This blog is part of our Work Smarter Series.
Work fewer hours, but earn the same? (or More!). That is living the dream. Imagine the relief and thrill of ticking off every item on your to-do list or cutting out over-time altogether. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Well, thanks to a pioneering economist and his veggie garden, this is entirely possible, if you apply the 80/20 rule, that is.
The Pareto Principle, as it’s formally known, states that 80% of all results come from only 20% of their action. At SEVEN, we’re all about work hacks that improve performance while carving out more space for your personal life. And this one is a winner! Scroll down for seven easy ways to apply this workable strategy to your work life, and maximise your results in the process!
1. Do more! (With Less Effort)
With uncannily universal applications, the 80/20 rule has been used on everything from calculating wealth distribution at the United Nations to the GINI Index – and it’s remained a popular business strategy for a reason: it works! For use in a professional context, consider the principle a helpful framework to manage your time better, improve the quality of work and reduce any time or energy waste on less important tasks. Depending on your line of work and if you are client or project-based (or both!), the most lucrative 80% of your work will be coming from a fraction i.e. 20% of your clients. Focus most of your working day into that 20% minority, and watch your overall performance improve as a result!
2. Prioritise, Prioritise & Prioritise
Since 80% of your income comes from only 20% of your projects, distribute your resources accordingly. Hit that sweet spot by managing your time, attention and admin so that you concentrate most of your energy into 20% of your work. A trick we’ve learned at SEVEN is to categorise tasks into three different levels: high priority, medium priority and low priority. Focus most of your attention on the high priority tasks and delegate where possible. This smart use of resources may be something to get used to but over time, this intentionality will streamline your work process, clear up your schedule and help you know when to focus on what.
3. Morning, Meet Work
Focus on your most pressing task, first. The average working day in a normal work environment is filled with countless distractions: emails, phone calls and urgent tasks, and often, streams of meetings. We want to emphasise the importance of minimising the time you spend on tasks that detract from your overall work performance. This is harder said than done, especially if you tend to procrastinate or lean towards perfectionism when under pressure. Prioritise your number 1 project by jumping into it as soon as you get to work. This careful use of energy works because you’re at your sharpest first thing in the morning and there are far fewer interruptions. It reduces the pressure that you’re under and also stops you from procrastinating or working yourself up into a state of being completely unproductive, which is easy to do when you’re feeling stressed about a project. Starting every day this focused will become a habit that has the potential to change your entire work life.
4. Copy and Paste your Favourite Client
And build an ‘ideal client’ profile. Waste less time pursuing opportunities that don’t pay as well. We advise analysing all of your clients and taking note of the kinds of client who pay the best, are bigger sources of income and take up little time in relation to their pay. Look for the links between them: are they big corporations or start-ups? What is their fee structure like? What are their company aims? A careful comparison of the similarities between them will help you create a ‘type’ of client which you can use as a template when you’re looking to take on new work. This handy strategy (and great interpretation of the 80/20 principle!) helps you to save time by targeting the most reliable work opportunities over ineffective ones, which maximises your earning potential while making the most of your working hours. Seek opportunities that match the profile you develop, and see your returns double!
5. Goal in your Crosshairs, always
Another way to use the 80/20 principle to your advantage is to ensure that your short and medium term goals are aligned with your long term goal, and that each daily task ultimately serves the process that helps you accomplish it. If you’re not doing this, you’re wasting many precious hours of your day on tasks that are irrelevant to your long-term goal. To avoid doing this, apply the one-two step, or our two-step process to staying focused on your goals. First, ask if XYZ is in line with your current goals. Then, cross-check it against its possible outcomes. If this is something that improves your chances of attaining a certain level of success or helps you gain access to a network of experts that you had been hoping to contact, focus on it. Following this two-step process to manage time and attention per task is an effective long-term strategy for success.
6. 3 point To-Do lists (Yes, only 3!)
You may write a page-long to-do list in the hopes of getting more done, but it can have quite the opposite effect. Our work days are pressurised enough without an incomplete checklist looming over your head. That little rush you get from ticking off something from your list is offset by the number of incomplete tasks below it. Here’s a great hack to combat that: set yourself three realistic goals for each work day. List these items according to their urgency or time sensitivity, and work through the list methodically. Returning to less important tasks ahead of time-sensitive ones wastes time and energy that could be better used in a vigorous energy burst. Overworking and over committing yourself does not produce results. Working from a clear headspace, filled with intention, is where you do your best work. Burnout is not your friend.
7. Keep Breaks Chop-Chop
Opt for multiple short breaks over one long one. If you find yourself getting bored, distracted or reaching for your phone during your work day, get up from your seat and take a quick, brisk walk instead. Even if it’s to the front desk and back! Stretching and moving our bodies is a great way to stay alert and maintain high concentration levels. In addition to putting down your phone or on airplane mode to avoid distractions while you’re deep-diving into your work, check your emails at a designated interval. Quickly checking your inbox while you’re working on a project breaks your focus and kills the momentum you’ve built up.
At SEVEN, we take life-work balance seriously. Just like Joseph M. Juran, who, inspired by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto’s observations in his garden (really), developed the 80/20 principle after further studying Pareto’s research on land distribution in Italy. This was, of course, after Pareto himself discovered that a mere 20% of his pea plants were producing 80% of the pea pods in his garden. And Viola! a principle to maximize results with less effort was seeded. Thanks to a few industrious legumes, you too can improve your work performance and reduce the time you spend on unnecessary tasks, thereby maximizing the earning potential of a few sources and streamlining your work efforts. This time-saving strategy ups the quality of your work and gets you noticed. Fast. For all of the crucial tools, resources and tricks of the trade you need to fully utilise your working hours, book a Discovery Call with us today. Perform like you’re getting a promotion, and get ready to see impressive results.