I recently read Richard Koch’s book ‘The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less’ – or rather, appropriately, I read about 20% of it and gleaned 80% of the value thanks to Blinkist, which lets you read summaries and insights from those hundreds of books that never quite made it out of your Amazon wishlist.

Koch’s hypothesis is simple: in most areas of life, 20% of the input or effort produces 80% of the output or reward. Such a sweeping statement sounded provocative and unrealistic… but the more I thought about both my professional and personal life, the more I could see a correlation.

I am most focused and sharpest thinking during those crucial hours before a deadline or a client event; I unlock new energy and determination in the last few minutes of a gym session knowing that I’ll soon be home; and I can have incredibly most action-focused conversation in five minutes by the coffee machine rather than one hour meetings or endless email chatter.

Koch references how many businesses make 80% of their profits from 20% of their products or services, and how in many presentations it is only 20% of your points that really resonate with the audience and make you stand out.

Whether statistically accurate or not, the 80/20 principle has certainly got me thinking about where I channel my time and energy, and where I can eliminate waste.

If I spent far less time researching and designing exercise regimes and more time doing them, I might actually start achieving the fitness I’m after…!

In the spirit of New Year resolutions, I thought I’d have a go at trying a more 80/20 approach during January and share some ideas:

  • Create the conditions for the 20% – enforce deadlines on yourself, tell colleagues your goals to add some accountability
  • Prototype sooner, iterate quicker – be more comfortable with back-of-the-napkin drafts so you can glean feedback sooner and eliminate wasted time polishing an unsuitable product
  • Collaborate with people who help build on your ideas and spark new ones – we all hit a creative-wall at some stage, and there’s nothing that kills productivity like staring at a blank PowerPoint slide for 30 minutes…
  • Eliminate the waste – minimise email chatter, try a five-minute meeting
  • Notice your energy levels – identify the points in the day when you have most energy and focus and do the hardest work then. If you have a daily lull, take a conscious and full break – take a walk, grab a coffee, and don’t try to work half-heartedly.

Oh, and this blog took 15 minutes to write rather than a painstaking hour of self-editing, so excuse the rough and ready feel… but hopefully it’s somewhere towards 80% as useful…