Today I want to explore a quick tool called an 80/20 analysis that can help you achieve better results in a shorter period of time.
The 80/20 analysis is based on the Pareto Principle. This principle was named for Vilfredo Pareto, who found in the late 1800s that 80% of land in Italy was owned by 20% of Italians in the same way that 80% of the peas produced in his garden came from 20% of the peapods. This finding was one of many analyzing inequality and examining how the few end up with so much in our economies.
From this and similar findings of the tilting of economic benefits, Pareto decided that democracy was an illusion and a ruling class would always emerge from the 20%.
In modern parlance, this extreme conclusion has been ignored and the Pareto Principle has become more of a rule of thumb applied to a wide range of areas.
While my interest in politics and economics would push me to examine the implications for modern income inequality and the policy proposals to address it, this blog is about providing tools and information that is helpful to individuals.
So instead, we’ll be looking at the modern version.
When I started making a concerted effort to be more productive, I knew I had to make better use of my time.
One of the early steps in this process was adding podcasts and audio books to my day. Previously, while walking to the subway or around the neighborhood, I would have just let my mind wander. I replaced this lost time with extra learning.
The extra knowledge helped. I felt more productive on my walks. But I started feeling more overwhelmed with the work I had on my plate the rest of the time. It felt like I was actually getting less done.
According to the research, I probably was.
I had lost the benefits of letting my mind wander.
One question that meditation has taught me to ask is: Where is the resistance?
In meditating, there is always something that is trying to grab my attention. Often, all I need to do to get rid of it is figure out what it is, acknowledge it, and label it.
“Okay, my mind wants to focus on that upcoming meeting. That’s good to know.”
I can label it, go back to meditation, and then address that issue when I’m done with my meditation. If the meeting is weighing on me, then maybe I need to spend some more time preparing. I’ve identified the problem, and I can then take steps to ease my anxiety.
Lately, I’ve been trying to ask the same question of my productivity.
I read a lot of self-improvement books. Most of them are garbage.
Sure, they may have useful tips and tricks, but usually they contain about enough useful information to fill a blog post. This is then surrounded by fluff, anecdotes, and flowery language to meet the word count for a book.
This is what I expected when I picked up Chris Bailey’s The Productivity Project. I anticipated some helpful tips, but mostly fluff.
I spend a good deal of time around here talking about productivity. This is because I spend a good deal of my time elsewhere trying to figure out how to optimize my productivity.
Optimizing productivity is one way to help optimize your life. If you can be more productive during your working hours, you can make more money and save more time that you can spend on other endeavors or with your family and friends.
The key to all of my productivity hacks and tricks all centers on one cornerstone:
On leaving high school, I made an interesting observation: My grades were higher when my schedule was busier.
It was easy to make the distinction between busy semesters and less busy semesters. You may have guessed based on reading around here for a bit that I’m a nerd. Befitting that, I was in the marching band in high school.
A marching band that was regularly the number one band in New England.
For those of you who have not been in a competitive marching band, it is very time consuming.
We practiced for three hours after school two days a week and practiced all day on Saturday.
Once competition season started, we would bus out to competitions on Saturday and Sunday each week.