Focus on your best assets and use them to create maximum value. This is the core principle behind the 80/20 rule. And it has helped businesses grow their revenues. Or individuals make the most out of their productive hours.
You’re curious about how you can apply it in your life. So let me share my take on how you can use the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, in five life domains: relationships, finances, hobbies, work, and business.
1. The People You Spend Time With
Applying the Pareto Principle in your relationships is quite tricky. There are emotions, attitudes, contexts, and other things you have to consider. At the same time, just because 20% of the people you spend time with make you the happiest doesn’t mean the rest is invaluable.
I’d like to put a twist, if you will, on the typical understanding of the 80/20 rule. Instead of identifying individuals, I’m starting with circles. These circles include my family, closest friends, work friends, startup founders network, tech geeks club, etc. Then, I’m going to ask which of these circles are bringing 80% of the value in my life?
That value is entirely subjective. I’m investing in various businesses, so my startup founders group is very important on my list right now. I also need a strong support system, and that’s composed of my family and closest friends. So my top 20% include these circles.
Now, what happens to the rest? Of course, I’m not going to avoid them and cancel all my commitments. They are humans, not things. But when it comes to saying no, I’m most likely going to turn down invites from the 80%. I’ll make an exception for those who are part of the 20% of these remaining circles.
And that’s my last point for this section. Identify the top 20% of people in the circles belonging to your 80%. If it’s your kid’s school, maybe these are the 2 or 3 parents you often interact with. If it’s your gym, your instructor and another buddy could be the top candidates. If it’s a religious community, the spiritual leader. You get the drift.
2. The Things You Buy
This part relates to money management. If you follow the 50/30/20 rule, you know this is the stuff adulting is made of. Quickly: This rule requires you to allot 50% of your monthly income to needs. Then 30% goes to wants while 20% automatically adds to savings.
So now you have 80% of your money being spent on things that are sustaining you at present. Meaning, you’re getting your end of the trade-off right away. You pay your utility bills, your electricity and water supplies keep your household running. And so does paying your mortgage. You increase your equity each time you pay the exact dues on time.
When viewed through the 80/20 rule, a good part of your spending is made for maximizing your value either through home ownership or basic needs management. This is like pointing out the obvious. But there are people who find it difficult to pay off debts because of wrong priorities. So using the Pareto Principle as a lens to understand the 50/30/20 rule may help them.
3. The Hobbies You Have
Be honest. What are your hobbies? And how many hours a day do you spend on them? Don’t worry, I’m not going to scold you because you binge-watch Netflix or play video games all day on Saturdays. We usually think about hobbies as harmless activities. But the 80/20 rule may have a different say on this.
If this principle is about maximizing value with your best assets, shouldn’t you be using your free time to do things that will nourish your body, mind, and soul? In this age of productivity, the time you can set aside for doing “nothing” is absolutely precious. Is Netflix going to maximize the value of your time? If you said yes, I would not argue that.
But look, what if you devote an hour to treating your loved one to a massage? Or finally learn how to play the piano? Or cuddle with your pet? Or study programming, investing, or the like? The activity depends on your definition of valuable. The 80/20 rule is just a reminder to make the most of those “free” hours.
4. The Hours You Put Into Work
The 80/20 Principle can also be applied to work productivity! Mark Manson wrote an awesome article about it. And he started by acknowledging that not all jobs are created equal. That means if you’re doing menial labor every day, the idea that working two hours produces twice the output as working an hour pretty much applies.
But when it comes to doing creative work, you’re more likely to be working for diminishing returns the more you slave away at your laptop. That is, you don’t produce twice the output by working 16 hours instead of 8. In fact, you’re going to make a minimal impact in the last 8 hours.
Sometimes, it would be better if you did nothing in those times. Why? Because those extra hours you’re putting in leaves you vulnerable to making bad choices and decisions. Then you’re going to work on fixing the bad stuff the next day. And so you’re now working for negative returns. The Pareto Principle is all about making the best use of your best hours. That’s how you produce great work!
5. The Clients You Accommodate/Customers You Target
If you’re running a company, it’s easy to fall into the trap of saying yes to everyone. You don’t want to pass up an opportunity. So you’re practically donating your services to someone. This is the same for solopreneurs or anyone who’s starting out in business.
Why don’t we use the 80/20 rule to help you maximize your opportunities?
According to the Pareto rule, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients. Let’s look at your clients as assets. If these 20% are your best assets, what characteristics do they have in common? Once you’ve figured out the answer, you should start looking for clients with similar characteristics.
This is the same for many businesses. You can apply the Pareto Principle in targeting new customers. You look at your best-performing segment and profile the customers. And then you advertise or reach out to audiences like them.
