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.
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.
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.
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!
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.