Knowing Your 80/20

The only thing that I’ve ever learned from a group project in college was that I hated group projects. At the beginning of the semester, the professor announced that there would be a final group project and passed out a sign-up sheet for groups. Every group whether for chemistry or business usually had some or all of the same kinds of people: the leader, the procrastinator, the control freak, the one who did all of the work, and the no show. The leader rallies everyone together at the beginning of the semester, but the group doesn’t end up meeting until halfway through and doesn’t start the project until three weeks before it’s due. One person puts off doing anything and the control freak gets involved into everyone’s assignments but doesn’t do anything. The no-show doesn’t make an appearance until the day before the project is due and the last person did all the work.

In the end, 80% of the work was done by 20% of the people. This ratio of 80/20 applies from everything from group projects to business, to science, to technology, to economics and is called the Pareto Principle.

The Pareto Principle, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, was established after Pareto observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. We can extrapolate this principle. In business, 80% of sales come from 20% of customers. In technology, when Microsoft fixed 20% of software bugs, they resolved 80% of customer complaints with a product.

Think of this in terms of time and return on that time spent. Do you spend 80% of your time on an activity that only brings you 20% sales? Could your time be better spent on things that will bring more of an impact to your bottom line?

Audit How Much Time You Spend

My challenge for you today is to audit how much time you spend on daily tasks and apply the Pareto Principle to them.

For me recently, I was aghast at how much time I was spending on Reddit instead of writing articles or my books. Sure, I was usually in places like Ketogains, Science Fiction, or Self Publish, but it was far more of a drag on my time than I ever expected. More than that, I was getting less and less return on that investment.

I am a writer. I need to spend as much time as possible writing so that I can get that return. It was easy for me to do mental gymnastics and justify why I was on those subreddits. I would tell myself that I was researching or participating in the community. Ultimately, I was spending time not producing anything and it was hurting the bottom line. Had I not spent the last year on various forum and social sites, I probably would have more than one manuscript ready for editing.

Be Honest in Your Audit

That’s the toughest part of all. Be honest in your audit. Do you really need to be spending this much time on this activity? Will it truly bring you a greater benefit?

Yes, I learned a lot on Reddit, but I did so at the expense of writing. Now, I make sure that my writing for the day is done before I go and do “research.”

Thanks for reading this installment of Daily Download. Please hit like and share on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ if you liked it. I’ll be posting these every day and hope you’ll come back tomorrow. You can also check out the previous publications in the archives down below.

The question of the day: What you spending the most time doing and is it getting in the way of something that’s more valuable?

Please comment below.

Until tomorrow.

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