The 20:80 Rule

I could spend days sitting in a dark room with the lights off just thinking. And in some periods of my life, that’s really all I did.

Thinking is great — it allows you to review things you normally wouldn’t have time to do otherwise, and really take a deep dive inwards and analyze what’s going on. But it’s overrated.

On the path to self mastery and self improvement, reflecting is a vital tool we can use. However, it can also be a crippling one. We often get gratification from sinking into thought and finding the solution to our problems in theory. The problem is, it’s in theory.

It becomes a gratification loop that gets harder and harder to break.

Have a problem >> Think about it >> feel gratified with a theoretical solution >> continue to have problem

It’s a concept known as “mental masturbation”. This is generally something we want to avoid because not only does it not solve our problem, but it soon becomes a crutch we lean on in desperate times. Telling ourselves we’re going to start studying more and eating better in the moment makes us feel better, but in reality it gets us nowhere.

Enter the 20:80 rule.

The 20:80 rule suggests that you think and take action at a 20:80 ratio. If you theorize and think for 20 minutes, you should take action for 80.

Why is this rule important?

This rule keeps us in check.

Thinking is something that a lot of people overvalue. Think about it like fishing on a boat.

If you are on shore and you get in the boat, putting your fishing rod in the water would be useless because you’re still on shore. Thus, you have to paddle into deeper waters. The deeper you paddle, the more bountiful your fishing will be.

Comparatively, there are things you can only learn by doing. If you’ve done very little, you will have very little to reflect on. If you’ve done a lot, then your reflections will be properly proportioned. The more you do, the more perspective you have, and the better insights you can generate.

So next time you tell yourself you need to “think about things”, try the opposite and take immediate action. 🐟