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Published on August 24, 2020

Five Whys: The Secret to Setting Effective Goals

Five Whys: The Secret to Setting Effective Goals

Do you have strong willpower to accomplish something in life yet always fail to be successful? If yes, you need to be introduced to the “five whys.”

Determination and intention are not enough. If you wish to reach the stage that you have always been dreaming of, you need to strengthen your goal setting strategy. The five whys are all about defining effective goals that are practical and achievable.

Read on to find out more about this technique and how you can benefit from it, too!

What Are the Five Whys?

Let’s start with an explanation of what exactly the five whys are. It’s no rocket science. The five whys are simply five questions based on reasons. The idea is to dig deep into whatever is going on in your head.

The Main Idea

The five whys method is an interrogatory technique. Imagine being a detective sitting in front of a potential culprit. Just like you would question every single answer that comes out from their mouth, you question yourself as well.

Of course, you’re both the culprit and the detective in this case. So, don’t even try to fool yourself. Be very honest and open. The answer to one question should lead to another question until you reach a crystal clear conclusion.

Being clear with your true intentions is a major part of setting effective goals. Unless you don’t listen to your true self, you won’t know the real reasons behind your goals. Since the true intention will be blurry, your entire path will be full of hurdles. What will that do? It will not just elongate the process and wear you out, but it will also increase your chances of failure.

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The five whys are questions that vary from situation to situation. Depending on your answers and goals, the exact questions will differ every time. However, the intent is always the same.

You want to find out more about the reasons behind your goal. You may think you know the answer, but once you start digging deep, you’ll learn a lot more.[1] Even if that’s not the case, it’s best to make sure that the reason is well-known and solid.

What to Ask Yourself

Start with the main question of what exactly your goal is. The five whys will follow this big question.

The first why should be focused on why you think you have this goal in mind. Is it going to bring you mental peace or financial stability? Or is it just a hobby you want to adopt.

Next, question its importance. Why did you choose this goal? There are probably many alternative routes available that can fulfill your needs.

For example, if you’re opting for something to satisfy a hobby, you can go for painting, music, dancing, and so much more. So, what makes you choose one of them over the others?

The third why is a continuation of the importance. But here you’ll focus on the ways that this goal directly affects your life. Why is this goal going to be a safe bet for improving your existing life?

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Moving forward, ask yourself why you can’t achieve what you want without this goal. Here you need to figure out the reasons that this goal makes your life complete or fills an empty spot.

Lastly, ask yourself why this goal will make you feel better. It is a given that if you’re struggling to achieve something, you’re expecting it to make you feel better than you already do. So, why will a new hobby or financial stability or mental peace make you more excited about life?

Once again, these questions are not very strict. You can adjust them according to your situation. The only thing to ensure is that you truly interrogate yourself and leave no doubts.

How to Implement the Five Whys?

You now have a rough idea of what exactly the five whys are and what kind of questions you need to ask yourself. For a better understanding, let’s look at an example so that you know how to implement this technique in your real life.

John is a man in his 30s. He has a decent job in a well-known firm. He lives alone in a rental apartment, uses public transport, and has an average American’s social life. His pay rate is good enough to allow him to live a decent life.

However, John has been thinking about starting a side business. He will initiate a start-up from home, run it online, and gradually upsize it as the business grows. Here’s how the five whys will be implemented in a situation like this:

  • Why does John need a second source of earning?
  • Why can’t John fulfill his financial needs with his pay?
  • Why is a business his choice among many other options?
  • Why is now the right time to start the business?
  • Why will a side business make his life easier and lifestyle better?

John will answer the questions one by one. He may even think of a few more whys as he goes down the road. But in the end, he’ll have a clear picture of what exactly his needs are and what makes him opt for this route.

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The Analysis

John has a fiancée. He plans on marrying her in the coming year and starting a family in a couple more. When he gets married, John wants to have his own car and house. Although his pay is enough to fulfill his daily expenses even after marriage, there’s a lot of more that he needs to save up for.

A side business will allow him to save enough money for all his future goals including the wedding, honeymoon, house, car, etc. If he lays roots of the business now, by the time he starts a family, his business will be in a position where he won’t have to put in much time to it but still generate decent revenue.

With unexpected circumstances in the times of coronavirus, John was worried that he may lose his job. What if a similar crisis or any other tragedy makes John lose his job when he has kids to feed? That’s when his business will be enough for him to continue his life without any financial worries.