The 80/20 rule has many applications in our life, whether it’s personal or professional. But remember, it’s not a hard-and-fast mathematical law. Your computation does not always have to be 80 to 20. Sometimes, it’s 85/15 or 75/25. And when you’re applying it to things like relationships, the numbers become highly subjective.
So when you’re starting to get confused, return to this guide. It may not answer all your questions. But it will help you find a safe ground to land on and begin again.
How to Prioritize When Everything Seems Important
Prioritization is the key to achieving your goals. It helps you focus on what is important. While talking about how to prioritize your tasks to help you achieve all your goals, I briefly touched what you should do if everything seems like a priority –
If you find yourself with more than three top priorities, then that’s a problem. It means you haven’t figured out what tasks are more important. Figure out which ones can wait until later. If all of the tasks are of same nature making them equally important, then that means you need to cut out some tasks, you might have taken on more than you can handle.
Having a laser-like focus on only a handful of things is essential here so that you can have only the tasks that matter the most on your list.
Most of us struggle with this. Prioritizing is not easy if you don’t know how to differentiate actual priority from the task that seems like one. Even if everything on your plate is supposed to be equally important, you will still need to find a way to break down which ones you should be spending your time on.
How we slice up our time and what we dedicate our time to often dictates what direction our life is going to take. The first question one has to get past is whether or not everything really is of equal importance – when you start questioning is when you will start looking for ways to deal with the problem the question possesses.
Dealing with Conflicting Priorities
When you are trying to deal with your personal and professional life at the same time, the tasks together can become more daunting. We face multiple demands on our time every day because of that.
In the professional scene, often the tasks that are urgent override the schedule, resulting in loss of control and inattention to priority tasks. So how should priorities be determined?
To begin with, ask questions.
Let’s take an example. Suppose you are in your office. You have a project that needs to be done today. A colleague comes by and asks you to help with something that is also urgent and needs to be done by the afternoon. Now, you didn’t say “no” because that might be rude. You have an urgent task that is not your priority and you have your own project that is a priority but not as urgent as this other task.
Ask questions to yourself –
- Is taking this additional work going to affect your workflow?
- Do you want to do this?
- Is this stressing you out or causing you anxiety?
- Are you stretching yourself too thin trying to be helpful?
- Can this work be done by someone else?
If the answer to even of these questions is “Yes” then we move on to the next part, that is, learning to drop the task because it is not a priority.
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside. The enemy of the ‘best’ is often the ‘good’.”
What Do You Do? The Art of Saying “No”
Everyone considers their project to be the most important and wants information or action immediately, they won’t always be considerate of your work. All most people care about is getting their work done. If you have trouble saying “no” chances are that your work will keep suffering. How to deal with this?
Even though you feel bad about not being able to help your colleague, it is okay. You have to put your work first. Of course, special circumstances do demand changing your priorities but most often than not saying “no” will immediately put the dilemma to rest.
If multiple people are involved in your project, find out where your piece fits into the overall project. Taking charge of your space and your time will allow you to focus on what is important, meet deadlines and minimize job and personal stress, this starts with learning to say “no.”
Why Writing Down Your Tasks Help
We have a scientific term to explain why writing down goals helps. It is called the generation effect. What it basically means is that you remember information more when you have generated it with your own mind than when you have read it. There’s no one specific answer to why it happens but a lot of studies have been conducted on it, and this phenomenon is used in quite a few things.
You must have heard people say “Goals that are not written down are just wishes.” You can dream or talk about it all you want, but until you write it down on a piece of paper, it remains a half-hearted attempt – nothing more than a wish.
Another thing and an important one at that, is encoding. Our memory has the ability to encode, store, and recall information. By writing your goals down, you are storing it externally by putting it on paper. Now, by visiting it again and again, we are encoding it into our brains. There are few intensively used types of encoding. Two types are at work here, Visual encoding and Elaborative encoding. I have discussed all of this in detail when I talked about why writing down goals can help you achieve them faster.
Basically how it works is that we write something and that can be visual encoding, looking at that, again and again, evokes the feelings associated with that task, the reason of it, if you may. That is elaborative encoding, this is how priority kicks in. The elaborative part helps us associate reasons behind the task and the consequences associated with it, and in turn, its correlation with our ultimate goals.
This eventually helps us only pick out priority labeled tasks to make us more productive and efficient.
Spending Your Time Right
Most people generally panic when they have to tackle their tasks by priority because everything feels important. When everything looks like a priority, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. It is difficult to skillfully juggle multiple priorities and competing responsibilities at the same time. There are times when you have to manage the workload at the office as well as home.
What we often fail to keep in mind when handling multiple activities is to prioritize them according to their importance. Many people just try to handle various activities as per their instinct and end up never doing the important things. Later, they might blame it on ‘not having enough time’, which obviously is untrue. You have enough time, you just have to start spending it right.
