As a lawyer, corporate professional, or business owner, it seems that you can spend endless hours churning out the work, adding more to your to-do list, and running a mile-a-minute until you crash at night, only to start again the next day. You have all heard the term “don’t work harder, work smarter”. I want to challenge you to do just that, but to take it one step further: “work smarter, but only on the 20%”.
The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your outcomes are caused by 20% of your inputs. Simply put, focus on the 20% that matters to you.
Although not intended to be mathematically accurate in every case, the Pareto’s Principle found its origins in two observations – that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population and that 80% of the peas in one man’s garden came from 20% of the peapods.
Some examples of Pareto’s Principle are:
- 20% of your clients account for 80% of your revenue
- 20% of your clients cause 80% of your complaints
- 20% of your employees contribute 80% of the results
- 20% of your friends assume 80% of your social life
- 20% of your to-do list accounts for 80% of your stress
I invite you to spend a few moments to determine where your 80% comes from, and to invest your energy there. If you work with the 80/20 principle as a rule of thumb, it will serve as a quick go-to tool when you are trying to maximize your time, energy and resources.
After all, if you become more efficient at serving the key 20% of your clients, it will leave more time for you to focus on the 20% of your activities that generate 80% of your happiness.
It’s not to say that you should ignore that which does not produce 80% of your revenue or happiness. But understanding that the moving parts that make up your life are not distributed evenly, and should therefore not command your attention equally, may cause you to breathe a bigger breath, and take a break from the proverbial treadmill that never seems to stop.