Since John will have all the answers in mind, he can devise a plan accordingly. He knows that his aim is to have a running business in a few years. So, even if the business isn’t profitable for the first 6 months, that won’t be a worry.

Converting the Whys to Step-by-Step Goals

Now, you don’t have to struggle with a mental conversation. If you’re just starting with this technique, try using a flow-chart approach.[2]

Even if you conducted the interrogation in your mind, it’s best to write down the key points. It will help you in this second part of the process. Having the answers and clarity alone is not enough. You need to put this information to use as well.

In the case of John, he knows that he needs a second income mainly for his future. So, it won’t be an issue if whatever he starts will take time to generate profits.

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At the same time, he knows that he only needs this earning as a backup. His everyday expense can be covered easily with this pay. However, the extra money will go to his savings which he will use in the coming year for his house, car, and wedding.

Since his plan includes a possibility of giving up the job and relying completely on the business, he knows he’ll have to plan something that is profitable in the long-term and isn’t just a short-term fluke.

John’s Goals

Based on the five whys and the analysis, John’s first goal will be to research his options. Since he doesn’t have enough time to tackle a second job, a business is the only way to go. Based on his investment budget, he has to look for something that can be run online by one man initially but also has the potential to grow into a brick-and-mortar business with multiple employees.

His next goal can be to set up the website. If he’s selling a material product, a warehouse will have to be arranged. Moreover, delivery services and other aspects have to be looked into.

Next, he can move onto making enough time in his routine to be able to focus on his business. As John moves on, his goals will change accordingly.

If you also start to think and plan like John, you can easily define effective goals, tackle problem-solving issues, and restructure your life for more productivity.

Bottom Line

The five whys are nothing but extra steps in the process of defining goals. Everybody has heard of SMART goals, but only a few are successful in actually devising SMART goals.

With the five whys, the whole process will become way easier and also more effective. It’s not hard to implement nor is it time-consuming. Just listen to your inner-self so that whatever you end up doing brings you the satisfaction that we all are looking for!

More Tips on Setting Effective Goals

Featured photo credit: Ricardo Arce via unsplash.com

Reference

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020

How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life

How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule to Succeed in Life

The world of productivity has several hacks or tricks to help you manage your time: to-do lists, the Pomodoro Technique, Parkinson’s Law… All of these strategies are great strategies in their own way, but one strategy stands above all the others: the 80 20 rule.

This particular strategy has been used the most and is regarded as the most helpful in developing time management and other concepts in life.

But what’s so special about this rule? How does it give you success and how do you use it? Let’s explore the specifics.

What Is the 80 20 Rule?

Many people regard this rule as the 80 20 rule, but it has a proper name: the Pareto Principle[1]. The principle was named after its founder,  the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, in 1895. Pareto noticed that people in society were divided into two categories:

  • The “vital few,” which consisted of the top 20 percent with respect to money and influence.
  • The “trivial many,” otherwise known as the bottom 80 percent.

As he researched this further, he came to discover that this divide didn’t apply only to money and influence, but other areas, too. Virtually all economic activity was subject to his previous observation.

He observed that 80% of Italy’s wealth at the time was controlled by only 20% of the population.

Since the development of this rule, humankind has used this particular ratio in all kinds of situations. Even if the ratio isn’t always exact, we see this rule applied in many industries and in life. Examples are:

  • 20% of sales reps will generate 80% of your total sales.
  • 20% of customers account for 80% of total profits.
  • 80% of the revenue will stem from 20% of the workers.

Either way, I’m sure you can piece together why people call this rule the 80 20 rule over Pareto’s Principle[2].

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Make Your Life and Your Business More Efficient with the 80-20 Rule - Salesforce Canada Blog

    In terms of how this particular rule will be able to work for you, it’s a matter of applying this rule to how you spend your time. For us to see success, the goal is simple.

    We need to set it up in such a way that 20% of our input is responsible for 80% of our results.

    Another way to think about it is we use 20% of our time on activities that give us 80% of our results in a given area of life.

    How Does the 80 20 Rule Work?

    To best explain this, let’s visualize a bit.

    In an ideal world:

    • Every employee would contribute the same amount of effort to work.
    • Every feature that’s released for an app or product would be equally loved by users.
    • Each business idea you come up with would be a hit.

    In that scenario, planning would be a breeze. There wouldn’t be any need to analyze anything so long as you put in the effort.

    But that’s not reality.

