Recently I’ve been thinking about the Pareto Principle: The observation that roughly 80% of results/effects come from 20% of efforts/causes.
When I consider when I’ve gotten things done, completed a goal, or built a new habit, I see this has been true for me: 80% of my results have been from 20% of my efforts. So perhaps something to highlight: The bulk of my results — useful results that have moved me forward in life — have been from 20% of my efforts. Not 100%.
I had a day last week when I didn’t feel like doing much. I felt flat and unmotivated, tired and just wanting to rest. I started in with the “you should be doing more!” mental beating routine when the thought came to mind: “Robin, what if you let yourself be and accept where you’re at today?”
The thought felt both blasphemous — aren’t I supposed to always give 100%? — and also potentially wise, considering my experience with the Pareto Principle. I’ve spent plenty of days pushing against myself, slogging uphill to try and fulfill that 100% should. Yet, where did the slog typically get me? Not usually where I was hoping to go.
I wondered how it’d be to embrace this idea of 80/20 in my life, at least more of the time. What if I remembered that the bulk of getting things done comes from just a portion of my efforts? What if I quit fighting against myself when I’m just not feeling it and just let myself be for a moment, an hour, a day, or a week? If I let myself sit and do nothing or read a book or go for a walk or just do only what needed to get done for the day (the absolute basics) — and not push for anything more? Perhaps I’d be better ready to get to work post-rest…
Note that this isn’t about giving up, getting complacent, becoming a slug. Rather, perhaps this is what it looks like to work smarter so that when I look at things from the wider perspective, rather than just over an hour or one day, I’m actually getting more of what I need to get done, and done well, but without the fight. Because fighting against myself is wasted energy AND makes the 20% of useful effort less productive. Because I get tired in the fighting.
I suspect we all know this: We can’t push 100% of the time.
When we try, we end up burning ourselves out (or down) — and ultimately get much less done. And the same holds true for our kids. So today, let’s practice ditching, even for just a moment, the old story of “100% effort all the time or nothing will happen.” It’s an old story we can wave goodbye to. Then with the energy we save, we can rock it out even better in the 20%.
Got a friend or someone else you care a lot about who could use this reminder? Send them this post. It just might be what they need to hear today. <3