By: Hubert Crowell
The 80/20 Principle and Time Revolution
When applied to our use of time, most of our significant achievements are achieved in a minority of our time. Similarly, most of our happiness occurs during quite bounded periods of time. Granted, happiness is hard to measure, but we are sure that the following is true.
The point is not to manage your time better!
You need to transform how you spend your time and you probably need to change the way you think about time itself. Time management is about the selling of "time managers." Time management aims to fit a quart into a pint jar, it is about speeding up.
Time management implicitly assumes that we know what is and is not a good use of our time. If the 80/20 Principle is true, this is not a safe assumption. If we knew what was important, we'd be doing it already.
The name time management gives the game away. It implies that time can be managed more efficiently, that it is a valuable and scarce resource and that we must dance to its tune. Time lost, the time management evangelists say, can never be regained.
80/20 Time Heresy
The 80/20 Principle overturns conventional wisdom about time.
We need to go back to the drawing board and overturn all our assumptions about time.
We are positively awash with it. We only make good use of 20 percent of our time. It is often tiny amounts of time that make all the difference. The 80/20 Principle says that if we doubled our time on the top 20 percent of activities, we could work a two-day week and achieve 60 percent more than now.
Time gone is not time lost. Time will always come round again. This is why there is seven days in a week, twelve months in a year, why the seasons come round again. It is our use of time, and not time itself, that is the enemy.
Action drives out thought. It is because we have so much time that we squander it. The most productive time on a project is usually the last 20 percent, simply because the work has to be completed before a deadline.
Time is the benign link between the past, present, and future.
It is not a shortage of time that should worry us, but the majority of our time being spent in low-quality ways.
Time should not be seen as a sequence, running from left to right as in nearly all graphical representations that the culture of businesses has imposed on us. It is better to view time as a synchronizing and cyclical device, just as the inventors of the clock intended. Time keeps coming round, bringing with it the opportunity to learn, to deepen a few valued relationships, to produce a better product or outcome, and to add more value to life.
We can take and extend the best 20 percent from the past and the present to create a better future. All we have to do is to give freer rein and better direction to our most positive 20 percent.
A primer for time revolutionaries.
Pick your heros of productive laziness, Richard Koch, in his book. The 80/20 Principle, choose Ronald Reagan and Warren Buffett.
Reagan's ability to apply himself was limited at best, his grasp of conventional reality ever more tenuous, his ability to inspire the United States and destroy communism ever more awesome. To maul Churchill's dictum, never was so much achieved by so few with so little effort.
Warren Buffett became for a time the richest man in the United States, not by working but by investing. If not lazy, Buffett, is very economical with his energy, Whereas most fund managers buy lots of stocks and churn them frequently, Buffett buys few and holds them for ages. This means that there is very little work to do.
There is no value is doing things that you don't enjoy. Do the things that you like doing. Make them your job.
Twenty percent of people not only enjoy 80 percent of wealth but also monopolize 80 percent of the enjoyment to be had from work, and they are the same 20 percent!
Those who achieve the most have to enjoy what they do. It is only by fulfilling oneself that anything of extraordinary value can be created.
Work is a natural activity that satisfies an intrinsic need, as the unemployed, retired, and those who make overnight fortunes rapidly discover. Everyone has their own natural balance, rhythm, and optimal work/play mix and most people can sense innately when they are being too lazy or industrious. 80/20 Thinking is most valuable in encouraging people to pursue high-value/satisfaction activities in both work and play periods, rather than in stimulating an exchange of work for play.
The quantity of work is much less important than its quality, and its quality depends on self-direction.
Free yourself from obligations imposed by others.
It is a fair bet that when 80 percent of time yields 20 percent of results that 80 percent is undertaken at the behest of others.
Even if you work for a large corporation, you should think of yourself as an independent business, working for yourself, despite being on Monolith Inc.'s payroll.
The 80/20 Principle shows time and time again that the 20 percent who achieve the most either work for themselves or behave as if they do.
You will always have some obligations to others and these can be extremely useful from your perspective. Even the entrepreneur is not really a lone wolf, answerable to no one. They have partners, employees, alliances, and a network of contacts, from whom nothing can be expected if nothing is given. The point is to choose your partners and obligations extremely selectively and with great care.
Be unconventional and eccentric in your use of time.
