The Law of the Vital Few states that 80% of outcomes are based on 20% of the effort. This means most of what we accomplish in a day can be traced back to a very few sets of tasks that are highly beneficial while most of what we do in our day may not be very productive. Have you ever felt like that?
What exactly is going on with the other 80% of our time that makes it so unfruitful? How do we make the most of the 20% of productive time in our day?
The first thing is first. We need to step back from the to-do lists for a minute and look at the big picture. What are we trying to accomplish?
Whatever the goal is, make sure you have a clear idea of the big picture. Take a moment to write down what is driving you in life or in business. What is the larger vision? Make sure to write it down and keep your goal in a highly visible location as a reminder. Keep our eyes on the goal will help you stay focused on what matters and act as a filter to show you which tasks are perhaps taking too much of our time and not yielding any significant results.
Keeping your sights set on the goal will help focus on developing those tasks that yield the most benefit to you each and every day. Brian Tracy has some great tips for goal setting using the 80/20 rule.
After clearly identifying our goal, the next step is to distinguish those tasks that generate the most fruitful outcomes from those that generally usurp our time but may not be very productive.
Filter through your to-do list to find the “vital few” tasks that always get the job done. These tasks are indispensable to your goals and usually fairly obvious. Put your best effort towards these vital few tasks and get them done first. Eliminate distractions and give these vital few tasks your full attention because you know how beneficial their outcomes are to your goals. Later in the day when you need a break or are feeling tired is a better time to fill in with those emails you may need to catch up on, reports you need to file, or other tasks that may not require your full attention. When knocking these simple tasks out try speed dating your task list, using a prescribed amount of time for each task and then moving on to the next. For more on goal-setting, check out this article.
If we want to be more productive, we need to clearly know which tasks yield the results we are looking for and which tasks are bogging us down. Only then can we begin to let go of what is holding us back. Think of it like pruning. You are getting rid of things you don’t actually need. Discarding the dead branches to make room for new and vital growth.
This process may come in various forms. You may need to let go of what is interfering with your productivity. For example, minimizing social media or web distractions, only returning social calls at certain hours, whatever it takes to make sure you are only tackling one thing at a time.
Sometimes you may have to let go of those tasks you know you don’t excel at. Asking for help or delegating tasks that are outside of our realm of expertise will allow us to put more focus back on the things we are good at that bring us the most benefit. Tap into what you do best.
Other times, you may need to learn to say “no.” Taking on more than we can chew can be an instant drain on our effectiveness and productivity. You can give yourself the greatest chance for success by not draining your resources by becoming overextended.
Whether in business, in time management, or in life, the 80/20 rule means 20% of your efforts produce 80% of the rewards. Hopefully by understanding this principle and some of its applications you can focus your efforts on those tasks that will produce the greatest benefit in your job and in your life. And don’t forget, the 80/20 rule also points us towards the unimportance of practically everything. With all of this great information at your fingertips, you are guaranteed to be a Well-Rounded Super Being.
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