    Yes, the effort is certainly an element, but what the 80 20 principle states is that everything is unequal. Invest in 10 start-up companies, and you’ll find only a few will pass year two and make it big. You’re in a team of five, and there’ll be one person doing more work than others.

    We wish our lives were always one-for-one in terms of input and output, but that’s simply not true. Understanding this is key to understanding how the 80 20 rule really works.

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    So how does it really work?

    It’s a matter of focusing on what’s giving you the most in your life for little of your time.

    Going back to the few examples I’ve presented above, consider this:

    • If two start-ups you invested in are making it big, focus on having a more direct hand, and see if you can help them prosper more.
    • If 20% of sales reps are giving you 80% of your sales, focus on rewarding those and keeping their spirits high and motivated.

    These scenarios can go on and on, but the idea is to place your efforts on the 20% that is actually making the difference in your life. Another term that’s good to know is the diminishing marginal utility[3].

    Pareto didn’t come up with this one, but the law goes as follows: each extra hour of effort or worker will add less “oomph” to your finished results.

    Eventually, you’ll hit a point where you will spend a lot of time on small and unimportant details, similar to perfectionism.

    So before hitting that point, you want to have a laser focus on the most important details, from family and relationships to your work or business. Prioritize the activities that are going to move you forward the most, and be wary of adding extra time, effort, or more hands into those particular tasks moving forward.

    How to Take Advantage of the 80 20 Rule

    So now that you have an understanding of the 80 20 rule and how it works, what is the best way to take advantage of it?

    Depending on where you are applying this rule, this can be used in all kinds of fashions.

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    For example, you can apply this rule to goal setting, as demonstrated by Brian Tracy in this video:

    Or you can apply it in terms of general productivity as explained in this article: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

    The core of this rule is that it forces us to ask ourselves the questions we wouldn’t consider otherwise. It helps us to place our focus in the right places with regards to all things in life.

    In short, the 80 20 rule places us in charge of our lives and helps us set out on our goals and dreams. With this in mind, here are some things you can consider concerning this rule.

    1. Focus on Your Big Tasks First

    While this is the essence of the 80 20 rule, it’s still worth mentioning. Why? Because so many of us feel intimidated by the biggest task. We instinctively avoid it and opt for smaller tasks first.

    We think that if we complete enough small tasks that we will feel motivated to finish that really big one later. But that’s really false hope at work.

    Once we finish off a lot of small tasks, we either feel drained, or we tell ourselves we’ll do this the next day.

    Instead of doing all that, bite the bullet and tackle the largest task first.

    If you need help with prioritization, check out this article.

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    I argue this by challenging you to ask yourself this one question:

    “Is the task I’m about to do the top 20 percent of my activities or the bottom 80 percent?”

    I’m sure you’ve seen time and again you or other workers spending a lot of time on one task for most of the day. In those kinds of grinds, you’re barely getting ahead and have next to nothing to show for it. That’s because they’re putting all their attention on work that’s in the 80 percent.

    It’s normally the big tasks that are part of the 20 percent.

    Another way to think about this is that everything we do starts a habit. If every day we spend our energy on low-value tasks, we will always prioritize those.

    2. Stretch This Into Personal Life

    While I’ve been talking about business and setting goals, remember you can use this in other areas of your life, too.

    Take your personal life and ask yourself some of these questions:

    • How much TV do you watch on a regular basis? What sort of shows are you legitimately into? These questions can help you in recognizing what shows you are watching purely for consumption. By applying the 80 20 rule, you can cut back on Netflix, TV, or YouTube video consumption and prioritize other areas of your life.
    • What does your wardrobe look like in terms of colors? Are there specific colors that you like? Knowing what you wear most times will help you in sorting out your wardrobe significantly. It also saves you time to come up with what to wear every morning.
    • How many newsletters do you actually read? This question can help you in figuring out which newsletters to unsubscribe to and can clear up a lot of space in your inbox. It can also relieve pressure from having to check your emails constantly.
    • How much time do you spend on your phone every day? How much of that time is actually doing something meaningful? These questions can help you in clearing out various apps that aren’t helping you with your goals. In fact, this can curb the need to check your phone constantly.

    Final Thoughts

    The 80 20 rule is the productivity hack that many of us need, and for good reason. As you can tell, it’ll help you to focus and prioritize the more important aspects of your life.

    Not only that, but it’ll maximize those outputs at the same time and ensure you’re not spending too much time working on them. All you need to do is start asking questions and taking action.

    More Techniques to Help You Succeed in Life

    Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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