Whether you are a student, business executive or homemaker, there is a well accepted (and extensively researched) principle that can help you achieve your goals more effortlessly. The Pareto principle is named after Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, who made observations back in 1906, that 20% of any group, activity or effort results in an 80% outcome from that specific group or action.
This principle is also known as “The Law of the Vital Few,” the “80-20 Rule” and the “Principle of Factor Scarcity.” We can apply this 80-20 rule to just about anything. Take learning or studying as an example – 80% of academic success is created by 20% of your daily activity. The more we understand the most effective ways to apply 20% of our time to achieve 80% success; the less effort, stress, and work are required.
The secret to high achiever’s time management is simple. They are always looking for ways to spend less time on “low payoff” activities and more time on “high payoff” activities. Limiting the use of the computer for social networking to free up more time to exercise, prepare healthy meals, or study, for example. By avoiding gossiping - a very low payoff activity - to allow more time for a quality activity or family time, result in improved outcomes on many levels.
It is important to check in with ourselves daily, using any type of reminder technique, to see if our activities are leading us to our main goals or are they wasting time that we could be using more productively. While leisure is an important part of our health and wellness, using time unproductively or in ways that distract us from achieving our goals is quite the opposite. Productive use of time leads to a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, whereas when we waste our time doing “low payoff” activities can lead to feelings of a lack of fulfillment or productivity.
Here are some simple guidelines to help you be more productive in less time:
- Have a “to do list.” Write it down and refer to it often, checking off tasks as you complete them. Do not use a “mental check list” as this is a sure fire way for things to fall through the cracks
- Do not multi-task. Our brains are designed to accomplish one task at a time. When we multi-task we do several things at once, but none of them optimally.
- Slow down. Going too fast with any activity, not only lessens the effectiveness of the outcome, but it allows us to have more enjoyment from that activity – and much less stress!
- Be sure to get enough sleep. Our nervous system and brain need to rest and rejuvenate for us to perform at our best. If you cannot get enough sleep, because of work or study demands, then be sure to nap during the day. A “power nap” is just that – a short rest to restore your mental and physical power.
- Learn to say "no." By learning to say no to things that take away time and energy from the things that produce your “high payoff” activities. While it may be enjoyable to do something unexpected, it can also lead to not doing the activities necessary to achieve your goals.
With daily effort and focus, we can all learn to use our time more effectively, and achieve the goals and outcomes we envision for ourselves.
- Dr. Georgianna Donadio
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