How To Perform An 80/20 Analysis

Want to be more productive? Start by cutting out wasted time and focusing on the few highest leverage activities you can.

Sounds great, right? The problem is, of course, how do you actually DO that? The cornerstone of productivity is having simple and easy processes that enable you to follow through and pick back up when you slip.

One of the things I perform on a regularly scheduled basis is an “80/20 Analysis” of everything in my life.

If you’re unfamiliar with the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, check out this great article on Lifehacker about it. The core message is that most things we do are largely irrelevant and the “vital few” have an outsized impact on our lives.

Performing a regular 80/20 analysis has been an invaluable tool for me, and I wanted to share the template that I use to organize my own thoughts whenever I perform one.

GET IN THE MINDSET

Mindset is one of the most critical elements of success. You absolutely have to get your mindset right first. Tony Robbins frequently says that more than 80% of success is psychology. Here are some great quotes from Tim Ferriss to help you get your mind in the right place to conduct an 80/20 analysis.

“The goal is to find your inefficiencies in order to eliminate them and to find your strengths so you can multiply them.” – Tim Ferriss

“Simplicity requires ruthlessness.” Tim Ferriss

Do 80/20 analysis constantly, so to analyze also the 20% of people or activities that are creating 80+% of my stress, consuming 80+% of my time, and as is almost always the case, the stuff that was consuming the most time did not overlap very much with the 20% that was most important.

On a regular schedule you’ll sit and do that 80/20 analysis and ask yourself what’s the 20% of my life that’s getting me the most impact, the 80% impact, and how do I stop doing the rest.

Look at the 20% that are the highest leverage positive things and I’ll focus on those. I’ll look at then the 20% most negative things that are consuming the most time, and try to eliminate those. There’s quite a bit in-between that in the end, often takes care of itself, but really keeping your eye ball of your to-do list are the 80-20 positive, and the not-to-do list for the 80-20 negative is huge. 

When I’m really feeling overwhelmed, I actually focus on the negative, which is a good thing. I focus on eliminating as much as possible before I focus on doing more. What can I get rid of? What are the psychic anchors, which are like, tethering me to the ground where I’m trying to sprint forward, but I’m just dragging this weight behind me. I focus on a massive elimination first. I try to remove as much as possible so that I have fewer moving pieces to think about. So elimination is a huge part of why I get anything done.”

Tim Ferriss

STEP ONE – FOCUS

  •  Mute Cell Phone
  •  Close Outlook
  •  Close Chrome (or any other Browser)
  •  Take out a pad of Graph Paper

STEP TWO – THE CORE 80/20

Ask each question and brainstorm / write the answers down BY HAND on a sheet of paper. 

BUSINESS

  • What 20% of sources are creating 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
  • What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% or my desired outcomes & happiness?

PERSONAL LIFE

  • What 20% of sources are creating 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
  • What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% or my desired outcomes & happiness?

STEP THREE – THE FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS

  • If I was completely incapacitated and had to work two hours per day – what would I focus on?
  • If I was even more incapacitated and had to work two hours per WEEK – what would I focus on getting done?
  • What are the top three activities I use to fill time to feel as though I’ve been productive? What are my CRUTCH activities?
  • When do I feel STARVED FOR TIME? What commitments, thoughts, and people can I eliminate to fix this problem?

STEP FOUR – ACTION

  • 20% highest leverage positive things -> Defines TO DO LIST
  • 20% most negative things (eliminate) -> Defines NOT TO DO LIST
  • What is the financial impact (or other impact) of these activities?
  • Can these activities be eliminated? How?
  • Can these activities be delegated? How?
  • Can these activities be automated? How?
  • Define CONCRETE steps (especially next steps) for how to do each of the above.
  • Focus on eliminating as much as possible FIRST.

 

I made this into a downloadable PDF copy that you can get here if you want one for yourself.

Many of these quotes and ideas are from the blog of author Tim Ferriss and recent interview he did on Mixergy.com which I highly recommend checking out.

Hope you enjoyed this post and that it helps you become more productive.

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Matt Bodnar

Matt loves to focus on making deals and big picture strategy. He sets out each day to give more than he takes from every interaction and produce as much value as possible for his partners and the people he works with. As a partner at Fresh Hospitality Matt invests in and operates businesses across the restaurant value chain including agriculture, production, retail distribution, real estate, technology and restaurant operations. Matt previously worked as an import/export consultant in Nanjing, China and spent several years on the Interest Rates Desk at Goldman Sachs before returning to his family roots in Nashville.

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