Have you heard of the Pareto Principle?
Pareto was an Italian Economist who established a formula which enabled him to show that 80% of Italy’s wealth was controlled by just 20% of the people. This formula was later applied across many different businesses and services and has become a recognised principle in business but it really does apply to our everyday lives too.
80% of ‘things’ are less important than the other 20%
Let me give you some examples:
- Do you notice that in your everyday life, although you know lots of people, there are a couple of people who take up more of your time or energy than all the others? – Those couple of people are the 20% who are taking up 80% of your energy….
- Maybe at work, 80% of your stock comes from 20% of the suppliers or 80% of your sales is from just 20% of your customers?
- Out of the actions you take each day, 80% of what you do is routine and fairly trivial and yet do you notice that there’s a small amount of things you do that actually make a difference to your day and have more meaning than all the rest
- Maybe it’s spending that bit of ‘quality time’ with your family – reading the kids a bedtime story FEELS special, even though you’ve spent 80% of your day with them doing the day to day things…
- or that moment when you and your partner finally sit down and cuddle up together on the sofa that you feel that ‘Ahhhh’ moment rather than the ‘Aghhhh’ moments you’ve had in the rest of the day!
It has shown many times, that 80% of what we do is focussed on the trivial things which make little difference to our businesses or our life and we only spend 20% of our time on the things that make a BIG difference.
I bet you spend 80% of your time focussed on other people either at home or at work and less than 20% focussed on you.
And yet, what the Pareto Principle highlights, is that when we shift our focus and make sure we’re spending 80% of our time and energy on the 20% of things that really matter, we can transform our businesses and our life!
What would happen if you shifted your focus and concentrated some more of your time and energy on yourself?
I mentioned in Part 1 of this series that I was spending a massive amount of time and energy on my work and less and less time looking after myself. Did this benefit the business? NO – because in the end, I reached burn out. What’s the MOST Valuable Investment You can Make? New Series Part 1
- Maybe if I’d prioritised more of my energy directed to ME, by making sure I ate healthily, exercised regularly etc. I would have increased my overall energy level and avoided becoming ill and eventually burning out…
Have you ever met a new boyfriend/girlfriend and virtually ALL your thoughts are taken up thinking about them? Your relationship flourishes and life feels great and yet with the passage of time, you fall into the day to day routines and less and less time and energy is directed to your partner and the relationship starts to drift.
We all do it don’t we? We start to take someone for granted and the relationship suffers. Then something happens and reminds us how important they are to us and we start to put our focus back into the relationship and it begins to flourish again or maybe we go away on holiday and rekindle the love in our relationship for the fortnight we’re away. We’re determined that we’ll keep this level of energy up once we return home but then somehow we drift again over the next few months…..
This is the 80/20 rule at play.
When we focus 80% of relationship energy into the 20% of things that make a positive difference, the relationship flourishes and yet so often we focus 80% of our relationship on the 20% of things that are really trivial and don’t matter – nagging about the pots not being washed or the way the toothpaste has been squeezed from the top not the bottom or the shoes dumped in the hall or the ‘dribbles’ on the toilet seat!!! (With hubby and 2 sons I’ve definitely nagged that one to death!)
If we were to flip it and focus 80% of our time on the 20% of activities that would enhance our life, we really can transform our lives and investing more time and energy into yourself is absolutely key.
If life feels mundane and boring 80% of the time, it’s likely you’re spending 80% of your time and energy on the trivial aspects of your life. Try shifting your focus onto the things that are really important. Spend a bit more ‘quality’ time with your family and friends, do more things for yourself.
Try this SIMPLE exercise:
Cast your mind back over the things you did yesterday. How did you spend your time? Write down all the main things you did and then categorise the list as follows:
- Essential Action – things I have to do but don’t particularly enjoy
- Essential Action – things I have to do and I really enjoy doing them
- Non essential action – things I do that I don’t enjoy, but do them anyway (maybe for other people…)
- Non essential action – things I do that I don’t HAVE to do but I REALLY enjoy
Now lets consider what you’ve got listed under category 2 and category 4 and compare that list, to the things you’ve got listed under category 1 and 3.
I suspect that you’ll find that 80% of your time and energy is being spent on the things that you don’t particularly enjoy and possibly that you don’t even HAVE to do i.e. the day to day trivia of life.
How much of your time and energy is being spent doing essential or non essential things that you don’t enjoy, compared to doing essential and non essential things that you do enjoy?
What would happen if you shifted some time and energy away from the category 3 items and placed that time and energy into category 2 or 4?
Now I can hear some of you shouting at me…
“Yes but I have to go to work to earn money – I don’t enjoy my job but it pays the bills”
However, what if you changed your mental energy toward your job and started to simply think differently about it?
- Consider what small changes you could make that would help you to enjoy it more.
- At work, are there things you could stop doing that would actually make you more efficient?
- Would changing your thoughts about work, change your energy toward it?
- Maybe thinking about the positive benefits work brings to your life e.g. the pay cheque at the end of the month helps keep a roof on your head, pays for holidays, enables you to have a good social life etc.
