How To Make More Hours In The Day

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Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/desideratum/

You’re reading THDC, so you’re smart enough to know that’s not actually possible. You’ve also had enough of people telling you to get up an hour earlier, or stop watching TV so you have more time – you’re probably doing that already anyway. Don’t worry, we’re not going there, but we can talk about how you can make each hour you do have count for more.

How can you get significantly more out of the same 24 hours that each of us has?

For a while now I’ve been a believer in the Pareto Principle.  Never heard of it? Maybe you’ve heard someone mention the 80/20 rule? Lots of people talk about this without ever really understanding what it means.

Summarised, the principle says that for any set of circumstances, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Tim Ferriss wrote about it in the Four Hour Work Week, but I first heard of it studying Economics at University. I remembered Vilfredo Pareto who’s name is given to the principle, but I didn’t take much notice of what he’d observed.

The further I’ve gone in my career to date though, the more this rule seems to play out.

Lets look again:

 20% of the causes = 80% of the effects

In business, you might have heard things like 80% of your profits come from 20% of your customers. 80% of your complaints come from 20% of your customers. 80% of your sales are from 20% of your products.

All these will probably play out for you at some point over the life of your business, but when you’re starting out, there’s something far more important that’s become a rule for me when running projects:

80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.

The remaining 20% of results come from the other 80% of your work.

This is invariably true. All the time. But so what?

Well for most people starting a business, time is a scarce resource.

So how about if you could focus on the killer 20%, and just NOT DO THAT OTHER 80% of the things you were planning to?

Instead of accepting this as a law that is applied to everything you do, turn it around and use it as a tool to drastically cut down the amount of effort you put in, but still get the overwhelming majority of the results.

Sound good? Sound too good to be true even? It’s not. It’s actually too ubiquitous not to be true.

80:20 is a rule that’s been observed in pretty much everything. In nature, business, human behaviour, traffic congestion, wealth generation, ownership of land… You name it, it follows the 80/20 rule, so this isn’t a gimmick that I’ve made up, it’s a natural phenomenon that’s been around for ever.

The facts say that this will happen. Whatever you do, 20% of it will give you 80% of the results.

You can choose though:

  • Use it pro actively, and prevent yourself from doing the least productive work.

or

  • Accept it as something that happens and waste 80% of your time. Ouch.

Use this to your advantage, and suddenly, you’re getting more done in an hour than you might have done in a whole day. Does that sound like it might help you get moving a bit quicker?

Certainly does me. But hold on for one more dose of almost-too-good-to-be-true-but-absolutely-not:

80:20 is present in everything. Including itself. It’s a fractal pattern – the same from near as from far.

Eh? Excuse me?

What this means is, that within the 20% of effort that produces 80% of the results, 20% of that effort, will produce 80% of the 80%.

Confusing, but in other words, 4% of your effort will produce 64% of your results.

If you do one more round of 80:20 on the 64:4 we just talked about, you’ll find that 0.8% of the effort will produce 51.2% of the results:

Less than 1% of your effort will produce over 50% of your results.

The rule goes on and on inside itself, in what’s called a power law. This can get pretty is very complicated, but you dont need to understand the maths, just accept that All effort is not equal. Some things you do have a hugely disproportionate impact on the outcomes you get.

OK – so how do we get hold of some of that Pareto Magic? This week’s practical exercises are all about helping you identify the right 20% of things to be working on.  Want the most valuable 20% here – Just do number 1:

1 – Decide

Decide that you are going to apply the Pareto principle to your business for a day or a week  or some period of time. Accept that you are going to ignore huge chunks of work you think you should do. This will take you seconds to do but will have a huge impact.

2 – Pick a target

Choose one aspect of your business or project that you want to improve, and write a list of all the things you think you need to do in that area. Don’t worry too much about order, or how you write them down, just let your brain spill onto the page. Make sure you have at least 10 lines on your list.

3 – Cull your list

Read through the list of jobs or tasks you’ve just written and ruthlessly cross out 80% of them. Don’t worry about what will happen, just do it.

If you had 10 items before, you’re looking for the two which will make the most difference. Just 2.

This is hard. And you probably won’t get it right first time, but the act of doing it means you will automatically achieve more than you would have done.

4 – Do the 20%

Do them and evaluate how much impact they had. Didn’t quite get you to 80%? They will certainly have been disproportionate, and I guarantee that by doing these 2 things you will have learned something you would otherwise have not.

If you didn’t quite get there, review again – you only get better the more often you do it.

5 – Ignore the other 80%

Chill out – you don’t need perfection here…

Let me know how you get on.

  • http://www.masteringevents.com/ Lee Trends

    Great post on the topic.

    Trying to execute this strategy in my business and your post is an awesome reminder. Brings tons of clarity.

    I got two good books on the topic as well 80/20 Sales & Marketing by Perry Marshall and The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch.

    Have a good one Rob

    • Rob Young

      Thanks Lee. I’ve read the Perry Marshall one, and it’s good. The Richard Kock one is on my list, but it looks a bit hard going…

      How are you finding 80:20 helps in your business?

      • http://www.masteringevents.com/ Lee Trends

        What has helped for me with books are getting them in Audio versions from Audible so I can listen on the go ( driving, working out etc ).

        In terms of 80/20 it’s allowed me to focus on more impacting and profit producing tasks than just tinkering. Definitely not a master at it yet, but working to make implementing it a daily practice.

        • Rob Young

          Good Call.

          I think you’re absolutely right about letting you focus – For me it’s also very rewarding to know that small things can make a disproportionate difference to your success.

          Good Luck with continuing to implement it.

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