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 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.
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.
We’ve all had an experience where we’re calm one moment then agitated or quarreling, even fighting the next. We quarrel about money, how to raise our kids, priorities, politics and more. Most topics deserve polite and respectful engagement, but something triggers us. There are degrees of reaction. We move from a thought to an emotion to action (hopefully only words) in a split second, usually without thinking.
It starts with values and beliefs. Your triggers, especially the dysfunctional ones, are worth exploring. You can sometimes trace these back to an early time in your life. Consider the following steps; an example is in italics:
- Identify the trigger. It may be a person, event, thing or word. My boss critiques (rejects) my proposal or idea.
- Understand the behavior. How do you react? I immediately feel defensive.
- Uncover the underlying value. What personal need is not being met? What beliefs do I have? Respect; I have to be heard.
- Explore memories. What is you earliest memory? What does it teach us? My father was overly critical of my homework and never praised me for it doing well.
Values are a powerful force in our lives and compel us to action. Respect, family, honesty are examples. Some triggers are OK, e.g. crying with a sad movie. It’s those dysfunctional triggers that need reflection.
Take a breath, count to 10 or find some way to engage your brain to respond rather than react. Then T.H.I.N.K. before you speak.
“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.
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.
Passion is a funny thing; it’s important but my informal survey indicates that it is elusive. I’ll ask some questions to get at this:
- What gives you a thrill in life?
- What activities make you say, “I can’t stop myself from doing it”?
- What makes you cry or angry or laugh?
- What makes today a great day?
Are the answers obvious to you? I believe we owe it to ourselves to know or find our passions. Passion might be related to a special cause or it may simply be using our gifts of talent. At the level of “cause” it might be kids, education, politics, the environment, poverty, addictions or hundreds of other things.
I don’t think the entire day has to be perfect to make it great nor does it have to be stress-free. Here are some examples of using your talents:
- You close a deal on an important transaction that you worked hard at.
- You solved a big problem (for yourself or another).
- You share an important insight with a friend.
- You offer comfort to another.
- You finally get comfortable with making a big life decision.
- You make a difference in someone’s life.
Being “in the zone” or “in the flow” occur. We lose track of time and we are entirely focused. We feel the energy. We deserve these feelings. They are characteristics of Purpose. Pay attention. Once you find this “magic” in your life, you owe it to yourself to live it deeply.
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.