Most in the business or economics scene have probably heard of the Pareto Principle. For those unfamiliar with it, it is also called the 80/20 rule. 80% of results come from 20% of the effort. Most productivity comes from short bursts or moments of utter focus. Ideally, entrepreneurs can study the Pareto Principle and leverage it. With it they will be able to stay focused on their strategic plans, spend less time chasing superfluous matters, and actually meet their goals.
Of course, reality is hardly that accommodating and there will be obstacles that will keep business owners and leaders from getting their groove on. But they don’t have to go at it alone, they can always get help with optimizing their time. And this is where Virtual Assistants come in.
80 from 20
Pareto, an 1800s Italian philosopher and economist, is said to have derived the concept by observing pea plants. 80% of healthy pea pods came from 20% of the plants, which supposedly led him to observe wealth distribution in society. He found out that 80% of land in Italy was owned just by 20% of the people, and in industries 80% of the production just came from 20% of companies.
In modern times, this imbalance can be observed in examples like:
- 20% of customers being the ones accounting for 80% of company profits.
- 20% of sales reps generating 80% of total sales.
- People spending 80% of their time on their phones using just the same handful (20%) of apps.
- Barring massive extroverts, people spending 80% of their time outside socializing with the same 20% of their friends and family, their inner circle.
- Even how 20% of your favorite clothes making up the ones you use 80% of the time for occasions.
While the distribution isn’t exactly 80/20, you get the point. Even high achievers show the same patterns because no one, not even superhuman athletes or corporate bigshots, can handle every task before them. They have to prioritize and delegate, so that the tasks that they DO work on end up being accomplished excellently. And because they are so efficient, they won’t spend endless hours of their days on said tasks. Since that level of intensity cannot and should not be sustained for too long.
So they finish their work at a set time. Maybe the rest of their hours are spent doing seemingly “unproductive” tasks, like in the case of geniuses like Darwin, but perhaps it is part of the process and helps them recover, recharge and rebound for the next burst of greatness. 80/20.
Pareto via VA
So how can you get more free time in your life AND deliver better results at the same time? How do you maximize productivity and efficiency?
We are all faced with the constant challenge of limited resources. Company funds are finite, as are materials and resources. And there are only so many hours of the day. An executive or business leader not only has to manage their own affairs but that of their entire team’s or organization’s. So instead of trying to do the impossible and accomplish everything, a Pareto approach will focus on understanding which projects are most important. Then you will know what goals you need to align with. You can either drop the rest or delegate them.
This can be made so much easier with Virtual Assistants who can handle the drudgework. Let VAs sort out the nitty gritty of scheduling appointments or balancing books. Then you can focus on your fortes and really let loose. At the same time you will be free enough to get some much-deserved R&R and spare yourself from burnout.
Pareto Principle For Everyone
Pareto applies equally to entrepreneurs and freelancers, startup owners and Virtual Assistants themselves. There is always that temptation to diversify and expand, try out new and exciting things. And while there is nothing wrong with that one must ask, do these endeavors work towards the main goal that’s been set? Because they might end up being distractions and ultimately counterproductive.
In the case of freelancers and VAs, it is important to identify their best clients, and their own best capabilities. While it’s not wise to have all your eggs in one basket, too much diversification can be exhausting. Being a generalist is great, but specializing in a set of tasks means one can reach a higher level of skill – which will be in demand. Specialists and experts are harder to find and replace.
Whether you are trying to build and grow a business, or develop your skillset and pursue your career, an 80/20 mindset can definitely be a big help in focusing on what’s important. Pare down that list of things to do, free yourself from unimportant tasks, leave the rat race and get working on what really matters. Fugit inreparabile tempus: “it escapes, irretrievable time.”