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80/20 Productivity and Planning Technique

A Proven Technique for Productivity and Planning

Increase Your Productivity By Doing Less

The 80/20 technique, also known as the Pareto Principle, is a productivity strategy based on the observation that roughly 80% of results come from 20% of efforts. In other words, it suggests focusing on the 20% of tasks that yield 80% of the results. This technique involves identifying the most important tasks and prioritizing them over less important ones to maximize productivity and efficiency.

I applied Tim Ferris’ unique approach to 80/20, and found it helpful for planning. Try it!

  1. Schedule one hour on your calendar for this exercise. (I found it took me 30-45 minutes.)
  2.  Take a blank sheet of paper and draw a line in the center, from top to bottom. Write a “+” at the top of the left side, and a “-” at the top of the right side.
  3. Open your calendar and go week by week reviewing all of your work and personal
    appointments, efforts, asking yourself this question: what were the 20% of items/effort I
    spent that gave me 80% of my emotional satisfaction (pleasure, positivity, learning, etc.).
    Write each of those items down in the left-hand column.
  4. Restart the same review, but this time ask what were the 20% of items that gave you 80% of emotional dissatisfaction (fatigue, frustration, negativity). Write each of these items down in the right-hand column.
  5. Once completed, review each of your columns for patterns–what were the characteristics,
    trends, patterns, that made the right-hand list give you satisfaction? What was it about the
    left-hand list that drained you?

Steps 1-5 completes the 80/20 analysis of your time and effort. I started to notice patterns

Positive (+) patterns:
+ Impact
+ Engaged Audience
+ Travel
+ Learning
+ Working on the Fly

Negative (-) patterns:
– Repetitive
– Lack of Leadership/Drive/Results
– Going through the motions

These patterns reminded me of the kind of work and personal time I enjoy—the sense of
making an impact, whether for a client or with one of the Scouts in my Boy Scout troop, and
the energy and fun I have consulting real-time on challenges with clients and my team. It also
was a wake-up of what drained my energy and passion over the year—at times feeling a
sense of futility or a lack of commitment to drive change or results. From this, I’m asking myself
“how does this effort/client relate the positive or negative patterns?” If it leans towards the
negative, can I do anything to pull it towards the positive?

What do you do with it now?

You apply those lessons to this year: Consider how to say “no” or delegate those items that were on your right-side column and find ways to enhance your right-side patterns. Intentionally seek opportunities to work on those efforts that give you pleasure and satisfaction and work to remove those that wear you down emotionally. In a year, when you do this reflection, will you have found more of your time in the right or the left column? Own this year.

Use my downloadable 80/20 PowerPlay™ to start your reflection today.


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