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Home-based Business Self Development

The Law of the Vital Few, the 80/20 Rule or the Pareto Principle – whatever you call it, it exists

You are probably saying – ok, tell me something I don’t know. We all know it exists, but how often can you see it actually working in your daily life?

Here are my statistics for the past 30 days since I have been sharing my blogs on Medium.Com

The 80/20 Rule, explained.

For many outcomes, roughly 80% of the consequences come from 20% of the causes.

You can see why the “Law of the Vital Few” has been used to describe this principle.

The Vital Few being 20% of the causes.

Brief History of the 80/20 Rule

An Italian born in Paris, Vilfredo Pareto attended the University of Lausanne. His field was microeconomics and socioeconomics and during his studies, in one aspect of his research, he noticed that 80% of land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

His legacy as an economist was profound. As Wikipedia describes, his influence had the field of economy develop into a data-intensive field of scientific research and mathematical equations.

For the time, his textbooks were noted to resemble the more modern texts we might see today. Graphs, charts, signs and equations filled the pages of his notebooks.

He was also preoccupied with the problems of power and wealth. How it was obtained and how it was distributed around society?

This makes this principle still very relevant today.

Back to my stats.

For clarification, I have published 21 stories in total. Seven of those stories was where I achieved my reads, and four stories gathered me my fans.

Focusing on my “reads” which I will accept as being a consequence of my cause, applying the 80/20 rule, this translates to 33%.

Since the description of this rule mentions “roughly” I am going accept that the Pareto Principle is in play here.

Now, looking at my “fans”, the percentage which follows is 19%. Four of the 21 stories generated 5 fans.

We can’t get closer to the 80/20 rule in this instance!

Less really is more.

Tim Ferriss says in his book the 4 Hour Workweek, that we should be figuring out which 20% of our activities generate 80% of our results.

Taking into consideration my statistics, and in particular, for the topic that I am writing about, I can see which ones are gathering the most traction and where I can improve and continue to add value to my readers. I can understand where the reader is too and where my engagement is best, to further research and provide more in-depth content.

I get that keyword research does this. However, this 80/20 principle can now support my keyword strategy, and also help me focus on the amount of time I spend in general, researching a certain topic.

I might consider outsourcing some of my other writing and other aspects of my business that take me away from my vital 20%. This will give me a more focused approach to topics and activities within set criteria.

A modern-day application

Aside from my own statistics, we can see the application of the 80/20 rule in everyday life. Even in general and regular activities in our day.

I have adopted a very minimalist approach to my life. I have given away clothes that I don’t wear, I only have what I use in my apartment and I regularly assess that position to check whether I am hoarding.

In any event, I find that I generally wear my favourite t-shirts and running pants and will check for them in the (small) pile of clothes when I am dressing in the morning. A minimalist approach and the Pareto Principle can work nicely together when you are trying to achieve a more streamlined vision of your life.

It is by now a well-known fact that this rule has been applied by the Microsoft team. They discovered that by fixing the top 20% of bugs reported that they eliminated 80% of their work.

Similarly in sports. An effective set of training regimes has been noted to achieve better results for the sportspeople involved. Hence, doing everything achieves less, than doing the most effective things that specifically drive your outcomes.

For those of us who use busy roads, you will see that 80% of the traffic accidents are caused by 20% of the road users. I have read that is also been said that 80% of crime is caused by 20% of the criminals.

In any event, what a man saw so long ago, is still very relevant in this modern world we live in.

How can we use the 80/20 rule to our benefit?

For me, a busy entrepreneur, I can now see how this 80/20 rule affects my outcomes. I know where I need to focus more to boost my outcome. Also, I can use the principle to prioritise my day, and since I have a journal, I can now revisit that to revise my efforts.

I expect now that my problem-solving will be far more effective going forward. I certainly won’t be focusing on problems that don’t effectively drive my strategy.

Executives and leaders can use this principle to help with their decision making process.

Where will the business achieve the biggest impact and who is responsible for that impact, for example?

Which products are driving your bottom line?

I would hazard a guess that 20% of their workforce and their product line are responsible for 80% of their results.

I know when I worked in an Estate Agents office, around 20% of the sales staff were consistent in achieving their monthly sales targets.

An 80/20 Analysis

Since we have established the importance of this principle and how it can benefit productivity, let’s take a look at how we could conduct an analysis.

  1. Identify problems

You want to check where you are spending your time and make a daily list of the time you spend on certain tasks if time management is your problem.

Maybe you might have staff problems or product quality problems, and you can identify and list these into a common group, where similar problems are noted.

2. Cause of problems

Discovering why the problems exist is probably going to be quite an exhaustive exercise if you are an executive or leader in your organisation.

If you have a time management problem, as an entrepreneur that list of where you spend your time might highlight some bad habits you might have picked up. Be honest in your overall assessment.