A good exercise is to work out the most unconventional or eccentric ways in which you could spend your time: how far you could deviate from the norm without being thrown out of your world. Not all eccentric ways of spending time will multiply your effectiveness, but some or at least one of them could. Draw up several scenarios and adopt the one that allows you the most time on high-value activities that you enjoy.
Identify the 20 percent that gives you 80 percent.
For happiness, identify your happiness islands: the small amounts of time, or the few years, that have contributed a quite disproportionate amount of your happiness. Take a clean sheet of paper, write"Happiness Islands" at the top and list as many of them as you can remember. Then try to deduce what is common between all or some of the happiness islands.
Repeat the procedures for your unhappiness islands. These will not generally comprise the other 80 percent of your time, as there is generally a large area of moderate happiness or unhappiness.v
Repeat this whole procedure for achievement. Identify your achievement islands: the short periods when you have achieved a much higher ratio of value to time than during the rest of your week, month, year, or life. Try to identify the achievement islands' common characteristics.
Suggestion that might be among the top 10:
1. Things that advance your overall purpose in life.
2. Things you have always wanted to do.
3. Things already in the 20/80 relationship of time to results.
4. Innovative ways of doing things that promise to slash the time required and/or multiply the quality of results.
5. Things other people tell you can't be done.
6. Things other people have done successfully in a different arena.
7. Things that use your own creativity.
8. Things that you can get other people to do for you with relatively little effort on your part.
9. Anything with high-quality collaborators who have already transcended the 80/20 rule of time, who use time eccentrically and effectively.
10. Things for which it is now or never.
Multiply the 20 percent of your time that gives you 80 percent.
When you have identified your happiness and achievement islands, you are likely to want to spend more time on these and similar activities.
The point of examining the common characteristics of your happiness and achievement islands are to isolate something far more basic than what has happened: to isolate what you are uniquely programmed to do best.v
It is not at all uncommon for analysis of happiness or achievement islands to yield insight into what individuals are best at, and what is best for them, which have a higher ratio of reward to them than anything they were doing before.
A short-term objective, usually feasible, is to decide to take the 20 percent of time spent on the high-value activities up to 40 percent within a year. This one act will tend to raise your "productivity" by between 60 and 80 percent.
The ideal position is to move the time spent on high-value activities up from 20 to 100 percent. This may be only possible by changing career and lifestyle. If so, make a plan, with deadlines, for how you are going to make these changes.
Eliminate or reduce the low-value activities.
For the 80 percent of activities that give you only 20 percent of results, the ideal is to eliminate them.
First reactions are often that there is little scope for escaping from low-value activities. They are said to be inevitable parts of family, social, or work obligations. If you find yourself thinking this, think again.
There is normally great scope to do things differently within your existing circumstances. Remember: be unconventional and eccentric in how you use your time. Do not follow the herd.
Try your new policy and see what happens. Since there is little value in the activities you want to displace, people may not actually care enough to force you to do them if they can see that this would take major effort on their part.
In any case, form a plan to make the desired changes. The alternative is that your potential for achievement and happiness will never be attained.
Is a time revolution feasible?
You may feel that all of this is rather revolutionary and pie in the sky for your circumstances. You may say that:
If you find yourself saying any of these things, time revolution may not be for you.
Don't start a time revolution unless you are willing to be a revolutionary.
You might say: "I'm not a radical, let alone a revolutionary, so leave me alone, I'm basically happy with my existing horizons." Fair enough. Revolution is revolution. It is uncomfortable, and dangerous. Before you start a revolution, realize that it will involve major risks and will lead you into uncharted territory.
Those who want a time revolution need to link together their past, present, and future. Behind the issue of how we allocate time lurks the even more fundamental issue of what we want to get out of our lives.
Think about the life of Jesus, He was a revolutionary and 100 percent of his time was spent on high-value activities. You may say but He was God, how can I do this? He taught us that anything is possible and that we should follow his examples.
This is just a few of the insights covered in the book, The 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch.
Assignment: Read Chapter 10 of The 80/20 Principle, By Richard Koch, ISBN 0-385-49174-3
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List at least two of your top 10 highest-value uses of time.
List at least two of your top 10 lowest-value uses of time.
Give one of your achievement islands.
Give one of your achievement desert islands.
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