Using the Pareto Principle to Increase Personal Productivity by: Phil Alsup

Using the Pareto Principle to Increase Personal Productivity

Do you ever feel like you’ve got more to do than you have time? Even worse, do you feel overwhelmed with tasks which seem to pull you away from what you really need to be doing? Most everyone feels this way at some point and too many live in this type of “just get done what I can get done today” scenario most days. In order to give your best toward any task or objective you’ve got to be in a position to have dedicated time to understand the situation and think through your plan of action. You simply can’t succeed with your best efforts if your days are dictated by the “tyranny of the urgent.”

You simply can’t succeed with your best efforts if your days are dictated by the “tyranny of the urgent.”

Good news, you can own your time. It takes some organization and some planning but you can make it happen. First big step is get away from living by a to-do list and begin owning your calendar. By this I mean your day is driven by what your calendar says is important that day. It takes some work to move to this system and I give you some tips here.

You will find once you start properly delegating and dedicating your time based on your daily calendar that the list of things that are urgent will naturally grow smaller.

Once you’ve weaned yourself from the subpar to-do list methodology you will want to start gaining the best understanding of how to prioritize what needs to be done. How do you determine what is the most urgent among a list of urgent things? You will find once you start properly delegating and dedicating your time based on your daily calendar that the list of things that are urgent will naturally grow smaller (because you are being proactive and not allowing things to grow in urgency) and begin to better see how to concentrate on the things that are priority and not simply what needs to be done next. Once this happens a bit of productivity magic takes place where all of the sudden you have time to work on the important things. It’s not by accident. It’s known as the Pareto Principle.

What the Pareto Principle posits is about 20% of a given thing produces about 80% of the total results. So, in theory, about 20% of a sports team produces 80% of the results, about 20% of the people in a church give 80% of the total budget, and so on. While not a strict law of physics the overall reality does tend to play out this way in my experience. So, how does this apply to your productivity?

  • Look carefully at your pending workload, semester, annual work goals, etc. Determine what are the most important things that have to happen? What are the items that, no matter how the rest of the work goes, if you miss on then everything will be seen as failure? Boil it down to the most essential wins that have to happen. What’s left is your priority work.
  • Start looking at when these things have to happen. Then begin looking at your calendar. Begin to work back to today and see how much time you can dedicate toward getting these priority items accomplished with your best efforts.
  • Capture these times on your schedule with the goal of dedicating approximately 80% of your time as your priority work. This doesn’t mean totally neglecting other tasks and commitments, it simply means you are not allowing them to take a higher level of attention then they deserve.
  • Now, do what the calendar says. If you have properly isolated the right amount of time in the best parts of your days to your priority work then your top efforts are going to be given toward the things that have to happen at the highest levels.

What is urgent robs time from what is important.

I don’t know who said it first but it is an absolute truth that you have to be able to discern the difference between what is urgent and what is important. What is urgent robs time from what is important. Getting out in front of it with a calendar designed to address your most important work will help break you from having to serve what is urgent. From there then apply the Pareto Principle to make sure the majority of your time is going to the most important items in your life.

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