3 Ways to Grow the Pareto 20% BY REDUCING THE GUILT

I wrote about time and task management a while ago, but didn't call out the Pareto principal in that post. Mainly because it involved math, and as I've also noted, I'm not much of a math fan.

That said, I know that when I'm most content - when I'm most productive and in the "flow" - and conversely, when I'm fighting it, or struggling, or unmotivated - I'm following the Pareto rule rather instinctively.  Loosely explained, it says that 80% of results come from 20% of effort. Or for purposes of this post, 80% of the warm fuzzies come from 20% of the time spent doing it. 

I see that in myself, as my best work is that which comes naturally and easily (and therefore, happily and quickly) to me. I only need to spend a small amount of time to reap maximum feel-good rewards.  But then there's always that other pile of non-happy-project stuff to attend to, isn't there? Sigh.

Increasing the Pareto 20%

Clearly, the goal is to increase that 20%; things clearly become easier and hold our attention better when we focus our energies on things we find enjoyable.  However, I find that guilt can sometimes stand in the way: we often feel that we "should" be doing everything (and doing it all right!), not just the portions we enjoy and are good at.

3 ways to Grow the Ratio in your Favour

We can get over that guilt; here are 3 ways that, in my personal experience, make it easier to grow that personally beneficial 20%.

1. Reframe It

My husband and I have, throughout the years, taken dancing lessons - ballroom, latin, western, line.   We have never progressed beyond the first few beginner levels.  We know we've "learned" (term used VERY lightly) almost all of the introductory dance steps, but still to this day we can't remember most of them.  In fact, I've coined the dance term Curtis International Standard because at the end of the class, hubby and I have done ... well ... something ... but it isn't what our teachers are teaching!  We've spent an extraordinary amount of time perfecting our emergency step  - usually said to each other with a shrug: "I can't remember, let's just do a box".  In many respects, we have absolutely failed at the goal of learning to dance - we're very unproductive and ineffective.

It was frustrating, at first.  But once I reframed the goal of our lessons - from "learning to dance" to "spending time together", it wasn't frustrating at all.  The technique became almost irrelevant.  Instead we focused on  doing something together as a couple while taking a break from our regular daily lives.  

Rather than spending the majority of each class (80%) concentrating on learning the steps with a side bonus of having fun (20%); we spend almost all of the time just bonding and enjoying each other, and, well, if we remember something beyond a basic box, we're pleased as punch.

2. Outsource it

I like to spend time in a pretty, well kept garden.  I enjoy the way it looks, smells, relaxes me, and adds value to outdoor living. But as much as I like to spent time in a lovely garden setting, the amount of effort required to get there is annoying for me.  I dislike gardening, a lot. Even more than math!

Fortunately, I have a very special person in my life who loves to garden.  She thrives on it. Making gardens come alive, from planning through to maintaining, feeds her own bliss.   So she does my gardening, while I enjoy the fruits of her labours without having to get down and dirty myself.  I can have a coffee or a glass of wine in my backyard and soak up the views - an activity which surely makes me very content and maxes my feel-good moments - without feeling guilty or worried about how much weeding or fertilizing or trimming needs to be done.

The guilt-free lesson: It is absolutely OK to enjoy the end result without having to work at getting there.  Because I'm sure there will be someone out there who would love to do the work you don't want to! 

3. Change it

I bet that there are some things you do that are so engaging for you that time just flies by.  You don't see it as a chore or as a task or obligation - it is just fun, pure and simple.

For me, that would be travel planning.  That small amount of time I spend on it provides me with no small amount of joy, but because it is not my day job, nor even my part-time job,  I feel I must restrict that 20% (for the sake of argument) fun time, and instead turn my attentions to the 80% of time where I feel the expectation to do not-as-fun stuff.  

Wouldn't it be nice to flip that ratio in favour the good stuff?  Spend more time doing happy things and not feel the guilt about doing so?

Well, yes, you can, I can, we can.  We just need to control where we spend our time.  I expect there are routine items you are spending time on that you don't get any particular enjoyment from (or, at least less enjoyment than you'd get from spending the same amount of time on your pet project).  

Identify it, then change it.  For me, I'm on the computer all the time, so it's an easy switch from scrolling through social media feeds - an activity which only provides me with occasional useful information - to planning a trip. Which does provide me with almost instant pleasure.

Why should any of us want to spend the vast majority of our time doing things we don't really feel motivated to do, simply because of some sense of guilt?  We already KNOW that when we spend those small buckets of time doing things we enjoy, it makes things just so much darn better.   Try spending more time on the 20% today, and see how much happier you feel!  

Plus, I'm willing to bet you'll get more done.