4 min read

The 80/20 Rule

This was going to be called, the 2 things you can do to get the most out of training, in essence a lesson on effectiveness.

What can philosopher, Vilfredo Pareto, teach you about productivity and effectiveness?

Quite simply put that a relatively small amount of effort, organized in an appropriate fashion can lead to a staggering amount of success, or that a relatively small amount of things are yielding the majority of your stress and difficulty in life.

Either way he formed the basis of what is now often called the Minimal Viable Dose, or the minimal amount of anything that will yield the greatest (most?) desired results.

If you are stuck on getting something done, sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back, give your mind a break and follow up with some self-analysis. To improve your productivity, and consequently your effectiveness, one such analysis is the 80/20 Analysis.

The 80/20 analysis common in business. It is widely assumed that 20% of your customers are largely 80% of your business.

In fact, it seems that you can apply this principle to change anything, from your level of fitness, to your job, your family life, your social sphere and many other walks of life too.

The 80/20 rule isn’t exact, it’s more like a generalized principle.

Let’s look at a general level for now. Write down what you do in a typical day (Need a hand with this? Try something like Rescue Time), and categorize quickly what you would view as productive and what you would view as unproductive.

I recommend having at least a 3 day cross-section, with 2 weekdays and 1 weekend from which to really draw a good but simplistic life analysis. It’s the same procedure I follow with a 3 day food log.

Try a tool like iDoneThis if you need additional help — it’s free and will prompt you to record what you did that day, qualitatively, each day at a predetermined time — and then look at a nice cross-section of data to see how productive your days ACTUALLY are.

From there:

1) Identify the 20 percent of activities that produce 80 percent of the results you are looking for (based upon your objectives in that particular realm of your life)

2) Identify the 20 percent of activities that consume 80 percent of your time.

I’ll give you a hint; nutrition, sleep and exercise are all productive.

For example, if you value health, then the 80/20 rule should reveal that you spend more time exercising in a day than you do on Facebook.

I honestly spend too much time reading research and reading books, I’ve had to start putting time limits on all of them for fear not getting enough of the right things done — for me things like emailing clients, making sure I get programs done for clients, making sure I spend time writing, making I spend a little time each day making Fitnack better, etc…etc…

This exercise is really about identifying priorities in your life and finding a positive balance.

You’re looking for an imbalance. If you say you want to get better at networking as a priority but you spend less than an hour a day working on networking or reading about improving it, are you really prioritizing it?

If you say you want to get better at eating but you spend less than 10 minutes a day prepping food, is it really a priority?

You need to be able to identify good uses of time and activities that are not particularly useful if you want to prioritize goals/objectives.

This is a really difficult task when done correctly as most things serve some kind of a purpose, but what most people discover is that they spend a lot of time doing insignificant or inconsequential activities, rather than focusing on things that truly matter to them.

A lot of the time we need to stop doing things, just as much as we need to be doing things. It’s hard because framing things negatively affects how you view them and can make them more of a focal point indirectly. Still essentially in many cases.

To cut more stuff out, refer to the ‘Stop-Doing List,’ advocated by author, Jim Collins.

However, if over-consumption is holding you back, you need to find a way to break that cycle. For example, I think it’s fair to say that most people over-consume television and they know it.

What strategies then could you explore that would reduce the amount of time you spend watching TV?

Look to start by cutting one thing, instead of all 20% of your bad habits that lead to productivity leaks at once. Maybe it’s reducing your consumption by 10 minutes each week or month even, baby steps.

You’re not going to spend all your day being productive either, so that isn’t a realistic objective. Make sure you spend your time doing things you really enjoy though. A lot of us watch TV because it’s there, it’s easy, not because we really enjoy it.

Get some social support, tap all your resources to change one thing for a month or more until it sticks, then move on to another activity consuming too much time.

This is an on-going process — it’s part of my year-end review — but you can make big strides in a short amount of time and save yourself a lot of headaches.

I like to go through this little exercise at least once a year.