- There is too much to do and not enough time.
- I don’t know where to start.
- I would rather be doing something easier.
- I’m not getting anything done.
- I’m not seeing results.
- I’m tired of doing this menial task.
- I’m running in circles.
- I’m overwhelmed.
- I have a limited amount of time this week.
It is time to set some priorities. It is time to create focused intensity on work that matters.
This 80/20 Analysis Template is inspired by the author Tim Ferriss, who writes about it in all three of his books: The 4-Hour Work Week, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. The template is my own adaptation of the 80/20 concept he presented in the 4HWW that I’ve applied myself. Tim might have a very different technique.
[Sidebar on the “4 hour work week”: I’m not that interested in working only four hours a week and kicking back on the beach somewhere (though that would be nice…), but neither is Tim. In his words: “Read the book for context. Greatly simplified, the goal is to increase your current per-hour output 10x.”]
What is the 80/20 Principle?
The 80/20 Principle or the Pareto Principle is based on the theory that 20% of inputs lead to 80% of outputs.
Ignore the numbers for a moment and understand the concept: a minority of efforts lead to a majority of good results.
In other words, 20% of the activities, people, and events in your life lead to 80% of your stress, just as 20% of the activities, people, and events in your life lead to 80% of your happiness.
How to Use the 80/20 Analysis Template
1. Set a date and time for your analysis.
Tim did a series of interviews around his newest book but the discussions always expanded into many different areas. In a couple of the interviews (one of the best is Mixergy) he mentioned that each week he schedules an 80/20 analysis on Mondays and Fridays. According to him, this is critical. If you are a GTD advocate, include it as a part of your weekly review.
2. Focus on a context or role.
I do an 80/20 Analysis for three areas of my life: work, computer (for me this means: writing, managing websites, side projects, etc.), and family/home life. This is important because it allows me to focus on the goals and outcomes I want to accomplish in each area. When I first started to do this, I had a hard time defining clear outcomes and goals because I hadn’t clearly defined the context of the analysis. I had a hard time defining “happiness.”
3. Do the Analysis
Here are the critical components of the analysis:
- 20% Activities = 80% of Stress
- 20% Activities = 80% Results, Happiness
- Clearly Defined 80% Stress
- Clearly Defined 80% Happiness
- Not To Do List
- Project Lists/To Do Lists
a. Role/Context: First, choose your context. To make it easy, let’s focus on your job. What are your main responsibilities? What does your boss expect you to accomplish or create? In your latest performance review, what were the items that you needed to work on and what were the items that showed you doid well?
b. 80% Stress/Happiness: Next, clearly define negative outcomes and positive outcomes and write them in each column.
c. 20% Stress Activities: Then, think back over your day, week, or month. What are the few things that make up the largest amount of your stress? What are the tasks that you hate doing? What are the tasks that don’t get results?
d. 20% Happiness Activities: Next, think back over your week and look for those positive outcomes and happiness. What tasks created the biggest results? What helped you move a project along?
e. Not To Do List: You’ve come up with your list. You know your strengths and you know your weaknesses. You know what works and you know what doesn’t work. You know what you like to do and what you shouldn’t be doing yourself. Now, this is the the critical part. Turn our 80/20 analysis into an action plan. Based on your list of the 20% of activities that lead to 80% off your stress, put something on your Not To Do List.
[Sidebar: Not To Do List…but how? If you have identified an activity that leads you to be miserable, why on earth would you keep it up? If you know that an activity is not yielding results, don’t do it. If it has to be done, does it have to be done by you? Can you defer it to someone else? Can you train or teach someone else to do it?]
f. To Do List: Finally, add a new project to your project list or a new task to your to do list. These are the items that you know yeild results and make you happy. How can you do more of that? How can you capitalize on your strengths? Create a plan of action. What is the next action you can take to make these things happen?