Setting Priorities

I have been thinking about how I spend my time in a typical week and asking myself whether I’m using it effectively. I’m what you would refer to as a workaholic. I don’t do very much apart from work, it is my passion, it brings me joy, and I do it because I love what we are building at Valentte.

I recently read Tim Ferris book, The Four-Hour Work Week. One section resonated a lot with me, in it he discusses The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, which states that for events roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

The implication of this principle when applied to work is that the biggest results come from a small part of the work you do. If you can identify what things have the biggest impact on your results and spend more time on them then you will see big improvements. You are likely to reach your goals quicker and more easily.

Let me give you some examples in the case of Valentte and the work that I do. The areas of the business that I believe make the most significant difference to us, think of these as the 20% of activities that drive our future results, are this blog, our marketing emails and new product development.

In a typical week, I might work 80 or 90 hours and yet only a tiny proportion of that time is spent on the things that I have identified will drive the future growth and profitability of the business.

If I add up the time, I spend on these three activities I would be surprised if it is more than 10 hours a week. So only about 10% of my time is spent on the three activities that I have identified as being the most important part of my job.

This is crazy. Why is this? Are you making the same mistake with your time? Have you thought through which parts of your job contribute the most to your success? How much time are you allocating to these elements of your work? Is it enough? Could you give them more time? Should you give them more time?

I don’t have a simple answer for how to make these changes. These high impact jobs don’t necessarily shout loudly or cry out to get done. They don’t call up demanding your immediate attention. They are not scheduled into your calendar months in advance like one of my shows. But somehow, we must give them the same priority. They require the same must get done mentality.

Perhaps being aware of this shortfall in our attention to what is most important is the first step in changing our work patterns. Perhaps also we need to incorporate these “important” activities onto our daily schedules with each one having a clearly defined time slot. I do this with the blog, and it gets done, but not with new product development for example. Even with this blog though, I struggle to allocate time to it every day, I aim to write 7 days a week, but typically only manage three or four.

There is a simple message at the heart of this rambling post. If you want to fulfil your dreams and goals, you need to identify a small number of activities that will have the biggest impact on your future results. Then you must make sure you spend more of your time doing those activities.

Prioritise them and fight to get them done. Be hard on yourself, set high standards and hold yourself to account. You alone will make your dreams a reality. Believe in yourself. Long before others believe, you must believe it’s possible.

Remember, we climb the mountain, not in giant leaps but one small step at a time.

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