We are well into 2015 but wishing you a Happy New Year in February is still in order. I want to share with you this month my resolution for this year, which I have promised myself to stick with and hopefully after reading through these paragraphs you will be convinced to try it. I have resolved and pledged to do less this year and achieve more. Sounds like a contradiction! If you have heard about the 80/20 Rule you will grasp my thoughts, but will come to that in a moment.
First let me explain why I want to do less for more this year. At the close of each year, I take time to evaluate my personal and business goals performance and also plan for the coming year. Most organisations do, I am not sure about individuals. It was during my quiet time at the holiday resort where we spent the New Year that I got talking to myself, having a real serious conversation with me.
After many years of running on the treadmill, when will I press the stop button? Do I need to anyway, or should I just adjust the speed or programme? When we are so busy getting on with our lives and trying to achieve our goals and dreams, we sometimes forget to pause and ask – are we really happy with the way we do things? Can they be done in other ways to achieve the same or even better results? How often do we evaluate our lives and ask what actually brings us pleasure and enjoyment, and what robs us of our peace of mind, time and energy?
After this long and hard conversation, I agreed with me that my life sometimes feels like being on a treadmill, in motion, yes, working very hard, yes, but not going anywhere. It is just hard work and more hard work with little time for things that are important and really matter to me.
And this brings me back to the 80/20 Rule. Created by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), it is simply a mathematical formula to show that 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of time and effort. Pareto’s Principle or Law, as it is sometimes referred, affirms that in anything, the few (20 percent) are vital and the many (80 percent) are trivial. It is a law than can be applied to business and all other aspects of life to bring far-reaching impact.
And so my resolve this year is to identify the 20 percent of every aspect of my life that matters and focus on it. This means evaluating my life in total, not an easy thing to do. For example, I observed my phone calls for one day in the month of December – the people I spoke to, the subject matter and what the conversation yielded – and it was revealing to know I wasted a good portion of my day on totally unnecessary calls and discussions. I also looked at things I did on that same day and how I did them and realised I could have achieved my goals for the day by concentrating on fewer more important things than embracing so much.
While I am quite clear about my three most important priorities in my life – my relationships (with God, family and friends), my health and my work, I am not sure I am doing my best to achieve them in the most satisfactory and fulfilling way. These three make me wake up each morning looking forward to the day ahead. And so I need to ensure I do all three in ways that produce the desired results in the most effective and enjoyable manner.
Using Pareto’s rule, I want to have more rewarding relationships with those I love and deeply care for (the 20 percent). I can only do this by eliminating the energy-sapping 80 percent. This is the group you spend most of your time, energy and money on, yet they create most of the challenges you face. They drain you with their never-ending ‘wants’, ‘needs’ and ‘entitlements’, some are toxic as all they do is feed you on gossip (‘to put you in the know’) and at the end of the day leave you hurting and unhappy. I don’t want these people in my life this year. I want to do the things I love doing with people who make my life happy and worthwhile.
I want to ask myself the same question on the work front: Which 20 percent of sources are resulting in 80 percent of desired outcomes? Can I identify the 80 percent sources of challenges and eliminate them? Are there employees draining my energy and not making a contribution towards achieving desired goals? I want to spend my limited time managing the superstars at work and rewarding them. I want to spend my time helping good people become better rather than struggling with mediocrity. I don’t want to just “work smart” but work smart on the right things.
And so this year, I will think carefully about how to eliminate the people/things/events that are not important and redirect my energy towards the things in the 20 percent group. I believe this shift will change my life as well as my work/life balance to give me more fulfillment.