If you don’t know what your priority is, you will never have enough time to get your work done. As Laura Vanderkam says, “Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels.”
Prioritizing your to-do list is very simple if you learn to differentiate between your actual priority and what feels like a priority. Learning to say “no” to whatever is hindering your chances of success is the next big thing. If you learn these two things, you are pretty much sorted. All there is left to do is employ strategies to actually get the work done.
5 Activities to Help You Beat Stress
We are getting more and more used to going about their days stressed out of our minds. We justify it as a side effect of working for our dreams. We find solace in the fact that eventually we will slow down and the stress will go away. We try to reason it with “our building years are supposed to be stressful.” Does it have to be though?
“You must learn to let go. Release the stress. You were never in control anyway.”
Everyone is stressed about something or the other – sure we can’t make it go away completely but we should learn how to deal with it better. Just because it is going to be a part of life, doesn’t mean we have to submit to it.
With increasing stress factors in every aspect of our lives, it is also important to learn about ways to beat stress. There are a lot of ways to help relax your body and mind and fight stress without having to go out of your way to do so. Some help you relax instantly and some are more of a long term solution to stress management.
As important it is to keep working, it is more crucial to work on ourselves because at the end of the day no amount of money or success can make up for sound health. You won’t be able to carry on long if you are stressed all the time, it will also make your work suffer. Here are some ways to help you relieve stress.
1. Go for a Walk
Walks are said to be excellent stress relievers for a number of reasons. Taking quick walks ais the simple way for many to get their thoughts in order. Taking a walk allows you to change your surroundings, the scenery, and lets you slip into a different frame of mind. If you do not have the privilege of leaving your premises for a walk – maybe you are at work – then walking around the office can do the trick too.
There’s this lifestyle practice, known as Shinrin-Yoku, which originated in Japan. It translates to forest bathing or forest therapy. Though the name includes the term bathing, Shinrin-Yoku mostly involves walking in a forested area. That’s it. There’s no specific intention required for the walk. All you have to do is to keep walking slowly while taking into the senses the environment around you, like the sights, smells and sounds.
“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
When I am in a scenario when I need to clear my mind – usually at home – and don’t have the privilege to go out, I put on some music and pace around my home. I call this my power walk. It lets me get my thoughts in order and also work up some sweat. It works for me. If you have a garden or park nearby, that’s just perfect for a quick walk.
Aromatherapy is one of the main ways to relieve stress that is used by the masses nowadays. Different scents target different brain wave activities, which is why people create different blends by mixing various fragrances depending on their needs.
Some scents focus on decreasing stress hormones in the body. They also help you feel relaxed, energized, and more present and in tune with your surroundings. There are many ways to do this – candles, essence sticks, diffusers, etc. These things create a perfect environment for meditation, relaxation, yoga. They give you an external stimulus to relax to.
Art, or the act of creating art, is said to be relaxing; it is also the reason why adult coloring books are getting more popular. You might have heard of adult coloring books, they are based on relieving stress, being mindful, relaxation, etc.
It really doesn’t matter if you are good at it or not. The process is said to help soothe you and get you in a rhythm that then helps relieve stress and anxiety – it is not supposed to help you create art. Drawing and painting can be difficult, but coloring isn’t – comparatively – which is why coloring is the most common form of art based stress reliever.
4. Redo Your To-Do Lists
Having a lot on your to-do lists is one of the leading reasons for stress for many people – to avoid this we need to learn the art of prioritization of tasks. If you are trying to squeeze in three days worth of work in one, then obviously you are going to feel stressed – which I have been guilty of doing in the past.
This is when you should take a moment to take a step back and evaluate your situation. This will help you reduce your workload, this could be just the thing you need to get rid of the stressful feeling that has been clouding you. Having better time management skills always helps relieve some or maybe most of your stress.
While talking about stress relievers, meditation is the first thing that comes to mind. How can I not talk about it when mentioning activities that help relieve stress. It helps you relax and if turned into a habit, then it helps you with lasting stress management.
“There are times when we stop, we sit still. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.”
There are many types of meditation, based on what you want to focus on – whatever you need to work on the most should be your focus. You can repeat a mantra or a chant or focus on your breathing – to start sitting still, it can be difficult for people – or just practice mindfulness.
Self-care is at the base of doing things to beat stress. We often forget that it is very crucial to keep working towards your goals. The irony – of people forgetting to take care of themselves while working for their goals so that they could take care of themselves in the future – isn’t lost on me.
“Set peace of mind as your highest goal, and organize your life around it.”
When you are busy and working towards your dream, it is easy to forget about yourself and get tangled in stress. But, we have to keep reminding ourselves that nothing is as important as our well-being. Take this post as a reminder and run with it. Realizing you need to deal with your stress levels is you deciding to tackle the problem.
