July 25, 2015

How To Overcome Procrastination Using the 80/20 Rule

APH #1: Use the 80/20 Rule to Make Decisions

Excuse Eliminated: “I don’t have time right now.”

We often procrastinate because it feels like there’s too much to do. In my opinion, this weak excuse is a symptom of an inability to define what’s truly important in your work and personal life. Fortunately, you can overcome this by ruthlessly applying the 80/20 rule.

This principle, originally stated by Vilfredo Pareto, says you get 80% of your results from 20% of your efforts. Thus, most of your results come from a handful of tasks. You can apply this to procrastination by only focusing on the actions that generate a significant result and proactively ignoring the rest.

You can use the 80/20 rule to fight procrastination using this five-step process:

Step #1: Identify the 80/20 tasks

It’s important to identify the handful of actions that have the biggest impact on your work. Basically these are the primary reasons you’re getting a paycheck. The simplest application of the 80/20 rule is to identify what’s truly important and spend more time on these activities. In other words, you should find the tasks that generate 80% of your results and happiness.

What if you can’t identify the 80% tasks? Take out a sheet of paper and write down what you do on a daily basis. Next, circle the tasks that produce the best results for your job. Finally, if you have a boss, ask him or her about what is most important.

Do this for your personal life as well. Determine what is truly meaningful and what you do simply because it’s a habit. Time with family, exercising, volunteering and relationships with others can all be considered 80% because these are the activities that add meaning to your life. Spending hours on Facebook, surfing the Internet and plopping in front of a TV aren’t 80% activities because they take up lots of time and provide little reward in return.

It’s important to identify your 80% results. Determine what actions really generate an income and what really brings meaning to your life. This information will help you with making the hard decisions in the next step.

Step #2: Ask a simple question

Your time is a finite resource. Every minute spent on a task is one less minute of your life. So why should you spend time doing something that’s not important?

Whenever you’re faced with a new potential project or task, ask a simple question:

“Does this task help or hurt my 80% activities?”

Usually we agree to do things from a fear of looking bad or disappointing somebody. However, there’s nothing wrong with having an understanding of what’s important in your life. If you feel something takes away time from your 80% activities, then avoid doing it at all costs. Remember: Never let other people’s priorities become your own.

Now, saying “no” isn’t always easy to do if you have a boss. One solution is to approach him or her and explain that you’ve identified the core activities where you provide the most value. Say that your time will be most effective by focusing on these tasks. Explain that the more time spent on these activities will mean an increase in productivity and job performance. You’ll find that most bosses are pretty reasonable when you show how you can do a better job and help them get better results.

Step #3: Eliminate or delegate

If you have trouble finding time for a new project, then you’ll need to take a look at everything you do on a regular basis. Odds are, you do certain things that take away from your 80% tasks. These are the things that should be eliminated or delegated.

Your project list shouldn’t be filled with items that don’t matter. If an activity isn’t bringing satisfaction or a measurable result, then you should get rid of it. Either pass it along to someone else (delegate) or completely eliminate it.

Again, this might mean having a long conversation with your boss. Simply explain that you need to focus on the important activities and then ask that other activities get passed along to someone else.

Step #4: Don’t add, substitute

When starting a new project, resist the urge to add it to your pile of things to do. This will only create a feeling of being overwhelmed, which is a major cause of procrastination. Instead, a simpler solution is to substitute the project for one that’s not generating results.

Remember, your time is limited. If you feel like a new project is important enough to work on, then it should take the place of a low-value activity. That’s how you stay focused on 80% activities without getting buried under an avalanche of time-consuming tasks.

Step #5: Practice “creative procrastination”

While this book is designed to help you fight procrastination, sometimes it’s okay to strategically put off a task. When you know a project isn’t an 80% activity, then it’s perfectly fine to put it down on a “someday” list. You’ll delay this action with the understanding that you’ll only do it if it becomes more important later on in your life.

The key to creative procrastination is to make a habit of reviewing this “someday” list. My suggestion is to go through it during a monthly review where you track goals and determine if you have time to start new projects (more on this later). You don’t have to take action on these ideas, but you should at least consider them from time to time.

Habit Implementation

Practicing 80/20 is a skill that takes a while to develop. At first, it’ll be difficult to let go of the projects you once thought were important. Eventually, however, you’ll develop an intuitive understanding of what is valuable and what is a waste of your time.

To get started, I recommend doing the following:

1. Run a monthly review that goes over your daily activities.

2. Identify the 80% activities that generate the most results.

3. Eliminate or delegate the activities that aren’t part of your 80%.

4. Ask, “Does this task help or hurt my 80/20 activities?” when a new project pops up.

5. If it’s worth pursuing, substitute it for another project. Don’t add it to a list of things to do.

6. Practice creative procrastination on the tasks that aren’t important.

You’ll discover it’s easy to fight procrastination by focusing on the activities that provide the biggest return for your time investment. Apply the 80/20 rule and you won’t experience that feeling of being overwhelmed. You won’t be stressed about having a miles-long to-do list. Instead, you’ll take dynamic action on the most important things in life.

This article is an excerpt from S.J.Scott’s book: 23 Anti-Procrastination Habits: How to Stop Being Lazy and Get Results in Your Life and has been published with the author’s permission.

About the author

S J Scott“Build a Better Life – One Habit at a Time”

Getting more from life doesn’t mean following the latest diet craze or motivation program. True success happens when you take action on a daily basis. In other words, it’s your habits that help you achieve goals and live the life you’ve always wanted.

In his books, S.J. provides daily action plans for every area of your life: health, fitness, work and personal relationships. Unlike other personal development guides, his content focuses on taking action. So instead of reading over-hyped strategies that rarely work in the real-world, you’ll get information that can be immediately implemented.

When not writing, S.J. likes to read, exercise and explore the different parts of the world

Learn more by scrolling down the page and check out his books on developing positive daily habits…

To know more about Scott, visit his website www.developgoodhabits.com.

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