Do Less, Accomplish More

Success is ultimately a matter of focus.

Between the ages of 23 and 26, I rose from an entry-level analyst position to a director-level position at a company providing sponsored research and consulting services to some of the world’s largest companies.

I attribute much of my success to good timing, amazing mentorship, and a positive attitude. But I also give credit to a productivity method that helped me accomplish more, while, in actuality, doing less.

This method helped me to thrive in an environment where capable, much more intelligent people than I, struggled to stand out.

The approach is known as the Pareto principle, more commonly referred to as the 80-20 rule.

It states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

We use the term in business to point out that 80% of our sales come from 20% of our clients. In software, 80% of errors and crashes come from the top 20% most reported bugs. And in productivity, 80% of your results come from 20% of your actions.

Time is finite. Your focus is finite. The only thing that can be manipulated is where you spend your time and focus.

The key, then, to doing less while accomplishing more, is to isolate the two highest impact items in any 10 item to-do list. Know that these top two items are likely to be the two items you would normally choose to avoid as you scan your to-do list.

Complete those two items, and nothing else, and you’re still ahead of most people.

Learn to focus on the top 20% all the time, and you will never fall behind. It’s a self-balancing system that protects you against wasting time on the wrong task.

Follow it and you’ll always have an acceptable answer to the question, what have you accomplished?

Follow it and you’ll move ahead of those who don’t.