘like’, someone Tweeted me, Oh a new LinkedIn connection.” Those things will distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish. I suggest removing the notifications on your phone for social media. I already know you click on your apps every hour anyways.
This is the perfect leeway into the next area of conversation; Distractions. Ferriss’s definition and plan of action is extremely in depth and worth the read. For someone that works more than 4-hours a week, I’m going to leave some of it out.
“Turn off the audible alert if you have one…”4
Every time you get some type of notification, it will throw a kink in your current task. Your attention will draw away from what you were doing and on to the notification. Even if you don’t act upon the notification, you’re still going to think about it. It goes the same for checking your email at 10PM at night. If you’re not going to respond, don’t bother checking. 90% of us aren’t working in a life or death situation… and if we were… they’d call us.
When it does come time to email people,
“Get in the habit of considering what ‘if . . . then’ actions an be proposed in any e-mail where you ask a questions.”5
That way, if they can’t have a meeting on a certain date, you have a second option or they can propose a time. The last thing you want is to go back in forth asking what time works best. During that process; set the stage and either provide an agenda or make them provide one. You don’t want to get on the phone and have nothing serious to talk about. You’d just be wasting time. Last but not least; have a time frame set in stone. Do not let the meeting go over the time allotted. Time is money and when you’re not utilizing your time well, you’re losing money.
A funny quote to wrap up a discussion on distractions is;
“Blaming idiots for interruptions is like blaming clowns for scaring children – they can’t help it. … Learn to recognize and fight the interruption impulse.”6
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There’s more to come from me about:
The 4-Hour Work Week | Tim Ferris