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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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?
Take one small (or big) step each day consistent with your SMART Goals and you will change your life. Align your goals with your Vision…heart, mind, body and soul. These steps form a process to live a life of potential. The image above shows an example.
Action must be preceded with ideas, choices and planning (and don’t minimize these). We only have a limited amount of time and should use it wisely. This “thinking” work focuses our action so that we execute well and allows us to do “right things right”. Action is directed to family, relationships, career, personal development, service and more. This helps us to become the best person we can be (and choose to be).
Your life plan deserves requires regular attention. Start by defining your ideal life (Vision). Review and update it weekly because we become what we think and believe. While the introspection is important, you can’t stop there. Action is the accomplishment of the goal-related tasks and this Action must be daily. It is the consistent accomplishment of Action items that builds confidence and self-worth.
It is too easy to waste time on the little things such as e-mail or house work. They are necessary but insufficient. We deserve downtime and fun too; these modes are necessary but still insufficient. Avoid procrastination and “eat that frog”. Don’t confuse busy-ness with productivity or progress. We have 24 hours per day and a little bit spent each day on purposeful Action will change your life.
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?
Affirmation (noun): the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed; emotional support or encouragement.
Like smiling, giving another person a positive affirmation is a simple yet significant gift. It goes something like this… I see this special talent/strength/value in you. It shows up in what you do and makes you a unique and wonderful person. The way you use this “specialness” is making a difference.
We all need affirmation at some time. People who are hurting regularly need it. All too often, they do not have caring people in their lives who nurture them. Strong positive words offer support and encouragement and they have a lasting effect. It’s a way to show we care and build a relationship.
Be specific; rather than saying “you are amazing”, try “your talent for cooking combined your ability to select food ingredients helps you bring people together in harmony over a special meal”. Emphasize behaviors and skills. An affirmation is an important mentoring skill. It is especially important because it helps another to “know themselves deeply”.
We Zapp when we give “positivity; we Sapp when we take away energy. Choose to say positive things to others 10x more than you criticize. It’s much more effective (and fun) in influencing behavior.
Affirmations can be personal as well (but is not my focus today). It’s the things we say or think to ourselves over and over. The idea is simply to change our beliefs.