The 80/20 Principle

I just finished reading The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch.

The main premise of the book is that 80% of outcomes are produced by 20% of causes. The most common example is that 80% of sales come from 20% of your clients. A more novel example is that 20% of a carpet gets walked on 80% of the time (which one company capitalized on by renting out tiles and reusing the good 80%).

The book can be highly recommended. Not every chapter might be as relevant for yourself, but even this Koch anticipates. He states that you should skip around the book to the parts that are for you.

What I find the most useful is the change in mindset that you have to go through. Not 50% of your activities lead to 50% of your outcomes. You should see your efforts as a logarithmic line, most of the outcomes are from a small part of the time/efforts. What you need to do is identify which are your most productive activities, which ones are least/counter-productive and try to maximize the first and eliminate the second.


Lazy Intelligent

In one of the later chapters, Koch comes up with a novel classification of (working)people. He divides them in lazy vs. hardworking, and dumb vs. intelligent. He states that the most productive people are the lazy intelligent. These are the people who are working in an area in which they know much (have expertise) and will do their best to eliminate all the tasks that they are not perfectly suited for. What I like about his definition is that intelligence is not used as a static term, he states that everyone is intelligent, you just need to work in the area in which you are smart.

The best example of this comes from one of the reviews that is featured in the last chapter of the book. It’s from a person who is now the leader of a school programme that helps children with learning disabilities. The teacher himself sometimes takes hours to find his car in the parking lot or forgets where he leaves things around the house. He himself has trouble with his memory. But he understood this in an early stage. Therefore he delegated all tasks that are remotely related to memorizing things and focus on building the programme from a leadership position (his intelligence).


Question of the day: What is your 20% time and how can spend more time there?