The Pareto Principle

You have so much going on that it can be quite overwhelming at times. To make it worse, a lot of what you spend your time doing doesn't add to your bottom line or help you accomplish your goals. With your attention pulled in so many directions it can be hard to keep focused on what truly matters. But how do you break this cycle and cut through the waste so you can focus on the truly important? 

 Vilefredo Pareto just might hold the key to unlocking the magic code to increasing productivity and regaining your sanity.

Never heard of Vilefredo Pareto? You're not alone.  

Vilefredo Pareto was an economist of little note who lived and died Switzerland almost 100 years ago. Not much of his work or life garners our attention. However, at some point in his 75 years of life Pareto stumbled upon a mathematical truth that could truly transform your life.

The Pareto Principle first popped up on my radar while reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss a little over a year ago. At it's most simple The Pareto Principle simply states that 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs. This has been found to be true across all manner of disciplines including time management, customers, and economics.

A few alternative ways to look at the principle include:

• 20% of your customers generate 80% of your income

• 20% of your customers create 80% of you problems

• 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort and time

It drives home the concept of prioritization. What you focus on matters immensely. If you are focusing all of your efforts on the wrong things you won't get the results your working so hard to achieve. You will run yourself ragged with nothing to show. Thankfully, you can learn and apply the 80/20 principle to your life and alter the outcomes you are working so hard to reach.

Pareto and the 80/20 principle will be of most help to you if you leverage them to assess your current efforts. Here are three ways you can apply it:

1. Take stock of current efforts. Write down everything you are doing and outcomes it is producing. Be unattached from the outcomes here, simply list out your activity and how it has impacted your work, life, etc.

2. Reprioritize what's producing. Perhaps you find that phone calls are driving your business and resulting huge returns for you, despite the fact that you make very few. In that case, pick up the phone and start making more calls. The key here is to determine your areas of strength and multiply them.

3. Eliminate waste. Consider cutting those things that are wasting your time and energy. It might be something you think would be generating results but its just sucking up resources. Cut it ruthlessly. Find your inefficiencies and eliminate them. This will free you up to focus on what's actually generating for you.   

These three steps show where to double down and where to eliminate. Apply this principle to your life, get a hold of the few things that truly matter, and see how drastically it transforms things for you. 

Bonus tip:

Develop a "Stop Doing" List

A few weeks back I wrote a series of questions to help you evaluate the items on your "to do" list that pairs well with the Pareto Principle that will be helpful to you. Here is an expert from that post:

"The solution to your crazy schedule and consequently a crazy task list isn't just another list but the process of evaluating exactly what you are doing each day. A "stop doing" list helps you take a cold hard look at what you are doing and literally stop doing those things that are not the most fruitful for you and your team."

Bonus Resource:

For more on the Pareto Principle and other awesome tips that are sure to shatter your world, in a good way, check out The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

3 Tips That Help Me Get More Done

In this crazy, mixed up and hurried world we find ourselves, we have endless "to do" lists and dozens of other things going on with family and friends. There is little time to spare and the quick pace has us pulling our hair out because we simply can't get it all done.

There are a million different tips to getting more done. Over the last several years, three tips have made an impact on my life and I want to share them with you.

1. Start tomorrow today. Ever arrive at the office or start your day in the fog of indecision? You know you have a ton of things to do, but aren't really sure where to begin? This kind of indecision can be paralyzing. You end up wandering from task to task with no real sense of direction or plan to your day. You spend your day in a passive posture, allowing your day to lead you instead of you leading it. 

Actively engage your day by planning it out the night before. Sit down with pen and paper or your favorite "to do" list app and write down everything you need to accomplish in order to make tomorrow a win. Not only will you find that you sleep more soundly, you'll wake up with purpose. When your feet hit the ground you'll know exactly what to do.      

2. Use email templates. As Barnabas Piper recently stated on the 5 Leadership Questions Podcast, "Email begets email. You send an email it will come back three-fold." Answering email feels like a productive task, but in reality it keeps you from spending your time on what truly matters. The more email you send, the more you receive. Its a never ending cycle. 

One way to decrease the amount of time you spend on email is to create templates for common emails and use them. Better to spend time constructing a good and effective communication once than to repeatedly create ineffective email on the same topic. More on how to take back control of your inbox.  

3. Make fewer decisions. You can't make decision after decision without paying a cost. Many times this cost will be poor decisions at the end of the day. It could be something as small as wrecking your diet by making poor food choices or as major as an emotional decision with big consequences. In either case, you make the poor decision in large part because you have depleated your will power on unimportant things. The road to effectiveness lies in making the minimal number of decisions possible. The objective is not to do as much as possible but to save your decision making for the decisions that truly matter. 

The solution is to automate as much as possible. Much like using templates for email, you can make the seemingly mundane decisions you make each day, such as what to wear and what to eat, ahead of time. Script as many of these decisions as possible. Just as an offensive coordinator scripts the first several plays of the game, you can script the first hour of your day. This will help you begin the day on the right foot and a clean slate for the decisions you will have to make later in the day.  

Bonus tip:

The Sticky Note Trick

If you are overwhelmed by everything on your "to do" list, pick three items and write them on a single sticky note. Next, focus on nothing else but those three tasks until they're done. Then wad up the sticky and throw it away. Repeat until you've conquered your list. 

Bonus Resources: 

How To Get Things Done via Tim Challies

Choice Minimal Lifestyle via Timothy Ferriss 



Rule Your Inbox

In meetings, coffee with friends, movies and while driving down the road our phones are constantly alerting us to the next incoming message. So often that incoming message is a new email. We are collectively drowning in email.


Thankfully, there is a way out. There is a path to relieving the stress and pressure this places on us. Make these seven changes as you read, construct and disseminate email and rule your inbox.   

1. Send an email only when it is the best medium for a communication. People already receive too many emails; do not add to it unnecessarily. Ask yourself what is the best way to communicate this message? Consider all available mediums such as phone, text messages & hand written notes then determine the best medium. Don’t send an email when a phone call will do!

2. Produce good and useful email. Don’t waste people’s time with a poorly written email. It should be clear, concise and effective. Write with the reader in mind. Make sure they know; why you are emailing them specifically, what you want / need and if they need to respond? The subject line should provide clarity, generate curiosity and help the reader know how to treat your email.

3. Check email only at predetermined times. Set aside specific times to check email and keep it closed at other times. Morning, after lunch and at the end of the day should be sufficient. You may need to send emails throughout the day but only check emails at these predetermined intervals.   

4. Do something with every email in my inbox every time you check email. Answer it, erase it, folder it or forward it. Empty your inbox each time you check email.

5. Automate as much as possible. Create templates for common emails and use them. Better to spend time constructing a good and effective communication once than to repeatedly create ineffective email on the same topic.  

6. Respond to an email only when it accomplishes something. If you would not write it on paper and mail it don’t email it either. Give greater significance to email by only writing important messages.

7. Use email for its proper function. Tools serve specific purposes and are to be used accordingly. Email is a tool for the effective communication of important information. It is not a task list or RSS feed nor to be used for anything other than its proper use.