The 80/20 Principle

Richard Koch took an idea floating around the business world and delivered it to the masses in a book.

Big picture, the idea is: twenty percent of what you do brings you eighty percent of the effectiveness. So, 1/5 of your work day you’re working on what gives you 4/5 of your income. Negatively, 4/5 of your problems come from 1/5 of your clients etc.

Koch argues that if you can identify what the 20% most effective work is, eliminate or delegate the other 80%, and do another 20% of that same work, you will have 60% more free time than previously while producing the same 80% and another 80% total: 160%. In my peers, I see people who are doing this.

The challenge is peeling the outer layer to see what uses of time are actually the most productive (and the most unproductive) then making the difficult decisions to include more of the top 20% in our day and less to none of the bottom 20%.

In making those decisions, we often come up against guilt. In fact, Koch argues that the 80% that we are doing that is less productive is probably completely what other people think we should be doing. He has a few other points that total the best explanation I’ve ever read on why/how to let go of guilt.

Further in the book he talks about this principle in relation to our social lives. Eighty percent of the closeness and connection we feel comes from twenty percent of the time we spend with people. And, Eighty percent of the negative draining interactions we have come from twenty percent of the people we are around. This topic is easier to peal the layer back on than business productivity, but equally difficult for decision making.

Next he applies these numbers to happiness in general. He suggests writing out when in your life you have been happiest, and then when in your life you have been least happy and points out that it would be wise to structure your life to include more of what makes you happy, and less of what doesn’t. If you’re following his time management suggestions, you have the flexibility to do this.

He ends with short thoughts on education, philanthropy, and politics that I found more difficult to follow than the rest of the book.

But, there you have it.

I recommend this book for anyone who:
-wants the best in life
-has a drive to be productive
-feels constantly busy/swamped in life
-is restructuring their life b/c of a recent move etc.
-wants to be happier


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