‘I should be working…but I can’t be bothered.’
Is that a common thought for you? It is for me.
But I’ve recently revisited the 80:20 rule and it’s got me feeling more relaxed, mindful and productive, giving me more free time to walk, enjoy nature and spend time with friends.
So as usual, I want to share all my favourite insights, discoveries and tips with you!
What is the 80:20 rule?
Named after an Italian economist from the 19th century, the 80:20 rule’s the Pareto Principle. Vilfredo Pareto noticed that 20% of his garden’s pea pods were responsible for 80% of the peas, and soon discovered that 80% of Italy was owned by only 20% of the population.
In the 1940s management consultant Joseph Duran took the idea further when he observed that 80% of output was caused by only 20% of input. The 80:20 rule seems to be a law of nature:
- 20% of bugs account for 80% of the problems in software
- 20% of carpets in a home or office receive 80% of the wear
- 20% of our clothes are worn 80% of the time
- 20% of exercises and habits have 80% of the impact
Perfectionism and Procrastination
Many of us are perfectionists. Are you? Do you seek to do a perfect job?
The problem is, perfection’s impossible. No matter how hard you try to make something perfect, you can always find a flaw. And when you can never reach this ideal you feel put off from even trying.
Let’s say I want to write the perfect blog post. Well, no matter how many days, weeks or months I spend on it someone, somewhere, will find a flaw. And then I feel a failure.
The 80:20 rule is a great solution to this problem. Instead of trying to do a job perfectly, try and do the task up to 80% quality and as quickly as possible.
So, in the example of this blog post, I’ve set a timer for 20 minutes. My aim? To get it up to around 80% quality as soon as I can.
This has several benefits:
- By being efficient my main work for the day’s complete, so I have more free time to pursue other work, or more time for meditation!
- The speed required to complete the task makes the task more fun. It becomes more like a fun challenge, and I’m more likely to go into a state of flow.
- I’m less likely to procrastinate. I don’t need to complete the task perfectly, so it’s nowhere near as daunting. Perfect’s the enemy of done, as they say!
- As a manager and CEO, once I’ve completed 80% of the work, I can immediately pass the work onto my team to improve it and make it 80% better! This empowers them as they become part of the solution and improve their skills in editing, proofreading and beautifully publishing. A win-win-win scenario, as you the reader get to read more content on mindfulness, compassion and wisdom more regularly.
So, how can you implement 80:20 into your life?
5 tips for implementing 80:20
Choose three 80% tasks for you to do each day
Only have three things on your to do list each day. Why? A long to-do list’s overwhelming and setting you up to fail. So focus on just three tasks and then get on with them, completing them to 80% quality.
No need to do them perfectly. You’re changing the rules and aiming for ‘good enough’ at 80%. You do need higher quality than that? Then, if possible, pass the work onto a colleague if you’re a manager. Their fresh perspective will add things you can’t spot.
If not, just hand your work in .. it’ll probably be more than good enough.
Ensure your three 80% tasks to do each day are exciting or meaningful for you
Life’s short. You may as well do things that you love and find meaningful!
If, for whatever reason, you’re stuck in a situation where you have to do boring, meaningless tasks, you have two choices - either change your attitude or make one of your tasks to change your circumstances. You can do it!
Empower others to complete your task to create a happier world
There are lots of people out there who don’t have jobs. Or who do have jobs, but want to volunteer or contribute in some way. Do them a favour (no, really) and let them finish off your 80% tasks.
Empowering others to give in this way creates a happier, kinder world. Volunteering’s incredibly good for us and has been shown to increase our happiness naturally. I absolutely love giving my time, energy and skills to others when I can.
It’s a win-win. The person or people who volunteer will feel good, and you’ll feel good too as you’re able to spend more time doing what you love.
Remember to say ‘thank you!
Celebrate your success daily.
The great thing about getting these three 80% tasks done daily is that once you’re done, you’re done for the day! Anything else you do on that day is a bonus. Wouldn’t that feel amazing?
But you don’t have to do anything else really. If you’re lucky enough to be managing your own time you can engage in healthy activities with your friends or family.
If you’re in a job but have done the main tasks required for the day, you can take things a bit more easy or use the space in your schedule for more creative, strategic thinking.
Consider other areas of your life to implement the 80:20 rule
The 80:20 rule appears everywhere, and it’s fun to look out for ways to spot and make use of them.
For example, I’d say in my work, 80% of my income comes from 20% of the activities that I do, and:
- 80% of my joy comes from 20% of the time I spend with my favourite friends.
- 80% of the work I get done in the day happens in the 20% of the time I spend working in the mornings when I’m more focused.
- 80% of the time I wear 20% of my clothes.
- 20% of my meditations are 80% deeper than the rest of them.
- I spend 80% of my time with 20% of my friends.
One of the biggest challenges people face is perfectionism and procrastination. They go hand in hand, and underlying them are ideas like ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘I should work harder’ and “I need to be perfect so others will love me’. You can replace these toxic cycles of thinking with the 80:20 principle.
Just do 3 things every day that excite you and give you meaning, and get them to 80% of perfect. Then pass them on to others if they need improving, empowering them to make a contribution, too!
Thanks so much for reading this blog. Any thoughts on these ideas? No need to procrastinate - leave a comment and I'll reply! :-) Much gratitude.