Why Most of What You Do Doesn’t Matter
Many times in the recent past I find myself sitting at work thinking about how much I do that doesn’t really seem to matter. I don’t mean that in a nihilistic way, but in more of a “ineffective work” type way. Sure at work I can be pretty efficient, doing tasks with as little energy and as much output as possible. However, effective work is the work that makes the difference because effectiveness means doing the right things, not just a lot of output. One day while thinking about such things I stumbled over the Pareto principle while reading “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss. Link below.
What is the Pareto Principle
The Pareto principle (or 80/20 rule) simply states that OFTEN ~80% of effects from from ~20% of causes. Vilfredo Pareto developed this principle after seeing a few of the pea pods in his garden producing the majority of peas. You can read more about this principal and its applications in a Wikipedia article here.
In the article you will find a study of the “Distribution of world GDP 1989”. These numbers show that the richest 20% of the population in 1989 made up 82.7% of the total income, IN THE WORLD.
Why You Should Care
While it may seem like the principle might not have a lot of impact on your daily life, it can, and will. I’ll give you an few examples from actions I have taken.
First, I review my email only to find that I can ignore ~85%-90% of the emails that I get (big surprise). In realizing this I create several folders in my Outlook email client as well as inbox rules to distribute my emails accordingly. Doing this eliminated almost 90% of my emails, now I have less than 20 emails to check per day, previously closer to 150. I can now check email twice per day for a grand total of ~2-3 minutes, in most cases.
This helped me to eliminate 90% of my email overhead. 80% of the results from my email came from less than 20% of emails.
In addition to managing my email, I decide to tackle the conversations I get “stuck” in that keep me from being effective. I notice that most of my conversations are initiated between 7:30am and 8:05am, which is when the next two employees start. In order to remedy this I simply put in my headphones and turn on music. By doing this I am able to politely ignore initial greetings or respond with a nod, rather than start conversation.
Eliminating these interactions keeps me from 80% of my distractions by avoiding 20% of the employees.
Last, I find that AT LEAST 80% of my interruptions come from shoulder taps in the office from 20% of the people. To eliminate this problem I simply work remotely more often, making myself just slightly less accessible. Worked like a charm.
Eliminating 80% of my interruptions allows me to focus for longer periods and accomplish more.
I challenge you to find 3 areas of your life where you can apply this principle. You will be surprised where and how you are able to apply this principle, I know I am.