Use the 80-20 Rule at Work

80-20 rule

Do you apply the 80-20 rule at work?

You’ll notice, and be noticed for, far greater efficiency and effectiveness in your role if you do.

You know what matters and you actually do it.

Based on the premise that the minority of causes create the majority of effects, '80-20' can be seen at work, anywhere and everywhere.

But its impact can really be felt in your workplace.

The 80-20 rule, or 'Pareto Principle', is based on the idea that a relatively small percentage of any cause (20%) creates most of the subsequent effects (80%).

This applies to pretty much everything you related to what you do.

Whatever task, project, role or goal you have, tackle it with the 80-20 rule in mind.

Try this five step sequence:

  1. Start with the end. What is the outcome you want?    
  2. When you’re clear about that, break it down into the actions you need to take to get there.    
  3. Do the actions in the most accurate order you can. (Learn how to prioritize work).
  4. Keep asking ‘What’s the next relevant action step to take?’
  5. Repeat until complete. 

You’ve just successfully applied the 80-20 rule!

Let me explain…

It all starts before Step 1.

When you’re actually working on something directly related to your work, you’re 'on task'. Your entire to-do list is the 20% that produces 80% or more of results.

If something is on your to-do list, you put it there for a reason. We don’t often write down emotionally charged responses -- lists are rooted in rational thinking.

Bottom line?

Trust yours. Do the things on your list and you do what actually matters.

Okay, let’s take it to the next level…

Even Your To-Do List Follows the 80-20 Principle

Let’s say you have a list of 10 things to do today.

One or two of them (10-20%) will make the biggest impact (80% or more) on your productivity.

Look through your list. Which are the top activities that give you the most ‘bang for your buck’?

Do them.

For example, this website. The top value activity I can do is writing words.

Research, planning, organizing tools, data and resources all have to be done. Designing the look of the web pages won’t happen by itself either. They all need to be tackled, but in proportion to what really matters -- writing words that will be read.

To get the best of the Pareto Principle, ask yourself…

“Does what I’m about to do matter?”

Is there something else that would make a bigger difference?

If you’re not doing it, can you justify to yourself why not?

That leads on nicely to the next question…

Why Do We Avoid Applying the 80-20 Rule?

The answer to this one is straightforward...

Because doing what matters is less fun than doing what doesn’t!

We all need some down time. Regular breaks make for better quality work. Breaks can mean completely switching off, or doing easy tasks (see Quadrants 3 and 4 of the time matrix).

But breaks don’t get results; focused action does. And that, more often than not, is hard work. It taxes body and brain to make real progress.

How to Apply the 80-20 Rule When it Hurts to Do So

The best solution is, as is so often, the simplest:

  1. On any given day, identify the tasks that most matter in your work.
  2. Do them to the degree to which you feel you can discipline yourself to. Overcoming procrastination is always possible,

Think 80-20, act 20-80, and supercharge your time management at work!

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