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Practicing the Pareto Principle: Get More Done By Focusing on the Right Tasks

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by Greg Hamblin

on 26 February, 2015

Because time is something you can’t retrieve once it’s been spent, it’s no surprise that many of do our best to figure out how we can make the most of each minute of our time. This is especially true when it comes to business activities. I’ve found that applying the Pareto Principle benefits my business, and it allows me to focus on what’s most important in my life.

What is the Pareto Principle

In 1896, Vilfredo Pareto published a paper in which he shared his findings showing that about 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Over the years, this idea of the 80/20 split has been applied to a number of other situations, including in business.

The thinking is that 80 percent of your results will come from 20 percent of your efforts. The key is to spend that 20 percent of your effort on the right activities so that you get better results without spending a lot of time on mundane tasks that don’t provide a lot of value to you or your business.

Identify the Right Tasks

In order to apply the Pareto Principle, to boost your productivity, you have to do more than just cut your workload or the time you spend. Instead, analyze the tasks you accomplish each day, and figure out which are producing the best results. Like many business owners, I recognized that social media and emails were taking up a lot of time — but not offering a lot of the results I was looking for. Rather than spending a lot of time on social media, I now pay someone else to take care of those postings. I focus on the tasks that are more beneficial to my business, and I’ve seen the positive results: Even though I pay someone else to take care of these mundane tasks, my profits have risen. I make more, and keep more, now that my efforts are focused on tasks that get better results.

Look at the tasks that you do each day. Compare how much time you spend on them, and your return on investment. Chances are that you will see improvement when you start focusing more on the tasks that provide you with more ROI, and delegate tasks that are drawing your attention from the big picture items.

Choose the Right Time to Work

The Pareto Principle can also help you boost your productivity by getting you to focus your best efforts during the 20 percent of the day that you work best. I consider that I have about 15 hours of time during the day that I can engage in activities. This isn’t all business-focused activity. It includes self-improvement, volunteering, and spending time with my family, as well as the tasks I complete for my business. (The other nine hours of the day are “down time” leading up to bedtime and my time asleep.) This means that 80 percent of my results are going to come from the 20 percent of the time I use for daytime tasks (three hours).

Pay attention to when you are most alert, and when you are most focused. The time I’m most alert and focused is between 9 am and noon, just after I’ve completed my morning exercise. As a result, those are the hours that I try to get my most important work done. That’s the time that I do most of my writing, and take care of the work that brings in the most money for my business. I’ve stopped scheduling phone calls during that time. I don’t even get dressed during those hours. I exercise, and I sit down to work. Then, at noon, I clean up, get dressed, and have lunch. By focusing on the most profitable tasks, during the time of the day that I’m at my best, I get more done. In fact, I now manage to get more done in those three hours than I used to get done in five hours.

Mundane tasks, such as answering email, participating in business meetings, and completing research, are things I can do when I’m not at my best. I save those tasks for other times so that I can get more done when it really matters.

Don’t act like you have to do everything. Analyze your patterns, and pay attention to the results of the tasks you accomplish. Once you know which tasks are offering the best ROI for the time spent, focus on those during your peak productivity time. You’ll be amazed at how much more you can get done.

Today’s post is a guest post from popular financial blogger, Miranda Marquit. Miranda is a freelance writer and the author of the book Confessions of a Professional Blogger. Her work has appeared in numerous media, online and offline. Miranda lives in Pennsylvania with her husband. Her home on the web is MirandaMarquit.com.