It's a standard business cliche that 20% of your effort yields 80% of the results - the 80/20 rule. The Lifehack.org blog argues that often this rule is misintrepreted. But if used correctly, to identify imbalances of effort so you can maximise your output (whether it's in sales, or productive hours spent at work), it can help you be more effective with your time and effort.
It suggests picking an area of your life where you feel there is an imbalance of effects - whether it's money, time, health or relationships. Are you putting a lot into one of those and not seeing much in the way of results? Then flip that on its head:
"Try to identify the key 10, 20 or 40 percent of inputs that are creating most your results. This could be the 10% of time that creates the most returns. It could be the 40% of relationships that create the most happiness for you."
Once you've identified them, you can start to swing the balance of your time and effort towards those activities you've identified as the most rewarding:
"Spend more time in those activities. Place them first in your schedule. Meet up with your key friends more often. Invest more of your money in the best expenses."
And perhaps most importantly of all (since the exercise has helped you identify where you're wasting time and effort) - the final step is to find ways to downplay or eliminate the rest:
"Get rid of activities that don’t have a high payoff. Stop spending time in relationships that don’t create enough value. Stop wasting money on investments that aren’t giving you a greater quality of life."
A lot of these things (especially the last point) are easier said than done. Just because we find a relationship with a friend or relative to be upsetting or hard work, doesn't mean that we're going to feel comfortable about cutting them off or even minimising contact with them. In that kind of situation, you need to find a balance between what you feel you *should* be doing, and what you want to do.
Do you find the 80/20 rule helpful? If you've been able to use it to help you spend your time and effort more wisely, please share in comments.