Before we can apply the 80/20 rule, we need a clear picture of what it actually is and a basic idea of where it originated.
In the early 1900’s, Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto observed that twenty percent of the people in Italy owned eighty percent of the wealth. Over 30 years later, Dr. Joseph M. Juran, who worked in the field of Quality Management in the United States, recognized a similar occurrence, namely, that many things in life are unevenly distributed.
He referred to this trend as Pareto’s 80/20 Principle, which is otherwise known as the 80/20 rule. Basically this means that a small percentage (roughly 20%) of the overall activity yields a larger percentage (roughly 80%) of the result.
Applying the 80/20 rule to your personal productivity will help you to prioritize your work from most important to least important and then to budget your time accordingly. To make prioritizing your tasks a bit easier, estimate the amount of time you will need to complete each task. You will be more productive if you focus on completing the most important tasks first and if you finish time-sensitive projects before tackling other tasks.
One survey revealed that while people spend 60 hours a week in their offices, they do less than 20 hours of actual work. Applying the 80/20 rule, using the aforementioned suggestions, could send the average office-worker soaring to employee of the month in no time flat!
With your priorities set and a definite plan in place as to what work you need to complete and the time-frame you have to complete it, you are well on your way to improved personal productivity. Again, the 80/20 rule suggests that in a small amount time you can be very productive. Therefore, beware of becoming side-tracked by non-essential intruders like procrastination.
Keep in mind the old adage, “why put off tomorrow what you can do today!” Also, be mindful that in the course of a day, unexpected things do come up and require our time. However, this is usually the exception and not the rule. If you really want your productivity to soar, stay focused on the goal of completing your tasks on-time!
Now that you know where you want to be, it’s a good time to ask yourself where you are now in relation to reaching your goal. Are you already in the 20% of efficient, productive workers, are you in the 80% of not-so-productive workers, or are you somewhere in-between?
What does your annual or quarterly review reveal about your personal productivity? What do your peer reviews show? Regardless of your current standing, take an honest look at the work you’ve done lately. You may not need a full overhaul of your work habits but instead you may just need to fine-tune a few areas.