Doing more with less. At the sound of it, it’s hard to help but think, “is it possible?”
Richard Koch’s “80/20 Principle” explains just how possible it is. The book plugs Pareto’s Law into business and life. It sets the table for a hard topic: Being wasteful versus being effective. The gist of this rule is 80% of our results are made from just 20% of our efforts.
The 80/20 rule can be found everywhere and often in more drastic proportions. 90/10 and 95/5 aren’t uncommon.
Some examples are:
- 80% of enjoyment is had in just 20% of our time
- 80% of our fulfillment is brought on by only 20% of our work
- 80% of profits come from 20% of clients
- 80% of lessons come from just 20% of life experiences
Coming across this for the first time, I remember being a little confused. How could anyone achieve 80% of a target goal with just 20% effort? Also, how could 80% of my effort be wasted regularly—without noticing?
I had to step back to take a closer look.
If 80/20 were true it’d mean my work at 14 hours per day—sometimes more—could be done in under 3 hours. The same point also suggests I was wasting precisely 11 hours every single day for minimal in return. Both were laughable, insulting, and somehow one hundred percent true. While the majority of my time was spent “working" I had let the inessential take over.
Getting 80% there with 20% effort
An obsession with the essential is huge. Extreme focus here makes it easier to locate the waste and do one thing. Eliminate it. Anything inessential gets canned. In my case here were 3 seemingly small things that had a major impact:
- My desk (loaded with CF cards, wires, cases, hard drives, receipts, important mail, notes, a few dead pens, a book, and a half-eaten jar of peanut butter with a sad, overused spoon surrounded my computer) was cut down to three things. A computer, a notebook, and a working pen.
- My phone (never-ending text conversations, spam calls, social media notifications, and continuous email updates) was switched to silent and airplane mode whenever possible.
- My work hours (14-16 hour days of gum-chewing, hair pulling and nail-biting from trying to get done 100 different things at once) changed to a max of 6 hours and focused on three key tasks.
For more on Essentialism, check out Gregory McKeown’s book.
Next: Subbing out part (or all) of your most time consuming, stressful work. Yea, it’s a big yet doable undertaking for admin or management. It’s a completely different animal for the creative process.
If subbing out your creative is off the table, kudos to you. Skip to the next paragraph. If you have to hire freelancers for creating, clearly state the following: Looking for a collaborative effort. Someone willing to listen to direction, try their best, and make changes until the project crosses the agreed upon finish line. It turns out most freelancers enjoy working with someone organized, articulate, detail-oriented. What’s their worst nightmare? A boss that’s vague, expects it right on the first shot and sends them into an endless round of edits until someone gets dissatisfied enough to quit.
The Waste Most People Forget
Screen time. Blue light fuels stress response. The only problem, screen time causes stress hormones to release continuously. Constant stress brings along unexplainable fatigue and burnout—something there’s no time for.
Cutting light that’s responsible for stress and distraction is the trick. It sets up eyes that feel relaxed, a head that feels clear and days that just seem to go smooth. But every pair of blue light glasses I tried didn’t cut it. That’s why I developed Advanced Eye Armor.
Every 20 has an 80. Sometimes you need to step back to see it. When you find it, the changes you make will change your life. More importantly than learning and implementing the 80/20 principle, you’ve armed yourself with a way of thinking that smokes the majority. Go baby!