The 80/20 rule applies to every aspect of life. Twenty percent of your effort will bring about 80 percent of your results. I decided to apply this rule to my own life while in college. I was plodding my way through a brutal undergraduate program, working full-time, and trying to find time to kiss my wife more than just once a month. I was not willing to sacrifice my marriage because it was (and is) the highest priority in my life. I also had an understandable affinity for eating, so I had to keep my job. And, although it sometimes seemed like the only expendable option, I wasn’t about to give up on school. I was stuck.
After a soul-searching analysis of my dilemma, I was forced to prioritize and chose to become a B student. I realized that the majority of the semester’s points for any given course were in the main tests. The labs required extensive and timely work, but the points given by the professors for lab work were not as significant. I decided to whip through the labs and always turn something in but focus the bulk of my energy on doing well on the tests. I also chose to become a “9-5” employee, meaning that I did my job but did not put in the extra effort to further my career.
With my workaholic personality, this arrangement proved difficult at times. I had to make a deliberate decision to focus on the 20 percent of activities that would achieve 80 percent of the result. It took work, but I’m happy to report that I got back to kissing my wife more than once a month, I graduated from a difficult engineering program, and my career continues to advance—thus satisfying my affinity for eating.
As the CEO of a technology company, I had an employee named Daryl Guiver. He was a fine product manager and a meticulous worker. One afternoon, I was shocked to find that Daryl had put a sign up above his desk that read, “Strive for Mediocrity.” I had preached to my team to always do their best, so I was stunned he would put up something so bold and uninspiring.
When I questioned him, Daryl explained that he was a detail-oriented perfectionist. There was nothing mediocre about him. With all of his drive for perfection, however, he sometimes got lost in the details. When he was developing a product, he wanted every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted. He realized that this hindered his ability to get things done. By concentrating on hitting perfection only on the most important tasks, while settling for his definition of mediocrity on the rest, he accomplished much, much more.
Porter’s Points – 80/20
- What are your top three priorities in life? Do you have more than three competing for your attention? Start applying the 80/20 rule. Now.
- If you find yourself getting bogged down in details, ask yourself, “Is this getting me to my goal?” If the answer is no, move on. Quickly.
- Are you a perfectionist? Part of perfectionism comes from placing the same priority on each task at hand. Perfect the art of prioritization first. Burn through the less important tasks; focus your skills and resources on the more important ones.
Another great tool that every small business should have is a whiteboard. We’ll learn why next time.