Friday, June 16, 2017

The Pareto principle and personal time management

Vilfredo Pareto, was an Italian economist, engineer, philosopher, and sociologist at the beginning of the 19th century.
He observed that about 20% of the peapods in his garden contained 80% of the peas and letter own that approximately 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

This 80/20 connection was later empirically observed repeatedly in nature, economy, business etc. and so the Pareto Principle a.k.a  the 80/20 principle was born.
The principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort.
One of the most common uses of this principle is improving the efficiency of a given system.
For example in sales, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients, and 20% of the sales people bill 80% of the orders.

Knowing that it is really easy to redirect your resources on the 20% of most effective customers or sales force. 
Basically, by eliminating the 80% inefficiently used resources or by redirecting your resources away from the inefficient markets you can obtain better results without any additional investments.

That sounds like a very smart thing to do if you have your own business or you are in charge of a corporation, but how do you apply this principle to your personal life?

One of the problems I’m facing almost daily is the lack of time.
It seems to me that I never have enough time to do the things I want to do and I need a better way to manage my time.
So I started keeping a little journal with everything I was doing daily.

It turns out, roughly, that 80% of what I accomplish was done in 20% of the time I spent.
That is very interesting but it doesn’t help much.
I cannot fire the 80% of me that is inefficient.
See the problem?
This may work for a big corporation but not if you are self-employed.

So let’s look at the problem the other way:
The 80% of the time I spend solving 20% of my tasks.
Why is that? Why it takes so much damn time to do so little?
Why do I spend more time doing the small and easy tasks than the big and important ones?

It turns out that is the way I do things.
Let’s say it is the start of a new day. I have a list of things to do.
I look at the list and pick the easiest most rewarding task. Like checking my email or may blog.
By the time I’m done with all the “little” stuff I realize I don’t have enough time to do the big stuff I was planning to do.
So I go back and do more little stuff or just killing time, like playing video games.

This is what I never have any time to do the things I want to do.
It is like eating the cake before eating your vegetables.
Not a very conducive to a healthy way of eating.

So I devised a system of time management where tasks are done in order of size and time availability.
Basically, you have to make three separate lists of long, medium and short tasks.
(Posted notes work very well for this)
Then do the biggest task you can do first, then when that is done repeat the process, chose the biggest task you have time left to do and so one and so forth.

Naturally, the available time will shrink to the point that you’ll have to do the small stuff last until there is no more time left.
This method will force you to use your time in the most efficient way, although not the most pleasant.
Like I said it is the choice between cake and vegetables, goofing off or efficiency.
Your choice!

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