All things being equal…well, they’re not! You know that, I know that, everyone knows that. But when was the last time you really took “inventory” of the things most important to you? Not just the “physical” things, but relationships, careers, time…all the intangibles that are the real treasures of life. OK, and your “stuff”, too. Have you lost a little bit of focus on what’s truly fabulous in your life? Maybe it’s time to sit down and do some evaluation. But where do you start? What you need is a sharp Italian guy!
No, it’s not what you think! I’m talking about Vilfredo Pareto. You’ve likely heard of his work even if his name doesn’t ring a bell. The Pareto Principle, often called the 80/20 Rule, states that the 80% of effects likely come from the 20% of causes (see Figure below). Pareto noticed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. He also noticed while walking through his garden that 20% of the pea pods produced 80% of the peas. So where is this going…am I asking you to count peas? No, honestly I can’t stand peas, but I am recommending that you evaluate the things that have the biggest impact on your life. As you do, think about Pareto’s 80/20 Rule to see where it meshes with what you find.
Figure Credit: Living The 80/20 Way
So, using some questions and suggestions, let’s just scratch the surface and look at how Pareto’s 80/20 Rule impacts three areas of your life; Organization, Productivity, Personal Technology:
Organization- You certainly don’t use all your “stuff” every day. Hopefully you’ve organized the things that you do use daily so they’re where you need them, when you need them. It’s no surprise that all the controls needed to fly an airplane are in the cockpit where the pilot needs them, right? Do you keep the 20% of the things you use almost every day in logical places to maximize your efficiency? Are the other 80% of your belongings getting in the way when you don’t need them? Maybe it’s time to look at how much stuff you really need, identify your vital 20% and pare the other 80% down a bit? I know someone who can help!
Productivity- When it comes to productivity you need to think “systems.” Look at the vital few tasks you do that have the biggest impact. Do you have a system in place for your “to do” list, paying bills, buying groceries, filing important documents, home and vehicle maintenance, etc. Take a hard look at your routines and see if they are really systems. If not, work on developing some Standard Operating Systems (SOPs) so you can have a greater impact with less effort, like in the figure above. For example, if you were asked to produce your Birth Certificate would you know exactly where to go to get it? Would it take you less than 2 minutes? If not, you likely don’t have a true system, you have a routine. Here’s another huge tip: batch tasks! Checking email 30 times a day is counterproductive, especially if you take action on every email as it comes in! Batch checking your email (and probably Facebook, too) down to twice a day. The bottom line is to strive to have the vital 20% of your tasks systematized.
Personal Technology- Technology promises to make things simpler…but does it? Are you really using it to your advantage or has it become part of the 20% of things that cause 80% of your frustrations? Sometimes we tend to “over do” it, even with the best of intentions. If you’re a smartphone or tablet user, what are the 20% of apps that you use 80% of the time? Are they on your home screen? Do you actually use all your apps? You can find the top apps from my home screen and why I use them here. My iPhone has replaced my GPS, the clock on my nightstand, my watch, my little book of passwords/logins, my answering machine, home phone, notebook, pen, calendar, still camera, video camera…and that’s just with the apps on my home screen! What part of the 80% of your “stuff” that gets in the way can you cut by maximizing your vital 20% with technology?
The key takeaway here is that it’s often a small percentage of things that have the most impact on your life. It may not be exactly 80/20, but it is likely skewed in that direction. Have you done all you can to become more organized, productive, and use technology to your advantage? What are the things that really matter and bring the most happiness to your life? Your challenge is to figure those things out and focus on the fabulous. And our old friend Pareto’s 80/20 Principle is there to help!