3. Score the problems

Highlight those that need the most attention first, by giving them a score.

If this worked for the people at Microsoft, it is likely to work in many workplaces. In their assessment, they discovered that bugs and not just features caused their problems.

So assessing and scoring problems is fundamental to the overall analysis.

4. Take the appropriate action

Act on the most important or highly scored problem first. Even if the lower scored problems still exist, you will find that less time will be spent on resolving them.

Conclusion

From my own personal discoveries, I intend to support my daily process already in place with an assessment using the 80/20 rule.

If it is used in conjunction with established good habits, it seems very likely that time management and productivity will improve for me. I hope it will improve for you if it needs to.

Do you know what 20% of your work or effort drives your outcomes?

Photo by Harrison Haines from Pexels

Categories
Home-based Business Self Development

Tips to bolster Productivity

Productivity:

“The effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of rate of output, per unit of input”

As a solo entrepreneur, I have often overlooked what it really means to be productive. Often we sit at our desks, in our pyjamas, and think that writing a blog, or an article or reading a piece of learning material is being “productive”. Is it really?

In an effort to find out what productivity really is, I came across a number of articles discussing how to boost productivity. This seemed far more of an important subject and in fact, I learned a few useful tips to improve my daily habits. Since productivity is based on input, as it’s definition tells us, bolstering input and supporting efforts in that regard, has become my personal focus.

Here are some of them.

Circadian Rhythm

Scheduling important projects and high impact decision making, during your best and most productive awake cycle, is a common suggestion made.

A friend of mine, who has a high level and high powered position in a global company mentions that she is often more productive to her general administration tasks in the evening after the children have been put to bed. This makes sense for her personal circumstances since during the day she is often involved with virtual meetings, calls from colleagues, and strategic discussions around company output. For me personally, I am more of a morning person where I find that my business focus is stronger during the first part of the day.

Different strokes, for different folks.

Read some really interesting information on this natural process that is embedded in all of our genes. It’s what regulates our sleep-wake cycle, so implies that having a schedule around this, is all-important.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circadian_rhythm#:~:text=A%20circadian%20rhythm%20is%20a,oscillation%20of%20about%2024%20hours.

Less is More

Having been in varying work environments, from private to corporate companies, I often found that my colleagues who were on a “half-day” structure, were often more productive at the office. Their focus was clear, they managed their shorter time in the office more effectively and generally got a load more done than some of us who were on the normal 9 to 5.

In support of this, it does seem that the suggestion is that working less each week, does bolster productivity. A study by Stanford economics Professor John Pencavel found that working more than a 50 hour week resulted in a decline in productivity. It makes sense when you think about how all of these extra hours are being used. Is it realistic to think that every hour in a normal day of work is aimed directly at input? I would hazard a guess, and say no.

Break the Fast with a Healthy Breakfast

I am no dietician and nor can I claim that my eating habits are in any way productive to my overall wellbeing, but I do understand the benefit of a good breakfast. Protein, vitamins, and fiber are the keywords here, and even I have replaced these declining a sugary option of my favourite childhood cereal.

Sleep Deprivation as a form of Torture

I can totally relate this, and if I don’t get my standard seven hours I operate at half capacity. I don’t know how new parents and parents of young children do it?! Going back to our own circadian rhythm’s having a set bedtime and a set waketime, ensuring a good night’s sleep goes without saying.

To Break, or not to Break?

Now that I know a lot more about the circadian rhythm and my own natural processes here, I tend to break more often during my day. Getting up from your desk, taking a walk, having a lunch break and even a nap all tends towards better productivity.

A clear desk is the sign of a clear mind?

Not always true and I will leave this one to your own personal habits. I do find that clear surfaces, and an orderly working space works best for me, but I have known some incredibly effective and competent people who can work in what looks to me, as complete disarray.

The idea towards productivity here is that if you have to spend valuable time looking for something you need, taking you away from your daily schedule, then perhaps its time for clear out.

Trying to attain Perfection, is not a good use of your time

I bet the gymnast, the high diver, the ballet dancer, or the synchronized swimmer reading this has just scoffed and rolled their eyes backward. I would agree with them, and the last time I did witness such perfection was watching the Olympics at these particular events and Swan Lake at our local theatre. In business, however, having this lofty expectation can often lead to being a backstop to the strategy and lowering productivity.

So when is something good enough? When can you feel that your goal has been achieved and you can happily tick that item from your to-do list.

We learn in digital marketing that if your content or product is solving a problem and addressing the need, or conveying a message then it is good enough. If the quality is consistent, equal, or exceeds the level of your previous work, then it is good enough.

When you think about this process then, perfection is not something you achieve when you first head out of the door, it is attained, it is something you strive towards.

I think the gymnast, the high diver, the ballet dancer, or the synchronized swimmer would agree with that.