One simple, but profound concept can jack your daily productivity through the roof. I’m not talking about a to-do list of 1,742,473 successfully checked items. I’m talking about something you’ve probably heard of before, perhaps even given a silent nod of agreement. Yet, this concept is devilishly hard to live out on a daily basis because the tyranny of the urgent crowds it out.
Here’s the concept. The 80/20 rule. It’s officially called the Pareto Principle, named after Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th Century Italian economist who noted that 20% of the people owned 80% of the land. Pareto also found that about 20% of pea pods produced 80% of the peas. Put in today’s parlance, our best productivity will come from a a few areas.
If you want to get through-the-roof results, put 80% of your daily effort toward the 20% of things in your day that really matter. Ask yourself “what’s the one thing that I can accomplish today to make this day a success, even if I don’t get anything else done?” Do that one thing first.
We too often succumb to the tyranny of the trivially urgent. We spend 80% of our day on the 20% of stuff that makes the most noise. The ringing phone, the knock on the door, surfing Facebook, the co-worker who wants a minute. These can eat precious hours off our daily clock that we can’t get back. What’s worse, those tasks too often produce nothing of value.
Granted, we have to answer phone calls and deal with people at work. Family members need some attention and the cute post of your puppy on Facebook can bring a few smiles. Just make sure you first complete the one or two big things today that you must do to make the day a success.
It takes vigilance to restrict the mindless stuff of the day to only 20% of our focus. Stupid stuff rears its ugly head constantly to knock us off our game. But here’s the catch. Other people who insist that you take a minute for their stuff don’t particularly care whether you accomplish your top priority of the day. They care that you stop what you’re doing and attend to their priority.
So, if you want to increase your productivity, focus the start of your day on accomplishing the one thing that really matters. This is one thing that only you can do; a thing that if done by you will move the marker; the one thing that if left undone will mean you didn’t do your best today. Do that thing first. Then if you do get sidetracked by watching too much cable news it won’t matter because you’ve already knocked it out of the park.