Everyone’s on a mission to be more productive. If we’re working for eight hours a day, we want those eight hours to be as useful and worthwhile as possible. But being productive isn’t always easy. If we were productive 100% of the time, we’d find life a breeze. Productivity comes in waves. And, at times, productivity struggles to happen at all.
The world is transforming digitally. So we use technological advancements, such as contact center tools, to increase employee productivity and improve the customer experience. But there are other ways to push productivity, too. The Pareto Rule is one of them.
You’ve probably heard people talking about the Pareto Rule. It’s something that is referenced regularly – and often incorrectly. Perhaps you’ve smiled and nodded without really understanding what it is. We’ve all been there. But it’s time to learn what the Pareto Rule is. Once you understand the concept, you’ll be able to start using it to improve your productivity and wellbeing.
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What is the Pareto Rule?
The first mistake people often make about the Pareto Rule is they think it differs from the 80/20 rule. It doesn’t. They’re the same thing.
The rule is named after an esteemed Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto. He examined Italian land and investigated the relationship between wealth and population. His findings were intriguing. According to what Pareto observed, 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. When he took his findings abroad, he discovered that the same rule applied to other countries.
So, why is this relevant? The Pareto Rule can be applied to many areas of life – and particularly to time management. If you are able to find the 20% of your work that drives 80% of your outcomes, you can start focusing your workload and become more productive. But how can you find it?
Finding the 20%
Finding the 20% is the first big challenge in using the Pareto Rule. Once you’ve worked out where your 20% is, you can start learning how to focus on it and get the 80% outcome.
Finding the 20% means learning what the most important work is. You need to analyze your workload and be strategic. It can be difficult when you balance lots of tasks at once, so ask yourself the following questions:
- What are you getting paid to do?
- Do you have any obstacles (such as working remotely?)
- Are you regularly prioritizing important work over urgent work?
- Do you wish you had more time for certain tasks?
- If freelance or project based, what work gives you the best return?
Most people tend to find that they aren’t actually managing their workload as well as they thought. When they ask themselves these questions, they might realize that they’re spending too much time on work that isn’t in their job description. A call center manager might be spending too long on basic administration tasks, instead of getting the best out of their workers and implementing skills based routing, for example.
And what about freelancers? Freelancers might find that they often prioritize work that doesn’t pay well over work that does. It might be out of habit, or one task might be harder and therefore more time consuming, yet doesn’t pay as well. Here’s where Pareto comes into play. 20% of their work is creating 80% of their return.
Applying the Pareto Rule to your productivity
Once you’ve established where your 20% is, you can use the Pareto Rule to become more productive. Here are some examples.
Doing the hardest task first
We all hate the hardest task. Why? It’s hard! Often, we think that the best way to be productive is to get the little things out of the way first. This is counterproductive. You’ll have the hard task on your mind throughout the day, so you’ll be feeling under pressure and stressed until it’s done.
The best way to work is to get the hardest task done first. You’ll feel emotional relief once it’s out of the way. Plus, then you know how much time you have to do the easy tasks. If you do the easy tasks first, you might not have enough time to complete the hard task, and then you’ll put it off until tomorrow. And thus the unhealthy cycle continues…
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What’s distracting you the most? Is it your phone? Your colleagues? The enticing coffee machine? The Pareto Rule can help to eliminate distractions when you’re working. If you know you need to complete your 20%, you can work hard to do so, using your distractions as a reward.
Once you’ve completed this hard task, then you can check your phone, talk to your colleague through screen share, or get that cup of coffee. Until then, it’s getting down to the grind and getting the job done.
Once you’ve established the 20%, you can find ways to help you with the less important tasks, making them take up even less time. This might be project management tools or software, for example. CCaaS is a great example in call centers, as it improves customer satisfaction with no extra effort from call center employees. This allows them more time to focus on their 20%, even when doing remote work.
Freelancers can benefit from this, too. A freelancer often spends a large amount of their time on personal admin, such as sending invoices or calculating fees. If they can start using automation software, such as these marketing automation platforms, they will be able to focus more on the 20% and get faster revenue.
Applying the Pareto Rule to your wellbeing
Productivity and wellbeing often go hand in hand. When we’re productive, we tend to feel happy. There’s nothing like the sense of relief and satisfaction when you finally land that difficult sale or complete that complex paperwork. But, on the flipside, it’s difficult to feel productive when you aren’t happy. And there it is, the paradox of productivity and wellbeing. How can Pareto help?
Generally, we don’t spend all our time doing things that make us happy. And that’s OK – for the most part. It’s normal to have a few work tasks that you don’t enjoy. But what happens when there are more than a few tasks that you dread? Pareto and the 80/20 ratio can be used to determine how you feel about your job.
If you notice that it’s more than 20% of your work that you dread doing, it might be that work is becoming responsible for your unhappiness. While there are ways to take away the stresses of a role, like those technological advances such as an interactive voice response system in a call center, if the fundamental fact that you aren’t happy in your role stays present, it may be time for a change.
You can also use the Pareto Rule in your personal life to improve wellness. There are plenty of small things the 80/20 rule can apply to, to make a big difference. For example:
- Exercise. The Pareto rule can also be applied to working out. As the rule states that 80% of the results will come from only 20% of the actions, once you determine the workouts that give the best results, you can focus more attention on them. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is becoming rapidly more popular, as it gets results fast. So, if you’re after fast results, you may want to consider integrating more HIIT into your routine.
- Your television habits. Most people spend a lot of time watching TV. It’s an easy way to relax after a hard working day. But how many times do you watch a show that excites you? It’s probably only about 20% of the time. Cutting out meaningless TV and only watching shows you care about will create more time for other activities, and you’ll look forward to the shows you want to watch. TV time becomes more relaxing and enjoyable, instead of an unhealthy habit.
- Your closet. Most people only regularly wear 20% of the clothes in their closet. Yet most of these people will still say that their closet is cluttered and stressful. Marie Kondo argues that we should eliminate anything in our closet that doesn’t “spark joy”. Having a clear out and getting rid of the clothes you don’t wear will help to create space and increase wellness.
Time to use Pareto
Using the Pareto 80/20 Rule isn’t easy at first. It can feel complicated and confusing. Some people interpret it to mean only working for 20% of their day. But that isn’t how the Pareto Rule works at all.
The Pareto Rule is all about analysis. It’s using a business mind to establish where your best results come from. And it can be applied to all areas of your life to improve productivity and wellness.
Productivity and wellness go hand in hand. You can’t achieve one without the other. The Pareto Rule can help you to assess how to achieve both and finally reach your full potential.