The 80/20 Rule

I’ve been thinking of blogging about the 80/20 rule for a while. I’ve often wondered – if 80 percent of the work gets done in 20 percent of the time – what happens to the other 80 percent of the time? And how much could we get done if we worked the same way we did during the productive 20 percent of the time?

Sometimes I ask myself, “If I get nothing else done today, what is the one thing I want to accomplish?” If it’s an 80/20 kind of day, then that one thing is usually the 80 percent of the work that gets done in 20 percent of the time.

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail published an article dealing with the same issue.

The 80/20 rule is formally known as the Pareto principle. According to that rule, 96 minutes – 20 percent of an eight-hour day – can produce “key results,” Harvey Schachter wrote in the Globe’s Report on Business.

When I stopped working, I had a plan for how I would structure my day. I thought it made sense to devote the morning to work-related tasks – setting up my blog, researching job opportunities, networking, and writing. I would do the most important things first.

But it didn’t turn out the way I’d planned. On the first Monday, I spent the morning and early afternoon with a friend who was visiting from out of town. It was the only time she was available. Three days later, I met another friend for coffee in the morning, the best time for her.

In between, I put in one very long day at the computer.

It’s great to have that kind of flexibility.

But on typical blogging days, I work on my blog and post it by mid-morning, sometimes earlier. Blogging is the “big” item on my to-do list on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays – the one I feel I must do regardless of whatever else I do or don’t do.

This week, I added another “big” item to my list. It’s been on my mind that I’ve been talking about writing a book, but haven’t actually worked on it recently.

I started very small, by adding “Work on book” as a daily reminder on my iPhone. I looked at the reminder for a few days in a row, but didn’t act on it. At least I was consciously aware of it. The other day, I decided to start small, writing on my laptop in the kitchen while my oat bran muffins were baking.

When the timer went off after 20 minutes, I took the muffins out of the oven, but kept writing. I didn’t put in 96 minutes, but I made a dent.