Extraordinary Results Are Disproportionately Created by Fewer Actions

Many people have too much thrown at them at once, and they are too busy juggling everything coming at them to take a minute and evaluate what’s essential. What gets the most benefit for the least amount of effort. And what they should really focus the limited time they have on.

What if the secret to performing better at work, and feeling more satisfied life, isn’t to put more effort and energy into work but less?

Less but focused work.

What if you spend less wasted effort on activities that aren’t bringing you the most results.

You have probably heard of the Pareto principle, known also as the 80/20 rule. The principle stresses that you should focus on the few things that get you the most benefit.

Richard Koch explains in his book, “The 80/20 Principle”:

“The 80/20 Principle asserts that a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually lead to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.” In other words, in the world of success, things aren’t equal. A small amount of causes creates most of the results. Just the right input creates most of the output. Selected effort creates almost all of the rewards.”

What Pareto observed might be bigger than even Pareto had imagined.

All actions or inputs are not the same. Few life-changing ideas are solving the biggest global problems. Selected efforts are transforming the world. A small group of creative people have created the largest innovative companies that have hired millions of people. A handful of investments put the most money in Warren Buffet’s pocket.

Recognizing your 20 percent

Eighty percent of your outcomes in most things you do come from twenty percent of your inputs. As Pareto demonstrated with his research, this “rule” holds true, in a very rough sense, to an 80/20 ratio.

At a micro level just by looking at your daily habits you can find plenty of examples where the 80/20 Rule applies. 20% of the people who are close to you influence 80% of your attitute and perception and either propel you forward or limit your abilty to deliver and make the progress you deserve. In business, 80% of profits come from 20% of customers and 20% of products.

The important thing to understand is that in your life there are certain activities you do (your 20 percent) that account for the majority (your 80 percent) of your happiness and outputs. Some of your time spent working inefficiently provide very little benefit.

When you start to analyse and breakdown your life into elements it’s very easy to see 80/20 ratios all over the place.

The message is simple — focus on activities that produce the best outcomes for you.

The key to making the 80/20 Principle work for you is focus. In every area of your life you can work out the few things that are really important to you and the few methods that give you what you want.

There are lots of simple, painless ways to start this “stripping back” process so that you can begin applying the 80/20 Principle and reaping the practical benefits in your everyday life.

According to Pamela Vaccaro, President of Designs on Time:

You’re in your 80 percent if the following statements ring true:
You’re working on tasks other people want you to, but you have no investment in them.
You’re frequently working on tasks labeled “urgent.”
You’re spending time on tasks you are not usually good at doing.
Activities are taking a lot longer than you expected.
You find yourself complaining all the time.
You’re in your 20 percent if:
You’re engaged in activities that advance your overall purpose in life (assuming you know what that is — and you should!).
You’re doing things you have always wanted to do or that make you feel good about yourself.
You’re working on tasks you don’t like, but you’re doing them knowing they relate to the bigger picture.
You’re hiring people to do the tasks you are not good at or don’t like doing.
You’re smiling.

When you are focused, the results are exponentially better.

Learn to say no, and put a price on your time

“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage pleasantly, smilingly, and non-apologetically — to say “no” to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger yes burning inside.” — Stephen Covey

Time is the raw material of productivity and creativity. We are not taught to say “no.” We are taught not to say “no.” “No” is normally considered “rude”. But “yes” makes means more focused time for creative and productive work.

”Saying “no” means you have time to focus on your own creation, tasks and projects, rather than responding and reacting to requests.

“You can’t let other people set your agenda in life” says Warren Buffett.

How is how Charles Dickens rejected an invitation from a friend:

“‘It is only half an hour’ — ‘It is only an afternoon’ — ‘It is only an evening,’ people say to me over and over again; but they don’t know that it is impossible to command one’s self sometimes to any stipulated and set disposal of five minutes — or that the mere consciousness of an engagement will sometime worry a whole day … Who ever is devoted to an art must be content to deliver himself wholly up to it, and to find his recompense in it. I am grieved if you suspect me of not wanting to see you, but I can’t help it; I must go in my way whether or no.”

Give yourself permission to say NO without feeling guilty, mean, or selfish. Remember what Josh Billings once said when you are tempted to fill your calendar with lots of requests, “Half of the troubles of this life can be traced to saying yes too quickly and not saying no soon enough.”

Start measuring everything

Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability. — John Wooden

Examine your work. Ask yourself, “What do I really want to do with my life and my time? What 20 percent of my work should I be focusing on?”

Meticulously analyze your inputs and outputs. The overwhelming reality about life and living it is this: we live in a world where a lot of things are taking up your most time but given you the least results and a very few things are exceptionally valuable. John Maxwell once said, “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.

Time your efforts, and document how you are investing your time. This might seem like a waste of time at first, but once you see how valuable performance data is for getting doing better in life you’ll start measuring where the week has gone.

If you measure your life, the principle can be applied in many areas of your life. Begin to take notice and apply the principle in your life. Your mindset will shift as you start to see more opportunities to do more focus work.

When you measure your efforts, you can start focusing your attention on the things that have the BIGGEST likely impact on the results you want.

Actionable steps

Take a moment to review all your input sources against your outcomes.

Do your input choices help you acheive your goals and tasks?

What input do you need to decrease or omit in your life right now?

What input do you need to increase or improve in your life?

You are probably due for input adjustment.

If you keep doing what you’re doing now but want different results, you’re never going to have anything different than what you’ve already got.

The point is to realise you have the option to focus on the important 20%!

The message is simple enough — focus on activities that produce the best outcomes for you. It’ll make a world of difference if you think about your actions and compare them to your outputs daily or weekly.

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