Thursday, June 9, 2011

The 80/20 Principle

Ever wonder why some people seem to accomplish more than others? Why some are happier than others, are more successful, have more free time? It is not all genetics, childhood experiences, or even education… it’s what we spend our time on that really counts.

I believe in a natural imbalance of our efforts. Wow! Those nine words sound heady… even esoteric. But what I am really saying here is that a minimal amount of our efforts or inputs generate a disproportionate amount of our results or outputs… an important, powerful “Secret of Life” is the 80/20 principle.

The reason the 80/20 principle is so valuable is because it is counter-intuitive. We tend to believe that half of our efforts will generate half of our results… that life in general should be equally balanced… that our problems and opportunities are equally weighted… that all customers, products, sales revenue, inquiries, phone calls, emails, even days of the week have similar significance, have roughly the same value. This is simply not true… when we carefully analyze the true relationship between effort and results we clearly see how unbalanced life is.

So, why should we care? Whether we realize it or not, this “Secret of Life” affects our entire personal world. It applies to our work, our families, our friends, our happiness, even our spiritual life. I use it as a lens to focus my view of what is really happening around me. When we truly realize that 20% of our efforts produce 80% of our results it can change our lives… forever.

How? By choice, by substitution, by taking control over our time, action, and priorities, we can dramatically improve the quality, achievements, even happiness in our lives.

Many of us already apply the 80/20 principal to business. We know when we review the statistical data, 80% of our profits come from 20% of our products, 80% of our revenues are generated by 20% of our customers, 80% of our market awareness is a result of 20% of our marketing efforts. This means that most of what we do is far from efficient. We simply waste resources, time and energy… day in and day out.

Here is where the great opportunity, the powerful “Secret of Life” resides. If we discipline ourselves to simply stop doing the bottom 20% of our activity that produces the least effective results in our daily lives… and instead substitute that time, that energy, doing more of the most effective activity (top 20%) we can create a positive, leveraged, multiplying result with the same efforts. We can become super productive by just prioritizing and substituting what we do. Can you imagine the power of stopping the bottom 20% of what you do and focusing instead on the top 20% of your most effective, efficient, efforts?

I am not suggesting blowing your life up with radical change. What I am advocating is that we review our daily lives and identify the small minority of inputs or efforts that have a major, leveraged impact on our outputs/ results and do more of that. Press up whatever is working, and do less of what eats time and resources. When I am applying the 80/20 principle; I may choose not to answer every email or message, I don’t take on other people’s work when they try to give it to me. I avoid wasting time on low value activities by not letting low value activities control me. I prefer not to hang with people who drain my energy. The 80/20 principal drives us to create our own lives by substituting efforts, by setting priorities that will greatly improve the quality of our lives. Why just let life happen when we can consciously apply the 80/20 principal “Secret of Life” to strategically set us free?