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You’ll Never Complain Of Not Having Enough Time If You Can Apply This Rule

You’ll Never Complain Of Not Having Enough Time If You Can Apply This Rule

Answer this riddle: What is more precious than gold, cannot be bought, earned, or saved and you never have enough of it?

The answer of course is time!

Time is elusive, fleeting and precious. We are only allotted so much during our lifetime and learning to manage it better, is the best way to maximize the time we do have. One of the top ways to make the most of your time is to utilize the 80/20 rule.

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The 80/20 Rule: The Law of the Vital Few

The 80/20 rule or the Pareto Principle (named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto) operates on the premise, that in general, 80 percent of an outcome is derived from just 20 percent of the input or effort. This rule is most often referenced to and utilized in business settings. Consider the following examples:

  • 80% of problems can be attributed to 20% of causes
  • 80% of a company’s profits comes from 20% of its customers
  • 80% of a company’s complaints come from 20% of its customers

However, the fundamental truth that underlies this principle has been proven to be true in just about every context conceivable:

  • 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of the population
  • 80% of victories in sports come from 20% of the teams
  • 80% of all wealth is owned by 20% of the people

The truth is so much of our time and energy is wasted doing things that produce little to no real or valuable output. Imagine what you could accomplish or where you could be if you were able to cut your overall lack of productivity in half?

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Maximize your time using the 80/20 Rule

Now that we clearly understand the rule of 80/20, we can all agree that we do waste a lot of time. In a world filled with mundane, arduous and tedious tasks, how do we actually apply this rule in our everyday lives?

Great question! Below are a few simple tips to help you begin to better maximize your time and ensure your efforts yield higher and more meaningful results:

1. Learn to prioritize

This is by far the most vital component in proper time management and optimizing the 80/20 principle in your everyday life. In order to do this, a conscience and intentional shift in thinking must occur. Instead of mindlessly performing routine tasks, learn how to shorten or cut the ones that yield very little outcome from your routine. We are all aware that certain things must be done that are time-consuming and do not add value to our daily lives. Things like commuting, cooking, cleaning, ironing clothes, grocery shopping (you get the picture), must be done, but ultimately have very little to do with our goals, passions or overall quality of life. Yet, so much of our time is spent on these types of activities.

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2. Learning to better schedule

Learning to better schedule, shorten or the better yet, outsource these things whenever possible is key to establishing the 80/20 ratio in your daily life. Hire someone to cut the grass, take public transportation or Uber to work and spend that time responding to emails or for planning your schedule.

3. Set and modify your goals frequently

Clearly defined goals that are always in the forefront of your mind helps you stay focused and helps you with prioritization. Map out a path to achieving your goals and adjust frequently. Life happens and plans are derailed. When you find yourself drifting off course, regroup and recalculate as quickly as possible. Try to spend as little time as possible on things that do not directly drive you toward your goals.

4. Establish the correct effort-reward balance

Establish the correct effort-reward balance for all activities: This is done by first evaluating the reward that comes from the task and then determining the amount of effort required. For example, if the task is making your bed every morning, for most of us, the reward for a well-made bed is very minimal, therefore the effort (time and energy) spent making the bed should also be minimal (or skipped altogether). I know some of you (like me) are perfectionists and like to do everything to the best of your ability, which is very admirable, but not practical or effective. Learn to give the best of  yourself to the things that really matter and the other things get the best of what you have left.

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Downsize and simplify- 80/20 in Action

Putting this principle into action is actually fairly simple. Start by asking yourself some of the following questions:

  • What are the 20% of your possessions you get the most value out of?
  • What do you spend 20% of your time doing that gives you 80% of your happiness?
  • Who are the 20% of people you’re close to who make you the happiest?
  • What are the 20% of the clothes you wear 80% of the time?
  • What are the 20% of foods you eat 80% of the time?

Chances are you answered all of these questions fairly easily. You’ve just never considered them before. Now that you’ve answered them, you are ready to and can easily focus on becoming more efficient in your life. For instance, the 80% of people you spend time with who only add 20% of the pleasure in your life – spend less time with them. The 80% of the stuff that you use 20% of the time – throw it out or sell it. The 80% of the clothes you only wear 20% of the time – get rid of them

Obviously, the 80/20 rule is not necessarily a rigid dictum to live by. Think of it as a tool and a lens to view aspects of your life. The overall goal is to simplify your life and to spend your most precious commodity wisely.

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Denise Hill

Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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