No matter what you do, you can always apply the 80/20 percent rule. People, who studied economics, know it as the Pareto principle. As its inventor, the Italian Vilfredo Pareto said, 80 percent of your outcomes always come from 20 percent of your inputs. A company usually gains about 80 percent of revenues from 20 percent of customers. But it’s not the numbers that count. The key point is: The minority of your activities generates the majority of your outputs.
You spend most of your time with only a few people and you most probably get 80 percent of satisfaction from 20 percent of the meals you have in a busy week. The Internet is full of advices how to optimize your life and get rid “of the 80 percent that hold you back”, as Steve Jobs said – regardless of whether they are employees, moderately profitable products or annoying customers. Tim Ferris, a famous speaker and author of the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Richsays, he applies the Pareto principle to every aspect of his business life, carrying out a regular check every one or two weeks, where he cuts all activities that are not essential.
Pure efficiency seems to be the new religion. No one can object to fighting procrastination or spending unnecessary hours in the office. But how efficient do we want to be? Like machines or computers? What makes us really happy? This idea struck me, when I read that Silicon Valley companies like Facebook or Google pay their female employees for freezing their eggs and that way postponing maternity for the sake of their careers. For some this is biological nonsense, a typical example of discrimination and the reluctance to enable women in the workplace to combine their professional and their family life. But there are others, who see it the opposite way – as the sociologist Shelley Correll who welcomes social freezing as a helpful new means to control the time of your fertility. If you are interested in this topic, you can read more here. Czech readers find a detailed article about this theme in Respekt No. 45/2014.
I cannot help but agree with the critics. As a mother of two children I know that no drastic methods are needed to establish your work-life balance. Flexible working hours or babysitters help a lot. The term “work-life balance” is weird anyway. It implies, that you do not live while you work.
I would like to come back to the overall efficiency and the 80/20 percent rule. It can be really good to think thoroughly about how to organize your work. For example by using your most productive hours to complete your most important tasks. But as a journalist, who is always looking for new topics to write about and new ways of reporting, I can clearly see the importance of the remaining 80 percent. And I think, most of you will feel the same. Sometimes surfing in the Internet or a coffee break with colleagues (typical procrastination activities) can inspire you and offer new perspectives. Sometimes it also helps to watch movies or go for a run. This is why I would not want to shut these things out of my life. And besides they are fun…
I am also convinced, that people should not all be the same or ready and perfect all the time. A diverse society is something good, as I could experience in excursions and discussions during this years’ CGYPP which focused on the topic “managing diversity”. Why diversity really has a positive impact on people, you can read here for example.
And last, but not least: The people around you can benefit from some of the things you do in the “superfluous” 80 percent of your time. You might not enjoy travelling several hours to visit your grandma and could think about a hundred other activities, which would be more “effective” in your busy life. But she will be happy. That is 100 percent sure.
And you can also do something for people who are not your closest relatives. In this year’s CGYPP participants came up with a nice project idea. It is meant to combine the enthusiasm of NGOs and professional skills of men and women in business. It is called “KarmaHUB” and you can find out more about it at www.karmahub.org.
Now it is your turn. How do you spend the 80 and 20 percent of your day? How do you feel about the ideas or topics mentioned above? Do you have any good advice? Let us know!