“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” – Bruce Lee.
This is the secret every Fortune 500 firm doesn't want you to know about. It has consistently been found that today's most successful individuals and organizations live by this exact principle. Provided you can grasp fully how it can be applied in your professional life (and life itself) then it is sure to be one of the most profound concepts you will have come across… ever.
Let’s get into it.
Too often people spend their days as work-zombies – blithely dedicating consecutive hours to chasing up uncooperative customers or running inefficient projects, which appear never to relent in their hunger for effort, stress and attention. Regrettably, spending your life pursuing high-expenditure, low-income endeavours can only lead to one thing – loss.
We all know this, yet still aren’t taking the necessary steps to avoid it.
Introducing Pareto Law
This is very very effective. I talk of Pareto Law (also popularly known as the 80/20 Principle or 80/20 Rule); a seemingly ever-present truth of the world which can be flipped on its head to provide the cure to a hopelessly inefficient workday, business or project, and allow the work you put in to anything to always be justifiably correlated to the gain you get out of it.
Pareto Law hinges on the profound idea that in business, nature, economics or just life, 80% of outputs come from 20% of the inputs. Alternative ways to phrase this, depending on the context, include:
- 80% of consequences flow from 20% of the causes.
- 80% of results come from 20% of the effort and time.
- 80% of company profits come from 20% of the products and customers.
- 80% of all stock market gains are realized by 20% of the investors and 20% of an individual portfolio.
This formula also applies outside of economics and business. Indeed, it can be found almost everywhere.
- 80% of the world’s wealth is held by 20% of the world’s population.
- 80% of the worlds biological mass comes from 20% of biological species (all insects)
- 80% of peas produced in a garden come from 20% of the pea pods.
- And so on…
The list is infinitely long and diverse, and the ratio is often skewed even more severely - a ghostly reminder of how the world is an inherently inefficient place. 90:10, 95:5, and 99:1 are not uncommon. The minimum ratio to seek however is 80:20.
If your business is looking a little unkempt, the Pareto Principle suggests that you give it a good trim; round off the edges, cut out the dead bits and chuck out the crap. By hacking away a whole 80% of the least beneficial customers, projects, employees, advertising campaigns or whatever else requires effort in a business, you have only reduced your productivity by 20%.
Astonishingly, it works.
Focus on the 20% and eliminate, ignore, automate or delegate the rest.
As I have hopefully gleaned, the super-streamlining offered by the wisdom of this phenomenon is not the exclusive luxury of the business owner or high-flying entrepreneur with guts and resources to be able to fire 80% of his staff – you can also use it in more subtle ways, as an employee or just as a typical, inefficient human being. Simply look at all the things you previously did to achieve something, and consider the effect of discontinuing all but the most effective endeavours.
Think of it as a cull. You will lose some of your productivity, but almost certainly increase your effectiveness. And an increase of effectiveness may be all it takes to deliver your lifestyle from stressed and chaotic, to serene and relaxed.
This rather brilliant principle could also be applied to the amount of time taken to do a task. Very often our subconscious tends to get confused and ends up correlating how long something takes to get done, with how important it is. Avoid falling into this trap – it’ll cost you valuable time which you could have better spent eating, sleeping, hurdling, skydiving, competitively eating, or whatever else it is that you like to do. Stop approaching a task thinking about how long it will take you – instead, don your Pareto-mindset and ensure that you concentrate on the few things which will deliver the most gain.