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It`s About Time: Twelve Ways to Use the 80/20 Rule

By February 18, 2014Professional Development


The following excerpt is taken from “It’s About Time”

Twelve Ways to use the 80/20 Law with People


 In this post, I am going to offer you two cornerstone concepts for both your personal and business life.

  1. Most inputs are useless and time is wasted in proportion to the amount that is available.
  2. Simplicity requires ruthlessness.

And that likely means that there some people who are “getting in your way.’

What if you really applied Pareto’s 80/20 rule?

What if you were to actually stop four fifths of time-consuming activities, e-mail, phone calls, conversations, paperwork, meetings, advertising, customers, suppliers, products, services, etc.?

What would you eliminate to keep the negative effect on income to a minimum?

 Used Even Once per Month, that Question alone can keep you Sane and on Track


 Twelve Excellent Questions and Suggestions

1)  What are the top-three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though I’ve been productive?

These are usually used to postpone more important actions (often uncomfortable because there is a chance of failure or rejection).

Be honest with yourself, as we all do this on occasion.

2)  What are your crutch activities?

3)  Who are the 20% of people who produce 80% of your enjoyment and propel you forward,
and which 20% cause 80% of your depression, anger, and second-guessing?

4)  Identify:

A.  Positive friends versus time-consuming friends:

B.  Who is helping versus hurting you, and how do you increase your time with the former while decreasing or eliminating your time with the latter?

C.  Who is causing me stress disproportionate to the time I spend with them?

D.  What will happen if I simply stop interacting with these people?

E.  When do I feel starved for time?  What commitments, thoughts, and people can I eliminate to fix this problem?

5. Learn to ask, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?”

This isn’t being mean, it is being practical

Poisonous people do not deserve your time.

To think otherwise is masochistic.

The best way to approach a potential break is simple:

Confide in them honestly but tactfully and explain your concerns.

If they bite back, your conclusions have been confirmed.


 Drop them like any other Bad Habit

If they promise to change, first spend at least two weeks apart to develop other positive influences in your life and diminish psychological dependency.

The next trial period should have a set duration and consist of pass-or-fail criteria.

If this approach is too confrontational for you, just politely refuse to interact with them.

Be in the middle of something when the call comes, and have a prior commitment when the invitation to hang out comes.

Once you see the benefits of decreased time with these people, it will be easier to stop communication altogether.

 This is very Tough to do

It hurts like pulling out a splinter.

But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends.

If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.

Remove the splinters and you’ll thank yourself for it.


6. Never Arrive at the Office or in Front of Your Computer Without a Clear, Detailed List of Priorities

You’ll just read unassociated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day.

Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening.

Don’t use Outlook or computerized to-do lists, because it is possible to add an infinite number of items.

Instead, use a standard piece of paper folded in half three times, which fits perfectly in the pocket and limits you to noting only a few items.

 7. Never Have More Than Two Mission-Critical Items to Complete Each Day


If you are stuck trying to decide between multiple items that all seem crucial, as happens to all of us, look at each in turn and ask yourself, If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?

To counter the seemingly urgent, ask yourself:

What will happen if I don’t do this, and is it worth putting off the important to do it?

If you haven’t already accomplished at least one important task in the day, don’t spend the last business hour returning a DVD to avoid a $5 late charge.

Get the important task done and then pay the $5 fine.



8. Are You Inventing Things To Do To Avoid The Important?

Put a Post-it on your computer screen or set an Outlook reminder to alert you at least three times daily with the question:

Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?

Some of my clients use free time-tracking software called RescueTime (www.rescuetime.com) to alert them as to when they spend more than an allotted time on certain websites or programs often used to avoid the important (Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, etc.).

It also summarizes your time use each week and compares your performance to peers.

 9. Use Parkinson’s Law on a Macro and Micro Level


Use Parkinson’s Law to accomplish more in less time.

Shorten schedules and deadlines to necessitate focused action instead of deliberation and procrastination.

On a weekly and daily macro level, attempt to take Monday and/or Friday off, as well as leave work at 4:00 P.M.

This will focus you to prioritize more effectively and quite possibly develop a social life.

Stop asking for opinions and start proposing solutions.

 10. Begin with the Small Things


 If someone is going to ask, or asks,

“Where should we eat?”

“What movie should we watch?”

“What should we do tonight?”

Or anything similar, do not reflect it back with, “Well, what do you want to… ?”

Offer a solution.  Stop the back-and-forth and make a decision.

Practice this in both personal and professional environments.

Here are a few Lines That Help:

“Can I make a suggestion?”

“I propose …”

“I’d like to propose …”

“I suggest that … What do you think?”

“Let’s try … and then try something else if that doesn’t work.”

Learn to be difficult when it counts.

Having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.

11. Stop Asking People For Their Opinions and Start Proposing Solutions


Propose solutions instead of asking for them, to elicit desired responses instead of reacting, and to be assertive without burning bridges.

To have an uncommon lifestyle, you need to develop the uncommon habit of making decisions, both for yourself and for others.

Learn to be difficult when it counts.

Having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.

I do not normally recommend the following; I would normally suggest a more facilitative response.

But if you are time challenged because you do not say “No” often enough, try for the next two days, to say “no” to all requests, whenever possible

 12. Sometimes You Have To Say “No”. How Do You Do That?


If that is too much for you, instead of saying “Yes” or “No”, try the following eight suggestions:

  1. “If you do X, then I would be happy to do Y”
  2. “Yes, later…”
  3. “Give a minute to think about that…”
  4. “Convince me…”
  5. Delegate to the delegator…
  6. Answer a question with a question…
  7. What do you think we should do so we both get what we want?
  8. Another good suggestion is: “(Boss), I can do that but which of the other things on my list you have asked me to do, should I drop?

By the way, here is a great question to help you get further down the 80/20 path.

What can/could I do, that were I to do it, everything else would be easier or unnecessary?

Good luck.

For more on this topic, we recommend the following


Naked is the Salesperson
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of "Perceptual" Selling

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