Putting the 80-20 Rule to Work by Business 2 Community [Leadership]


Editor's Note: This article first appeared on Business 2 Community and was curated by Closer Spot. Please subscribe to get actionable news and advice delivered to your inbox each week.

If you have ever painted a room or a house you know it’s all about the preparation.
You’ll know a majority of the work is in the preparation.
The actual “work” takes only a fraction of the time.
This is the same for taking tests or doing projects at work.

This is The Pareto Principle in action. Which is also known at the 80-20 rule. Where 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.

In the painting a room scenario the efforts before you ever pick up a paint brush are much more time consuming and significant to the end results.

In a painting a house scenario multiply all of this by 20 or 30 to get to all the masking, sanding, and patching on a much larger scale.

The best case scenario in each of these is… YOU DON’T do it halfway. You finish.
Which is another tenet and valuable lesson of the Pareto principle.

Pareto and Preparation
There can be a bit of disconnect with the literal interpretation of The Pareto Principle when it comes to preparation.

Where it might seem like the preparation can be discounted or skipped all together. That’s not how it works.

The simple way to combat this is to realize that the actual task is often the result of a lot of work to be able to do the task. Meaning, the 80% (aka the prep) is actually the work and the 20% is the doing the task.

When it comes to painting a room, taking a test, or doing a project for work… preparation is required. Whether the preparation comes in the form of watching a YouTube video, a few hours of research or years of study.

Preparation is critical.
Don’t discount the need for preparation. Don’t discount the need to spend 80% of your time on preparation.

When you do this consistently you’ll find your results are better. You’ll find that you stand out in your career. Other people will notice too. They’ll know that they can count on you because they know you do the thinking up front to insure the long term objectives are met.
How do can you think about getting better at the processes of preparation.

The Five P’s
One way to think about preparation is to consider the 5P’s. In case you’ve never heard of the 5P’s… it is a simple mnemonic. And, in a sense it might be initially thought of as a bit of a downer in the way it might come across the first time you read it. But, I take it as an optimistic mantra on the value of preparation and why it’s important to consider the 5P’s before you say yes to anything.

The 5 P’s – Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
Plan ahead. Which means think ahead. Try and see around corners. Use what you know. Ask questions.

Finish Strong
As noted earlier in this post… plan your time wisely.
Plan to finish and to finish strong.
Caveat: Consider the whole project
If you use all the time allocated for prep and only leave a small amount of time to complete your project you are setting yourself up for failure.
Plan for the 80% and plan for the 20%.
Every situation is different and as you get better at certain tasks you will find that your time management gets better too.

Three Tips to Pareto principle success
  1. Start early
  2. Plan accordingly
  3. Finish strong
When you master these three steps you will be well on your way to mastering The Pareto Principle. Next time you are considering something… take the time to think through the whole project and to provide enough time to get started and to finish strong.

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader for those times when you are asked to do something big without enough time. Hint: Ask a lot of questions up front and get started early.

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