Less for More: The 80/20 Principle

Doing less leads to more success.

I know what you’re thinking: Yeah, right. You don’t know my boss or my situation. You have no idea how busy I am or all that’s expected of me.

But what if I could introduce you to a tried-and-true principle that’s been around for many years that really could help you do less for more and get praised for it? I most recently read about this in a book called, Living the 80/20 Way by Richard Koch.

Putting this one idea to the test has the potential to change not only your impact in the world, but also your enjoyment and satisfaction in the work you’re doing.

Here’s the game changer: 80 percent of your achievements and happiness, even your value to other people, comes from just 20 percent or less of what you do or focus on each day.

Most successful people—from business giants, to scientists and inventors, to media stars—do things differently than the rest of us. If you really think about it, they live really lopsided lives instead of trying to be well rounded. They do just a few things that are really focused around their strengths and what they can uniquely contribute to an effort or project.

One of my favorite quotes from the book I mentioned earlier is that, “You don’t always have to change your job to enjoy it more. Maybe you can simply change the way you do it.”

So, here’s a practical step that you could take: quickly make a list of all that you do in a day or a week. Then, take some time to evaluate all these tasks in two ways—

  1. Which of these things will get me the best results—positively affecting me, my boss and the people I serve?
  2. Which of these things bring me the most joy and “flow”—time seems to stand still in a good way and I’d love to do more of this?

Once you’ve identified these things, instead of just working through your long to-do list, what if you prioritized and carved out time—maybe even doing these high value and enjoyable things first or at a point in the day when you have the most energy?

If you’re still not convinced, here’s another related and important stat: If we were to split what we do each day in half—50/50—the top 50 percent of our activities lead to a full 95 percent of what’s good for us! But the bottom 50 percent of what we do only leads to a trivial 5 percent of impact or enjoyment. So, I challenge you to really focus on the top 50 percent of activities to increase both your impact and joy each day. Then you’ll be well on your way to greater focus and worthwhile results this year!

What activities bring you the greatest results and joy? We’d love to hear how you plan to do more of that and less of the rest this year.