What Are Your 20 Percent Activities?

to do listHave you heard of the 80/20 rule?  Likely you have.  Also known as the Pareto Principle, it is the concept that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of the causes. This can then be applied into many areas of life.  The phenomenon was originally observed in Italy, where 20% of the people had 80% of the wealth.  Since then it has become a rule of thumb for business.  The numbers are not exact, it is not a scientific proof, but the trend is general and consistent; consistent enough that people are able to use it to guide them into making their business more effective.

Examples of where it might be used include:

  • 80% of an organization’s sales will come from 20% of their salespeople
  • 80% of your business will come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of your investment income will come from 20% of your investment

You can also look at things from the opposite perspective:

  • 20% of your customers will cause 80% of your headaches
  • you wear 20% of your clothing, 80% of the time
  • 20% of patients use 80% of healthcare resources
  • the final 20% of your workout will provide 80% of the results

And of course the list goes on and on.  There are lots of ways that the Pareto Principle can be used to help you be more successful.  This article will focus on one of those.

20% of your activities will produce 80% of your results!

Think about that for a moment.  Out of all of the things you do, 1/5 th of your activity is what creates 4/5 ths of your value.  That is pretty significant.  Again, you can reverse the concept.  Only 80% of your activity accomplishes only 20% of your results.  This leads to an obvious question:

How can you do more of the activities that are really producing results?

If you can take those high-result activities that you currently spend 20% of your time on, and increase the amount of time you spend on them, you can make yourself more effective and accomplish even more. Imagine if, instead of taking 20% of your time on these high results activities, you were able to increase that to 30% or even 40%.  Your results would skyrocket.  You would be getting a lot more important things accomplished.

What are your 20% activities?

The first step in doing this is to identify what your 20% activities are.  What are the activities that produce the most results in your life and business?  What are the activities that help you move more quickly towards your goals?  The list of activities will differ significantly between different goals and businesses.

For someone in sales the 20% activities might be:

  • phoning new prospects
  • following up with current prospects
  • making sales presentations

Things that are not in the top 20% are likely:

  • updating your contact list
  • cleaning your office
  • analyzing your competitors products

If you are a blogger the 20% activities might be:

  • writing new articles
  • writing guest posts
  • commenting on other blogs

Things that are not in the top 20% are likely:

  • making continual search engine optimization changes
  • focusing on web design
  • playing with fancy new online tools

You can’t completely ignore the 80% activities.

The 80% activities will never go away.  In fact, you can’t stop doing them.  Often they provide a foundation for making the 20% activities so successful. The fact that you understand your customer’s products DOES make your sales calls more effective.  The search engine optimization you have done allows your articles to reach more people.  These activities are useful and you still need to build them into your day.

You just want to REDUCE the amount of time you spend on them.

Take the time to make your list.  What are your 20% activities? Those activities that produce most of the results as you work towards your goals. The list might surprise you.  How are you at doing these activities?  Are there ways you can do more?  Even putting in a little more time into the activities that pay off the most can allow you to reap huge benefits.  On the flip side, what falls into your 80% activities?  What are the activities that, while useful, are only contributing 20% of your results?  Identifying this list will help you see patterns.  You will be able to see what you can cut back on and where you can shift time away from.
Do it today.  Make your list. It likely won’t get it exactly right the first time, but start with a list in hand.  Use that list to plan your week.  After your week review your list again.  Make any changes you need until you are sure you have your list right.  You may even want to log your time, recording what you do in each fifteen minute segment.  Know what your 20% activities are, and then do more of them!

Written by:

Danny Gamache –The Success Professor

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3 Responses to “What Are Your 20 Percent Activities?”

  1. Steve-Personal Success Factors says on :

    Something I also like, which is a bit of a different twist, is the Quadrant II rule from Steven Covey. I think it dovetails with this concept: 80% of your effectiveness comes from making sure that you spend most of your time in activities that are important, but not necessarily urgent. This means that you are spending the bulk of your time communicating and building trust in key relationships; planning and goal setting; and sorting through your to do list to make sure that you are not wasting your time on the least important activities, no matter how ‘fun’ or ‘urgent’ they may seem.

  2. Vitaly N. says on :

    Great post!

  3. The Success Professor says on :

    Steve. Thanks for bringing up Covey’s concept. I really like his four quadrants. I’ve never thought of combining the two concepts… thanks for the idea.

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