The Millennial Entrepreneur’s Guide to the Law of Vital Few
Hack your work in order to live your life
As a young self-employed individual, you’re fighting an uphill battle. It’s your goal to claim a stake to all of that wealth the world has to offer. You work 80- to 100-hour workweeks, pouring everything you have into your startup or freelance work or blog.
Now, this is admirable. But you’re gonna die before you reap any benefits!
That isn’t a morbid hyperbole — it’s real. Burnout is a nasty bitch.
I assume you don’t want to die an early death, surrounded by half-eaten pizzas delivered at 2 A.M. as your posture slumped harder into Quasimodo status over a decade-old Macbook Air, putting the finishing touches on your newly developed app for old people to find their toilets by asking Alexa. 🚽
I mean, who would?
So here’s how to avoid the nastiness that is starting out on your own as a Millennial business owner…
This is the Law of the Vital Few:
The majority of something usually comes from a disproportionate amount of something else.
An oversimplified way of putting it, the Law of Vital Few has a few popular names, such as The 80/20 Principle and Pareto’s Principle. I decided to shake things up. (Because who the hell wants to read another Pareto post?)
In any case, the gist is the same: A bunch of results or outcomes are achieved from an optimized minimum amount of cause.
Twenty percent of Italy’s people owned 80% of the land (a.k.a. the wealthy).
The same amount of clients result in 80% of the sales.
And your productivity falters after the first fifth of your time.
Diminishing Returns are Real
The longer you work on something consecutively, the more tired you get. (Duh.) 🤦
So your 2 A.M. Hunchback of Notre Dame is the equivalent of swimming against the current in shark-infested waters. It’s NOT worth it!
Surprisingly, this is good news. Not only does your body, environment, and results show you when quitting time is optimal, it also allows you to leave your work completely. As a Millennial freelancer or entrepreneur, this is incredibly valuable for your wellbeing.
Let me show you how…
Set Up Short-Term Pareto Efficiencies
A “Pareto Efficiency” is an economics principal which is where:
It is impossible to reallocate a resource so as to make any one preferred criterion better without making at least one preferred criterion worse off.
You can scale this to every part of your life (if you’re psychotic, like me). Food, working out, hanging out with friends, work, and more can be optimized in your day.
And odds are, you have some time left over in your day to literally do nothing.
For short term Pareto efficiencies, what I mean is taking the minimum beneficial time for tasks or projects. There is a certain point where doing work is no longer beneficial, but rather a drag.
So, how long can you work with a high vibration?
Most people can go between 20 minutes and a full hour. This is where the Pomodoro technique is quite popular. 🍅
Others can go for two hours, followed by a 20–30 minute break. Find out your high-end work threshold and how much time you need to recuperate from that amount of time.
As a gym metaphor, working like this is like an exercise: You do X sets of Y minutes of work, with Z minutes of rest in between.
For me, I can focus on writing well for about 90 minutes. After this, a nice 15–20 minute break is adequate for me to get into the zone again. I do this four times a day.
I do 4 sets of 90 minutes of work, with 15 minutes in between.
Total time: 6 hours 45 minutes
In less time than your average 9-to-5 time-suck, I get more done. And not just urgent things, but important things. In fact, important things > urgent things.
What’s your short-term efficiency?
Establish Daily Maximums
Like I mentioned in the previous section, I’d do my “work reps” for four sets. This total time in the day is how long I can go before my brain muscle is absolutely fatigued.
Basically: After 3 P.M., I’m a useless turd. 💩
Maybe you can do more, maybe you can do less. But eventually, your 90-minute or 30-minute reps start to get difficult, ultimately losing all of its strength.
What’s the maximum amount of times you can do high-value work in a given day? This develops the macro portion of your workday, which helps with creating your entrepreneurial schedule.
What’s your long-term efficiency?
Use These to Fit In Priorities
Once you have this general sense of work efficiency down, you can move on to other areas in your life.
For example, my workday spans about 6.5 hours (including a longer break for lunch). My morning involves an hour of morning routine, followed by this 6.5 block:
- Hour 1: Morning routine
- Hour 2–7.5: Workday
So if I were to wake up at 6 A.M., from then ‘til 7 A.M. is my morning routine, then the workday until 1:30 P.M.
After that, work is done. No more for the day.
Now I can focus on other priorities in my life: My health, my relationships, my reading and other writing.
The next hour after work is dedicated to reading nonfiction. This is how long I can read nonfiction and glean important information from it. Any longer and I start to glaze over the knowledge.
You get the gist: Once your top priority has been given the Pareto efficiency treatment, move onto the next priority. And the next. And keep going until you need to go to bed for that day.
I fit writing for myself, writing for others, reading, exercising, eating right, and having wonderful relationships into my daily routine. What can you fit in?
“Action expresses priorities.”
This is a Simple Concept, But It’s Important
The Law of the Vital Few is how you can come somewhat close to a “work-life balance.”
And you know what? It will never be balanced.
That’s okay. You shouldn’t strive for balance. You should strive for priorities and being your best self within those priorities.
The reason why the 80/20 principle works so well is you focus all of your efforts on that 20% that produces the majority of results.
When you’re working, you have absolute clarity and focus on your 20%; however long that takes is moot, but how present you are and whether you’re giving it your best is key.
The same goes for working out…eating right…reading and learning…and growing relationships. All of life can be optimized by two mantras:
- Do the 20% that gives you enough;
- Do it to the best of your ability.
When you follow these hand-in-hand tenants, happiness becomes a byproduct that you didn’t have to find the “secret” for. Same with balance. Passion, purpose, and clarity too.
And as a young person in this world, nothing is more crucial than having a clear sense of self and purpose.
Who Is This Guy Anyways?
Jake Lyda is a freelance writer and fiction author. He helps Millennial solopreneurs and freelancers develop a well-rounded, fulfilling lifestyle.
Look out for his weekly posts on Medium.
Hope this helped you in your freelance lifestyle! ✍️