The 80-20 “rule”, sometimes known as the Pareto principle, offers a perspective on setting priorities. It says “roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes”.
Here are some examples of this “rule” (but let me emphasize “roughly”):
- 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of its products
- 80% of your Facebook engagement (likes, shares) comes from 20% of your posts
- 20% of the people you know cause most of your life’s satisfaction
- 80% of your personal results come from 20% of your efforts
It is a powerful time and resource management concept and that’s what I want to explore. How do you set priorities for your life? How do you fill your 168 hours per week? How do you spend your money? Start by considering your Purpose, Vision and Goals. Let this guide you toward the 20% of the tasks and people to focus on. Make the hard choices. Be deliberate. Consider the long view.
Look at your to-do list or meetings or budget and ask if there are ways to eliminate some items based on this thinking? Reflect on the key things that will truly make a difference. Be honest with yourself. Make the choice to say “no” to the things that aren’t essential/purposeful/strategic. Make the choice to say “yes” even if they feel difficult/stressful/new. Mark them as important on your to-do list. Review the Vision for your life and career and guide your way toward it with intentionality. Take action.
I am not a natural story teller, someone who paints a vivid picture and goes into details that captures your imagination. I am more of a “get to the point” person. I like to read short articles rather than a book. I like models. I learned to write one-page documents that offer a conclusion in the first paragraph rather than at the end of a multi-page report. This blog is an example; the title “250 Words” is based on the fact that the average adult can read about 250 words in one minute. I will not waste your time.
Learning to talk succinctly starts with a mental focus, choosing the objective and style of the communication. Are you trying to entertain, inform or influence?
Here are some communication tips:
- Pictures tell a thousand words. Models and diagrams take time to develop but allow the observer to understand information or a concept in a new way. Analogies can be helpful.
- Share the point of your communication as the first sentence rather than the “punchline” at the end of several minutes. It helps to know where the communication is going.
- Know the few key “bullet points”. Check that the listener is listening; pause from time-to-time.
- One-point lessons are a visual way to communicate complex topics at work. They are usually a combination of words and pictures on one page.
How do you communicate? Is it the most effective way? If story telling is your choice, click here to read more.
I love to meet and talk to new people, especially over coffee or a meal in a 1:1 setting. I make it an informal goal to meet 1 or 2 new people every week. I’m frequently surprised how a short conversation uncovers common interests, collaboration opportunities and new friendships. This blog is to focus on the process of introductions though.
Focus. Get your head “in the game”. Why are you meeting with this person? Do you have an objective? Is it friendship, collaboration or a request for help? What did you learn through “homework” (consider LinkedIn).
Greeting. Shake their hand. Look them in the eye. Intend to remember their name.
Ask an opening question and get the other person started, e.g. “tell me a little about yourself”. Active listening is required to discover commonality, strengths and interests.
Avoid the superficial. Work history is OK but consider seeking deeper insights and ask questions such as:
- What is your purpose or passion?
- What gets you out of bed each day?
- What makes you unique?
- What makes you laugh or cry?
Now it’s your turn. Consider an elevator speech or TMAY. Know the few points you want to mention. Don’t talk for 5 minutes straight; offer pauses for the other to ask questions. Focus on who you are not just what you do. It’s so easy to get caught up in our life roles.
Meeting new people is sometimes uncomfortable but with preparation and practice it will eventually come naturally.
Synonyms: self-assurance, self-reliance, belief in oneself, positiveness, assertiveness, self-possession, nerve, poise, presence of mind, level-headedness, cool headedness, firmness, courage, boldness, fortitude.
Confidence is the feeling of self-assurance that arises when you are aware of your abilities. It is a powerful feeling because it steadies us as we take on life’s challenges.
Confidence emerges from preparation, experience and successes. It is the outcome of mastery of hard (repair a car, artistic painting) or soft skills (influencing, mentoring) and demonstrating them again and again. You trust yourself because you’ve practiced and have seen that you can accomplish something. You may be confident in solving complex problems at work, dealing with the kids or working around the house. It is the result of discipline and effort.
Confidence is visible. You speak with authority. You look calm. It’s apparent in the tone of your voice. You hold your head up and make eye contact, helping with first impressions.
False confidence may result from ignorance (not knowing that you don’t know something). Being overconfident may cause you to skip the preparation step. Sometimes you have to “fake it until you make it.” You may be calm on the outside and shaking on the inside.
Confidence is related to courage because it removes fear. Confidence is trusting in yourself and is a character strength. It allows you to extend yourself enough to grow but not get in over your head. You don’t care about being evaluated. Confidence can be cultivated.
Richard Rohr has highly influenced me in this blog through his books and Daily Meditations. He says: “Be an adventurous seeker of Love and Mystery”.
I believe we should take care of ourselves and others “heart, mind, body and soul”. We don’t talk much about soul in our culture, so it requires an understanding. I have come to see soul as who I am in God…my inner self, stripped of ego and image. It is a core “essence” that has existed since I was born and tightly linked to my Purpose. Soul requires spiritual nourishment.
Spirituality is linked to faith beliefs but is even more. For me, the concepts below are some of the elements that makes soul exploration so important.
- Love as the driving force. Read Albert Einstein’s letter to his daughter.
- Oneness with God, people and nature; more Native American in thought.
- Wholeness with suffering and joy, the bad with the good and embracing all of me and others. Appreciating that life is many “shades”.
- Presence without the noise, fully attentive to the people around me. Enjoying the solitude and silence without the distractions.
- Service, practice and action rather than stories and beliefs. Role modeling Jesus. Becoming a better person.
