80-20 Rule

80-20

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.

Less is More

Less Is More

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.

Confidence

Confidence

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.

Principle-Based Decision Making

Decisions

We make hundreds of decisions per day.  Most are routine and simple such as what clothes do I wear or what to eat for dinner.  A few are more critical such as what car do I buy or what school should my child attend.  These critical decisions require deliberation and a process, particularly if other people are participating in the decision making.

Here is a decision-making process:

  • Clarify the decision to be made by describing/writing the problem or issue.
  • List the alternatives; option development is as important as option analysis.
  • List the decision criteria or principles.
  • Evaluate each decision against the criteria. Set up a simple matrix on paper.
  • Implement and monitor the decision. Did the outcome achieve expectations?

I want to focus on the 3rd bullet point, i.e. listing the criteria or principles.  Using a car purchase as an example, the criteria might be:  initial purchase cost, maintenance costs, gas mileage and safety features.  You would simply list your alternatives and then assess each alternative against these criteria.  Of course, some criteria might carry more weight and be required vs. optional.

This type of decision-making is particularly helpful in large, diverse groups.  Instead of advocating (arguing) for a particular decision, identify and then keep the focus on the key principles that apply.  Let the criteria guide the evaluation to build a consensus.  Choices have consequences so keep the long-term outcomes in mind when evaluating.

 

You can read more about decision making at this link.

Be Self-Aware

Self-Awareness

Knowing yourself deeply” is a key theme of this blog, mostly in the context of discovering purpose.  What do you do with this knowledge in everyday life?  The picture above shows a kitten that thinks it’s a lion.  This poor self-assessment of reality may work some of the time but likely will cause problems in communications and relationships.

Self-awareness is about knowing your strengths AND weaknesses.  It’s about how you present yourself in a simple conversation, e.g. choice and tone of words, amount of words and body language.  It’s about being in touch with your emotions (and triggers) and understanding how this affects your decisions and interactions.

Self-awareness points the way to a valuing of differences and is therefore particularly important in mentoring.  It is a prerequisite to suspending personal biases and judgement and allows empathy to prevail.  For example, I am disciplined, a morning person, goal-oriented, sometimes assertive and in a loving relationship.  I know that discipline is not a common trait.  I try not to assume that others have it and wonder what strengths they might have instead.

Personal growth requires asking for feedback which validates your assumptions.  It lets you check if your strengths offset your weaknesses.  This model by Marquita Herald shares some elements of self-awareness:

  • Self-concept: how you perceive yourself.
  • Self-regulation: taking responsibility for your choices.
  • Self-development: developing character and abilities.
  • Self-identity: recognition of one’s potential.
  • Personal values: reflect needs and wants.

There are levels and types of self-awareness which if interested, you can read about at this link.  Try this self-awareness quiz too.

What Makes You Angry or Cry?

Cry

Not a day goes by when you don’t read or see something on the news that is terrible or hateful.  The opioid crisis, school shootings, the civil war in Syria, human trafficking and dysfunctional government are just a few things.  The media controls the message for the day or week but some of these problems seem perpetual.  The issues do not go away just because it didn’t make it to today’s headlines.

It’s easy to become numb to the daily bad news.  You can turn off the TV, you can choose to be better informed or you can choose to “do something”.  Adding your own voice to the millions of other loud voices adds little value.  You can choose to be a complainer or “microphone” or you can choose action.

What makes you angry or cry?  What are the topics that cause you to pause?  This is the beginning of knowing what you are passionate about.  Knowing this is our insight into making a difference.  Pick one and choose to make a difference.

Solutions don’t have to be national in nature.  Acting locally allows you to experience innovation and action first-hand.  For example, what is being done in your local high school to keep it safe?

The choices for action are many.  You become more informed.  You seek an existing organization that is already focused on your passion and contribute your time, skill and money.  You can even start you own grass-roots movement.  Choose to do something.

Waiting for Permission

Permission

Sometimes we wait for someone to give us permission and other times we take the initiative.  Waiting for permission is a way of limiting ourselves, not living to our potential.

There are times to wait.  We wait at a red stoplight even in the middle of the night when we don’t see any traffic.  We might raise our hand before speaking in a group.  We wait for our manager or customer to activate a project start.  There are times not to wait.  For example, seeking peer approval of a group of friends or work colleagues before we start on a goal of personal importance or acting on matters of values and principles.

Take the initiative.  Jump in because we think we have the plan or “the answer” or we have confidence in a special skill.  Permission implies we are waiting for “authority”.  Leadership requires some risk taking.  We can lead even if we are not the “top person” by rank.  Mastery, experience and wisdom have value.

Some would say it is better to choose to act then ask for forgiveness later.  It depends on the situation.  Of course, judgement is required.  Some actions don’t have easy responses and so we plan, think and even pray.  The key point is just being aware of our choices.  We must live intentionally and purposefully.

Are you leading or following?  Are you timid or do you have courage?  What are the items on your Vision or Goals that require initiative?