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80% of what you do is a waste of time

by: Peter Welch
  • 18/10/2011
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80% of what you do is a waste of time
We have all heard of Pareto’s law, also known as the ‘80-20 rule’, but how often do we apply it to our own actions?

Whether it be the amount of business you get (80%) from the number of clients you have (20%), or if we apply it to all our endeavours, the maxim holds true.

In effect, 80% of our outcomes – whatever we do – are the result of 20% of our effort.

Put another way, four out of five things we spend our time on are pretty much ineffective in terms of giving us the results that make a difference.

That can be a particularly instructive point to take on board, especially given the amount of time we spend on certain tasks.

Therefore, it is a simple, logical step to try and find ways of identifying those actions that do not deliver for us and to find more of those tasks that give us the bigger wins.

I’m not a huge fan of so-called self-help books, but one that does have pride of place on my bookshelf is Dr Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Covey recognised that effective people are less preoccupied with how efficient they are at doing their activities, but are instead more focused on producing the right results.

This is opposed to most of the time management methodology that focuses on lists, scheduling and prioritisation.

How do we know where to focus our effort?

It makes sense to find out what we are currently using our time for and why.

Covey uses a simple matrix that maps activities on two axes – importance and urgency – and he divides activities into four quadrants.

  1. Important urgent: last-minute deadlines, fire fighting, rushing to appointments
  2. Important not urgent: strategy, planning, prevention, mending the roof while the sun shines
  3. Not important urgent: interruptions, some emails/calls/appointments, etc
  4. Not important not urgent: Facebook, solitaire, time-wasting activities

It can be very sobering to see which of our current activities fall into each quadrant and many people have used this to give themselves a kick up the backside.

The good news is that, for those spending too much time in quadrants one, three and four, there are plenty of opportunities to divert some of that time and energy to the tasks that fall in quadrant two – important not urgent.

By completing these types of tasks, individuals are likely to become far more effective and they should find a noticeable improvement in the results they are able to achieve.

Peter Welch is head of sales and distribution at Bridgewater Equity Release

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