- Mystery in that I’ll never know the answers to some of my big questions.
Those words in bold font are deep and powerful concepts. I find them calling me and so I pray and reflect. I learn and grow daily knowing that the journey does not end.
We are bombarded with things to which we could direct our attention. The phone rings or a text arrives, and we divert our attention from our work or friends. We are reading something on the web and without realizing it, start shopping because an ad catches our attention. We are talking to someone we love and then one of the kids does something and we lose focus. It happens in an instant. It may be insignificant or a loss of productivity or just plain disrespectful!
Many people laughingly say they have ADD; some are even proud of it. It seems to be part of our culture. I believe attention management is as important as time management. It starts with a choice to learn new habits and then takes practice.
Turn off your email or cell phone notifications. Put your phone away or silence it while talking to someone. Do your most important work in a place with less distractions. Be conscious of your thoughts and watch how they shift. Bring your thoughts back to your intended focus.
Attention is focus. Attention is sticking with the conversation until it runs its course. Attention is getting the job done. Attention involves all of our senses. You have to want it. Make it a choice to practice. Be available attentively; it improves relationships. Intentionally single-task; it improves productivity. Let Purpose, Values and intentional priorities guide your choices. Where is your attention going right now?
Why do you do anything? I think that is a question worth examining on a regular basis. Some examples:
- Why am I spending my evening watching TV?
- Why is my manager asking me to work on this particular project?
- Why am I a morning person?
- Why do I like to spend time with ___?
These can be interesting or difficult introspection questions. Exploring the answers is how you find motivation to do things, especially the important and necessary things. It’s at the heart of knowing yourself deeply. Once known, you get to put full energy into a commitment or make adjustments on how you spend your time. The continual but gradual process to align your “why” results in focus and energy. You can choose to “stay in the rut” or move out of it. It should be a conscious choice done with intention rather than reaction.
In an earlier blog, I asked “what makes today a great day”? The “why” question is at the heart of this. That “thing” that gives you a thrill must be uncovered and nurtured. Week-by-week make small adjustments to synchronize your time and life toward something bigger…your career rather than a job, your family rather than you, your Purpose and Vision rather than tasks.
We make choices every day based on our values, but are these values explicit? Know your “why”. Purposeful people find meaning in all of their life roles. They seek to satisfy the needs of the heart, mind, body and soul.
Do you see the forest or the trees; the big picture or the details?
Your perspective on life matters and it is a choice. The big picture and the details are both important. The micro focuses attention on the details. The macro lets you imagine the endpoint of a favorite Goal. The micro focuses on the countless tasks to get done and the stresses of life to be resolved. The macro let’s you see that “life is good” and that you are blessed.
I’ve noticed that I can have a great day even with many problems. Something happens that completely changes the tone of the day. Someone thanks you for your sacrifice of time or attention. A goal gets accomplished. A big idea is uncovered. You make a new friend. These and countless other things become the building blocks to the Vision you have for your life, your family or work. The Vision and Goals are the macro; the daily action steps are the micro. The big picture lets you see your blessings with your problems. Acknowledging progress in the larger context is the choice to be made.
How do you change perspective? You stop and simply refocus to a new choice of perspective. Be aware of your thoughts and underlying beliefs. Transition from living unconsciously to being present. For me, the time for a “sacred pause” is simply enough.
Our days are filled with busyness and stress…but then something happens and we feel it is a great day. Some examples: your one-year old baby says “dada” for the first time, your big project at work just got approved, you made a big sale or acquired a new customer, you had an amazing conversation with a family member. It’s that special “something” that happens in an instant and overrides the feeling of the entire day.
We deserve great days, great weeks and great years. While luck plays a part, I feel these days can be planned by knowing and doing more of what makes you special. The mental work is to know the essence of these things. This essence is purpose (who you are) and passion (what gets you excited). What makes you laugh? What gives you joy? What gives you a thrill? Why? Observe and reflect on that moment. Think about that essence. Be grateful. You will find more of it just by being aware.
Think beyond a “day at the beach” or getting a promotion to the experiences of everyday life. Great days occur because we are paying attention, mindful of a special circumstance and its connection to heart, mind, body or soul. Find the “pattern” of the great days. Notice the link to who you are. Celebrate the observation and insight as another part of knowing yourself deeply.
Today is a good day to have a great day!
Relationships ebb and flow over time. They seem to grow closer and apart in waves, shifting from day-to-day and week-to-week. I observe that there are several continuing factors that influence the quality of (married) relationships. What are these “currencies”?
- Influence. This is about who makes the decisions. Are goals set together? Are decisions made on joint principles or made unilaterally?
- Disclosure. Willingness to share feelings. Do you withhold secrets or concerns?
- Effort. This is about pulling your “fair share” of the household load. Perception and reality are different.
- Money. This is about security and long-term needs and wants. Do you have an emergency fund? Is money pooled toward joint long-term goals. Do you discuss spending habits?
- Time. This is about doing what you want/need to do alone or together. Are we spending quality time with each other? Are you overscheduled and unavailable? Sleep is a special case, especially for those with young children.
By being conscious of these currencies you can make better personal choices. More importantly, these are the essential topics on which to have conversations and set boundaries, personally and as a couple. You may think that there is balance and “fairness” but you never know until you talk about it deeply and ask for feedback. The balance can be difficult because our priorities and personal values are different and shift.
I feel most of us believe that relationships should be 50/50. That can be a toxic belief. What if you substituted 100/0? Life is complicated and relationships can be too; make the investment to explore differences.