It’s not rare to find that 80% of your sales are generated by 20% of your customers, or that 80% of your time is spent handling 20% of your chores.
This skewed outlook on life and business was first observed by the great Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who lent his name to the theory.
Pareto established, in the early twentieth century, that 80% of Italian land was owned by just 20% of the population. He later famously observed that 80% of the peas in his garden came from 20% of the pods. Spurred on by the unusual correlation, his work continued and the Pareto Principle became lodged not just in economic folklore, but in business minds alike.
By running a business that is effectively a one man show, I have become a great believer in the Pareto Principle.
I’m convinced it can be applied to productivity. The principle is a great marker for ensuring I don’t become bogged down in tasks that waste my limited time.
I don’t think I’m alone in confessing that when I look at my to-do list, I can easily find tasks that satisfy my need to appear busy; tasks that contribute very little to my bottom line.
As an Internet Marketer, I often find myself profiting from one particularly lucrative advertising campaign. On a good day, it makes my other efforts look like a complete waste of time. If the lucrative campaign earns more than the rest of my work combined, why would I insist on wasting 80% of my time chasing those dead ends?
Probably because seeing the skewed reality is one thing. Acting on it is completely another.
The desire to appear busy is something that has been ingrained in us since childhood. Can you imagine the uproar at school had you refused to go to 80% of your classes? Or the backlash from your employer if you only worked 2 hours of your contracted 8?
Where our productivity is concerned, we are highly trained animals. To stay busy is better than to look lazy, even if the results are not always as we’d expect in doing so.
Sometimes it’s a welcome relief to step back and analyse where your success is coming from. What work is bringing in the bacon? Which tasks are you splurging blood, sweat and tears over for little reward?
These may seem like stupid questions. But I believe there’s much more potential in becoming a specialist, somebody who plays to his strengths, than a jack of all trades who couldn’t see his skill-set if it slapped him in the tits.
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