To get real stuff done, focus on the 20% of your work that leads to 80% of your results

To get better results, do less but do it better. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.

Photo: UnknownNet Photography via Flickr

To get better results, do less but do it better.

Many of us work in an endless stream of tasks, emails, notifications, meetings, multitasking in the process, never pausing and never ending. Pursuing more and more every day.

Information overload is killing our brains.

Then the day is over, and you are extremely exhausted, and often have very little to show for it. And you start the next day, ready for a mindless stream of tasks and distractions, again.

Living the 80/20 life

I’m sure you’ve heard of the Pareto principle, known also as the 80/20 rule: focus on the few things that get you the most benefit. The principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

Well, you probably have too much thrown at you at once every workday, and you’re too busy juggling everything coming at you to take a minute and evaluate what’s essential, what’s urgent, what you can delegate and everything else that’s a waste of your most important asset.

When you force yourself to focus on essential tasks that have a large Return on Investment (ROI), you will be more productive, achieve more and simplify your life in the process.

To do more in less time, track the time you spend on tasks each hour of each day for a week.

How many of your activities got you closer to your goals?

How many were a waste of time?

How many could have been delegated?

Pick the 20% of your tasks that yield 80% of the results and outsource or simply discontinue the rest.

To effectively pursue less and achieve more, use the MITs rule:

Choose three Most Important Tasks for each day, and focus completely on gettting them done within a specific time.Any more than that and you might not get them all done.
Achievement is a huge motivator.

Progress will keep you going when you stop pursuing more. By restricting yourself to a small number of things, you force yourself to focus only on the essential.

Make your to-do list short. Call it a “success list”, says Gary Keller, author “The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results”.

Gary explains:

“Long hours spent checking off a to-do list and ending the day with a full trash can and a clean desk are not virtuous and have nothing to do with success. Instead of a to-do list, you need a success list — a list that is purposefully created around extraordinary results.

To-do lists tend to be long; success lists are short. One pulls you in all directions; the other aims you in a specific direction. One is a disorganized directory and the other is an organized directive. If a list isn’t built around success, then that’s not where it takes you. If your to-do list contains everything, then it’s probably taking you everywhere but where you really want to go.”

Less is more

The key to focusing on the essentials in life and at work is to limit yourself to an arbitrary but small number of things, forcing yourself to focus on the important stuff and eliminate all else.

In “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” Greg McKeown writes:

The way of the Essentialist means living by design, not by default. Instead of making choices reactively, the Essentialist deliberately distinguishes the vital few from the trivial many, eliminates the nonessentials, and then removes obstacles so the essential things have clear, smooth passage. In other words, Essentialism is a disciplined, systematic approach for determining where our highest point of contribution lies, then making execution of those things almost effortless.”
When you are doing too much at a time, you are constantly switching from one task to another, constantly interrupted, constantly distracted. Do less, clear away distractions, single-task, and get more done.

When you do too much, your work is spread thinner, you have lower quality, and people won’t spread your work like they should. By doing less, you can create something remarkable. Something incredible worth sharing.

Start today — pick what you think is most essential, clear some space, and just work on your most important measurable and attainable goals.

The invisible power of choice

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make makes you. Choose wisely.” ― Roy T. Bennett

For too long, we have overemphasized the external aspect of choices (our options) and underemphasized our internal ability to choose (our actions)

When you don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus your energy and time, other people will choose for you, and before long you’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important to you.

You can either make deliberate choices daily or allow other people’s agendas to control what you do!

When you forget your ability to choose, you become helpless and end up becoming a function of other people’s choices.

You practically give others not just the power but the permission to choose for you. Don’t surrounder your power to choose what gets listed on your to-do list for the day week or month.

It takes courage:

To do less.

To be disciplined.

To single-task.

To stop multitasking.

To slowly cut back on non-essential commitments.

To schedule fewer meetings.

To say no to requests.

To cut out notifications.

To set limits on how many things you do each day.

To focus on the most important tasks first.

To set limits on your work hours.

To focus on the things that make the highest impact, and drop everything else.

BUT:

You can do this slowly, over time, and consciously. The result is you’ll have more room in your life for other things. You’ll be more effective with your time. And you’ll be less stressed out.

You don’t have too little time to do all the things you need to do. The problem is, you FEEL the need to do too many things in the time you have.

You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects.

Life can really be better with less, if what’s left is what you love doing.

Dig deeper

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This article first appeared on Medium.