5 Non-Negotiable Things You Need to Do Before Your Bedtime
What you do before going to bed can help you end the day on a positive note even if it wasn’t a particularly positive day, and will also help you set the tone for the next day. The activities you do also help you to immediately fall asleep without lying in bed tossing and turning.
If you have had a good night’s sleep, most of your health problems will go away. The problem with the start-up and entrepreneurial culture is that we try to work as much as we can by sacrificing everything – food, sleep, fun, and eventually health.
“A well-formulated nighttime routine will help you wind down and sleep better.”
Good sleep helps you start your next day well-rested, bright, fresh and stress-free. If you have been trying to wake up early, the first step is to go to bed early to get in a full sleep cycle.
If having a morning routine is important to take care of yourself and make the most of your day, so is having a night routine. What you do at night helps you wrap your day up feeling satisfied and that helps you fall asleep better which then helps you wake up feeling energized and motivated.
A well-rested body and a well-rested mind will help you achieve a lot more than working 24-hours non-stop and this is why you should always do these things before you turn in for the night.
1. Express Gratitude
Expressing gratitude is an activity that is becoming more and more popular with the millennials. With fast-paced lives, always running to get somewhere or get something done – we have forgotten to stop and appreciate the little things in our lives.
In the race for getting what we want, we fail to show gratitude for the things we have. Being appreciative of what you have achieved, what you have, people you love and who love you can fill you with joy and optimism. An optimistic approach toward things helps you move forward with a renewed vigour and helps you lead a better life.
“When I’m worried and cannot sleep I count my blessings instead of sheep.”
You shouldn’t only be appreciative of external factors, you need to acknowledge and motivate yourself too. While I suggest giving yourself positive affirmations every morning, acknowledging your achievements for the day when you are about to go to bed will help you feel better about yourself and will help you curb the always rising self-doubt.
There are gratitude journals that give you prompts about things to write or you can write three things you are thankful for each day.
2. Set Goals for the Next Day
I have talked in detail about why you should prepare your to-do lists in the night, but here’s the gist. At the end of the day, you know what you have achieved and what remains. This gives you a chance to revise the list and make a new game plan for the next day.
When you make a list at night, you can spend your time in the morning focusing on yourself rather than working out a schedule for your day. You will wake up with a schedule and a sense of direction. Mornings should anyway be dedicated to your health and well-being.
3. Read for 45 Minutes to 1 Hour
If you want to learn about anything, read.
If you want to grow, read.
If you want to polish your skills, read.
If you want to sharpen your mind, read.
I have always loved reading and keep looking for ways to read more because there is so much to read and I never feel like I have enough time to read them all. Only reading isn’t important, comprehending what you read is as important, especially if you are reading non-fiction.
Reading isn’t limited to only books – with the internet comes a ton of reading material to choose from. With successful people telling the world what they read and with them sharing their reading habits, everyone trying to make it as an entrepreneur has started to pick up more books, which is a good thing.
If you can’t find time to read during the day, then allot 45 minutes to an hour before your bedtime to reading. This will make sure that you have a schedule and help you get some reading done every day.
Meditating is one of the easiest ways to get in touch with your inner self. It lets you spend time with your own thoughts and emotions. When you focus on your inner self, you give yourselves the opportunity to take time out to sort your thoughts and acknowledge your emotions. You don’t keep pushing things that are bothering you and you don’t file unacknowledged emotions to the back of your mind to crop up later.
“Man should forget his anger before he lies down to sleep.”
You start becoming more aware of your emotional and mental health and learn to let go of things that might have bothered you throughout the day. It also helps you become more focused and improves your concentration. It helps you feel in control of your life and yourself.
5. Go on a Walk
Walks are a great way to sort your thoughts while getting some exercise in. Going on walks after dinner helps with digestion and because your body gets worked up a little it always helps you sleep better.
Talking an evening walk or an after-dinner walk is one of the most common routines that people share – spending time in nature, getting some fresh air, working the food down, and getting some exercise are few of the many reasons.
Bonus: Set Your Alarm
This is an obvious one. But, I would suggest revising your alarms every few days. Waking at the same time if you recently have started needing to put in more hours at work just doesn’t make sense. Your body won’t be getting the full rest it needs.
“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yes, waking up early is important, but what is more important is getting complete rest. If you need to wake up late then, by all means, change your alarm to a later hour.
Having a setlist of non-negotiable things you need to do before going to bed helps you be mindful of what energy you carry with yourself to sleep. Try going to bed pissed at things and try going to bed feeling peaceful – you will feel the difference in how long it takes to fall asleep, in the thoughts that enter your mind, and in the quality of sleep you get.
And of course, don’t forget to brush and floss and wash your face!
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