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.
This idea of “retire with purpose” has two important parts: defining retirement and discovering your purpose?
Retirement as defined in the dictionary is “the period of one’s life after leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”. That doesn’t quite do it for me. Retirement is a period of life where new time choices are possible, you may choose to work but are not burdened with the requirement to work. For me, it also implies that we have left our life-long job or career.
What are your time choices? We each have 168 hours per week and they will be filled. Why not do that purposefully, deliberately and with intention. The model above suggests that our time will be split across work, hobbies, volunteering or leisure. We can choose tasks or relationships to fill our time or both.
Purpose is (re)discovering who you are and Mission is what you choose to do. You answer questions such as “who am I”, “what do I want my legacy to be” or “how am I going to make the world a better place”. Purpose will feel meaningful and joyful. You feel called to something because that’s who you are. It’s something you can’t stop yourself from doing.
Research shows that people with purpose live longer. It is an important element of well-being. Retirement is a significant shift in time choices. You heart, mind, body and soul must be nurtured but only you know the right balance.
We need to manage our career plans strategically and tactically…guided by our purpose. If you don’t your purpose yet, then start with “know yourself deeply”. Salary and potential earnings are important, but these must be balanced with capability, passion, meaning and enjoyment. All are possible with the courage to make personal change. Only you know the right balance.
The strategic part is planning for (or allowing) new roles, assignments, projects or tasks. It is choosing the big things such as career objective, career field, company and work location. It is the long-term accumulation of capabilities that add personal value, energy and joy, sometimes with unexpected results.
The strategic part is something you think about deliberately once or twice per year. You ask questions such as: Am I working for the right company? Do my company’s values match my own? Do I use my talents to add value and meaning to people’s lives? Am I working to my potential? Know the “why” behind each of your answers.
The tactical part is job shaping. This simply means that we make routine choices to optimize our tasks and responsibilities within our assigned job. You change tasks or relationships or simply make a context change. For example, a cashier at the grocery store could reframe his or her work from “checking out” to “putting a smile on everyone’s face”.
A written career plan is an essential part of a life plan. It is a skill best done with a career mentor.
Living to our potential includes elements of attitude and aptitude. Put together, they help us soar to new heights in our personal or work lives. It starts with choices: positive thoughts, supportive relationships and new skills and abilities.
Attitude emerges from our thoughts and belief systems. Ideally, it is the positive belief that you can do something and even the thought that you should do something rather than procrastinating. It is also the belief that others are trying their best too. It is the spark of motivation, often hidden from our conscious thought. It can be fueled by a clear personal Vision and related Goals. It can be lost in a moment of despair or crisis.
Aptitude is related to skills and abilities and includes ongoing growth-seeking learning and experiences. There is a desire to get better at something, even master it. You must choose where to focus growth. It may be in managing relationships, leadership or a technical skill. Let your passion guide you.
Both are important, but I have a belief bias that attitude is THE essential ingredient in life and career. Belief in yourself is powerful. Internally, it takes some significant experiences to develop this confidence and belief. Externally, it helps to receive encouragement from others, to have family, friends and managers that believe in you and make an “investment” in you.
Altitude is the outcome and up to you…up, down or flat. What new heights do you seek? Are you in touch with your attitude and aptitude?
I love Mathew Kelly’s writing on “everything is a choice”. He says that we need to learn to master the moment of decision and you will live a life uncommon. It’s an important concept to realize that we are where we are in life because of the choices we have made.
Choices have consequences. The choice to smoke cigarettes or eat fatty foods will likely shorten your life. The choice to not study at school will likely lead to lower grades and lifelong income (of course there are exceptions). The choice to have a child will change your lifestyle. The choice to not maintain your car will result in a shorter vehicle life. We make hundreds of decisions every single day, sometimes without thinking.
Daily problems (sometimes crises), regrets and missed opportunities are the consequences. We need to make the important decisions based on our purpose, vision and goals. This framework helps establish the priorities and boundaries of our lives. Courage and discipline are supporting character traits.
We must own our decision choice rather than blame others. We must think about the consequences to self, family, friends, projects and work results. We must think far enough ahead to understand the possible outcomes of a decision and their associated consequences. We should give more emphasis to long-term needs than short-term gratification.
If you want to change your life, start making different choices. It starts with mindfulness of our critical decisions and then “choosing to choose” rather than going with the flow of everyday life.
Motivation (noun): the reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way or the general desire or willingness of someone to do something.
I’d like to explore two dimensions of motivation:
Extrinsic and intrinsic. This is about whether the drive is external or internal. An extrinsic motivation comes from outside of us, for example, money or praise: if you pay me enough money to do a job, I’ll do it. An intrinsic motivation comes from within us, for example, personal growth or feeling good. I accept an assignment because I want to develop a new skill. Intrinsic motivation is sustainable.
Strategic and tactical. Strategic is longer-term and our most important life decisions and actions. For example, I’ll go back to school to get an advanced degree because I can provide a better life for my family. Tactical is the short-term and necessary, for example, I need to get the car to the shop for an oil change this week. The long-view is essential but balance is needed; it can be challenging.
I believe that doing one important thing every day will change your life. The motivation to do so takes vision and discipline. Vision provides a WHY for the things we should do and intrinsically compels us to action. We should ask enough questions on any task to get clarity on the WHY and then we can fit our choices into a larger and longer-term context. Discipline then helps focus the competing priorities for our time and attention.
Why should you spend time discerning (uncovering, understanding, practicing) your Purpose? Why write a Purpose statement? I can think of several reasons:
- Purpose develops a deeper sense of worth. We know who we are deeply including values, strengths, beliefs and needs. This results in confidence because it’s less about “image”. We use this knowledge to pursue more aligned jobs and life roles.
- Purpose makes it easier to choose how we use our time, make decisions and allow people to enter our lives. We learn what is essential in life to thrive, be fulfilled and feel good about ourselves.
- Purpose deepens our connectedness to our Creator, creation and friends and family. Our relationships change.
- Purpose provides a buffer against “losses”. If we lose a job we know that “our job is not our life”. If we lose a life role, e.g. friend, we know that our many other life roles are being pursued.
Understanding the WHY of our lives is essential and worthwhile. Generally, why are you alive? Specifically, why did we pick this friend, this job, this place to live or this activity? Ultimately, choices are an expression of yourself and a reflection of heart, mind, body and soul needs.
More personally, this effort must be called a transformation. My pursuit of a purpose statement took over a year until the final words emerged. The “mining for gold” of my life is still in progress but continual discovery of new gold nuggets continues to thrill me.
I drove by a billboard for a local college the other day with the headline Define Yourself. It got me thinking.
Define yourself is about who you want to be. There is no doubt that we live in a world of image and branding — personal and product. Some might call this our social self. I do this myself. I recall an early retirement activity to design a personal business card: a title, logo and phrase that helped form an identity.
We choose to be different people in different circumstances, e.g. we might choose a more assertive behavior at work than at home, or with a salesperson rather than a family member. We choose to become what our various roles require; personal growth forces us to move beyond our comfort zone. My concern is that we can lose ourselves and when we do fundamental stresses emerges.
Know yourself is about who you are at your core. This includes strengths, values, beliefs, and desires. Some might call this our true self or our soul. I believe that knowing yourself is the more powerful and essential context. Consistency across defining and knowing leads to joy, energy and potential. Our values must be operative in all situations to thrive.
The path to Purpose starts with knowing yourself deeply. I hope the identity you choose for any given role recognizes and includes this deeper level. It is worth the introspection to create this alignment.