How to get the best out of your most precious resource

As people, we look for the thing that gets us the best result – the best value – the best return.

When we are shopping for our next car, we compare models to make sure we get our favorite features for a fair price.

We shop at this store or that store, even if it is farther from home, because they charge less for our favorite brand.

Sometimes we even buy things we don’t need just because they are on sale!

Naturally, we want the most we can get for whatever we are giving.

But often, we fail to make sure we are getting the most value out of the most limited and most valuable resource we have: our time.

Time is so easily, and so nobly, frittered away – but not a single cent can buy any of it back. We are all limited to the same 24 hours each day. Some make great progress on their goals; others find they’ve let another day go by without making a noticeable impact.

Where does the difference lie?

Most likely, you have heard of the Pareto principle. Sometimes it is called the 80/20 rule. It states that 20% of the input drives 80% of the output, and 80% of the input drives 20% of the output. It applies to many things, but in business, it often looks like this:

  • 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your clients – and similarly, 80% of complaints come from 20% of your clients.
  • 80% of the work is completed by 20% of the workforce.
  • 80% of traffic is driven by 20% of your product or content.

It is proven time and again – in every area there are a few vital elements that generate the vast majority of results.

And most importantly, your to-do list is not immune to the 80/20 rule.

Those who make great strides focus on the valuable 20%; those who don’t, neglect their best-producing tasks.

Those who truly produce take an active role, spending their time initiating: planning, preparing, anticipating, scheduling, and developing.

And because they know their role, their organization, and their people, they can do all of these with intention, which multiplies their results.

Those who are busy, but do not make progress, end up reacting: repairing, responding, waiting, and agreeing to whatever presents itself to them in the moment.

To them, “urgent” matters more than “important,” and because they put off “important,” “urgent” appears all the more frequently.

They end up spending their time in the “urgent” and “not important” quadrant.

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But we know that ideally, no time should be spent in the “not important” quadrants, right?

So, a better illustration of Steven Covey’s matrix in leadership is the one below where we focus on the important things. And the key to long-term sustainable productivity is shifting our focus from the “urgent” to the “not urgent.”

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As leaders, we don’t need to look for things to do. We exist in a state of constant busyness.

Productivity is a matter of determining which things we do will actually impact what we are trying to accomplish, and finding a way to spend most of our time doing those things.

This weekend, take a look at your schedule and assess. How does your datebook tell you that you have been spending your time? What is there to repair? What is there to prepare?

Once you have assessed, think on these prompts to consider where your time is best spent.

1. What 20% of your tasks give you the best return on your investment?

What would you say is your zone of strength? What daily tasks allow you to operate there? And how can you best delegate so that you can maximize your productivity by staying in that zone of strength?

2. What 20% of your people give you the best return on your investment?

Maybe it seems harsh to think of it this way. But really, a well-directed investment of time into your top-performing team members can help the entire team thrive.

The 80/20 rule shows that 80% of the work is being done by 20% of the team. Where is that diligent 20%, and how can you develop and empower them even further?

That’s all for now.

Until next time,


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