The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle or the vital of the few was first discovered by an Italian economist called Vilfredo Pareto. He wrote about the fact that in Italy at the time 80 percent of the lands were owned by 20 percent of the population. In 1941, management consultant Joseph M. Juran named the principle after him and he discovered that it can be applied as a thumb rule in business: 80 percent of the efforts bring 20 percent of the results, in other words, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.
Today, this pattern is a popular principle in productivity hacks and personal growth techniques. In today’s society, we get overwhelmed with information and we have more opportunities and options to choose from than ever before. This brings us closer to our aims of self-actualization, however, it also traps us in confusion and frustration over decision making.
As Daniel Goldman mentions in the book Focus, our attention is like a hosepipe. We can only really focus on one thing at a time and multitasking is solely an illusion where we frequently interchange our attention between multiple objects or activities. Each time we shift our focus to another direction, we lose from the quality of the work we produce and the impact we create.
In grand cities filled with distraction, our attention to a single thing is the most treasured ability of ours. Gary W. Keller and Jay Papasan writes about the power of decluttering your work and your life in general in their book, The One Thing. They start every thought process with, what they call, the focusing question:
“What’s the ONE Thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?”
For people with multiple passions and those who adore variety it might sound difficult at first to limit their to-do lists and clear up their calendars. However, it is crucial in order to avoid getting overwhelmed and it is the key to achieving more by doing less. Besides, it will improve your well-being and your social connections as well.
Take a look at your to-do list and list down all areas that you are putting your energy into. First, find the ones that can be done by somebody else and delegate them. Second, discover patterns among your responsibilities: what are the points that serve the same purpose? What can you eliminate from them? Last but not least, review which goals contribute to your one-year goals and long-term mission. If it is not a focus this year, then consciously procrastinate it.
Simplifying your life is essential in order to keep up your performance as well as to improve your well-being and overall quality of life. Put your list aside and set only 3 main focuses for the day and I guarantee you will feel less stressful and produce a better quality at the same time.
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