- Is there a particular customer or colleague that is wasting your time and stressing you out?
- Think about how you could change this situation by changing how you think about it and where you’re letting your energy be used.
- Develop some strategies to help you deal with the individuals more effectively – do you really need their custom, could you avoid contact with the colleague or try some different ways to communicate with them etc?
The same principles can be applied to things at home too. Maybe you feel that you absolutely HAVE to do certain task around the house but you resent having to do them. When we feel obligated to do things that we don’t enjoy, we start to build up negative energy and often give off a negative vibe to those around us.
Sometimes, we don’t actually HAVE to do those things or we could delegate some things to other people in the house. Alternatively, we could simply change how we think about the task.
Here’s some examples:
The washing HAS to be done at some point, otherwise you’ll run out of clean undies! You’re fed up of asking people to put their dirty washing in the laundry basket and when you go round the house and gather up all the dirty washing that’s scattered around, you now have a MASSIVE pile of washing to face.
Oh dear – now you feel irritated, angry, bitter, resentful, aggravated…. etc. and as a result, you snap at the kids or your partner and one crabby word leads to another, it all comes tumbling out. “I’m sick of cleaning up after you lot, I never have any time for myself, I spend all day doing everything for everybody else…”
I once worked with a lovely lady, who was at the end of her tether with her husband. She was working long hours and he was off work at the time. She became increasingly resentful toward him, because she felt he wasn’t pulling his weight when it came to the daily household tasks.
One thing in particular had become a MASSIVE bone of contention for them both. He refused to do any ironing and therefore she was faced with an increasingly growing pile of ironing. They’d reached a stand off. He wouldn’t do it and neither would she and they argued about it constantly.
The arguments increased alongside the pile of ironing, to the point where she came into work one night and said that she was considering splitting up.
We talked about the issue and it was clear that she still loved her husband, but couldn’t stand looking at the pile of ironing and that the ironing was becoming a reflection of her relationship. What had started out small had become massive. The small irritation at first about her husband not pulling his weight, had become a massive issue for her.
I advised her to go home and separate the pile or ironing into 2 – one pile of her clothes and one of her hubbies and then to put each pile into separate bin bags – one of her clothes and one of her hubbies and then to put the bin bag of her clothes into her wardrobe and her hubbies into his.
By doing this, she removed the visual reminder of the pile of ironing that needed to be done, which irritated her every night when she got home. Instead of being faced with the pile of ironing, it was hidden away and she could then work through her own pile of ironing at her leisure, without feeling bitter or resentful toward her husband. He could then choose to iron his own clothes or not.
She told me a couple of years later that the piece of advice I’d given her, had literally saved her marriage.
- Not looking at the pile of ironing started to remove the anxiety and anger she’d felt and as a result, the arguments ceased and they were able to refocus their negative energy toward the positive aspects of their relationship instead.
- Sometimes, we think things are impossible and yet making simple changes can really shift our energy from negative to positive.
When you start to recognise how you’re spending most of your time, thoughts and energy and you make some small changes to each of those things, to move them away from the things that aren’t benefitting you and toward the things that would enhance your life, you’ll notice transformational results.
We all have the same amount of time, the difference in our lives, is how we spend that time. When we spend more time focussed on the actions that will enhance our life, our relationships, our work etc. then our lives will definitely benefit as a result!
Now I can hear you shouting…
“but I DON’T have any time”
Yes – you do! You have the same amount of time as everybody else but maybe you’re choosing to spend your time on the 80% of things that aren’t really enhancing your life.
Maybe you’re spending time and energy in a toxic relationship or job that you should discard?
Maybe you’re relationships could be improved if you spend time enjoying each other rather than grumbling to each other?
Are you compulsively watching TV and then complaining that you’re bored with life or you haven’t got enough money to do the things you enjoy?
- What would happen if you shifted your energy away from the TV and spent some time enjoying a new hobby or researching how you can make money or selling some of your unwanted items on the internet (Ebay, Pre-loved, Etsy etc), to make some money that you could then use to do more of the things you actually ENJOY?
Most importantly, shift your focus away from others and toward yourself. What can you do to enhance your life. It’s not selfish, because when you feel good, you’ll be dishing out a positive vibe to those around you, both at work and at home and they will benefit as a result.
You can use Pareto’s 80/20 rule to positively enhance your life. Why not give it a go – all you have to do is shift your focus and your energy toward the 20% of things that REALLY matter and in particular on YOU!
What a wonderful post Wendy. I definitely saw me in a few of your scenarios though as I get older I am becoming more mindful of how I spend my time. Life’s too short to spend grumbling about petty things or complaining about undies left on the ground. Sometimes we just have to delegate or simply turn a blind eye, ha! Great post as usual. xo
Thanks Miri – could you tell they’ve been some of my personal gripes over the years – haha! xx
And mine too!!
I first learnt this 20 plus years ago it makes a huge difference when i apply it. Great post Wendy.
Thanks Bella – yes I learned it a long time ago and yet sometimes I still forget to apply it! xx
I forget as well. Not so much at work, but in other areas if my life
I’m the same Bella.. Have a lovely weekend xx