Living the 80/20 Way

"To find meaning in life, we have to reach inside ourselves: define the few things that we care about, the things we want to love and devote ourselves to, the things we are good at and enjoy. Having found these things, everything else is trivial."

- Living the 80/20 Way, page 173

Living the 80/20 Way: Work Less, Worry Less, Succeed More, Enjoy More by Richard Koch is about results and planning your life to focus on what produces those results. 80/20 is based on the Pareto Principle which states that 20% of actions produce 80% of the results. Only a critical few activities produce the outcomes that really matter.

Richard Koch is an entrepreneur and author of several books on the 80/20 principle. His current book is a follow-up to his previous bestseller The 80/20 Principle, which was targeted at businesses and professionals. This book is filled with many practical examples and methods to incorporate the 80/20 principle into your personal life and includes questions to help the reader figure out what really matters.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Get More with Less

"The 80/20 principle says that a small minority of causes lead to a large majority of results. If we know what results we want, therefore, we can look for a super-productive way to get those results."
- Living the 80/20 Way, page 22

How is this possible? How can you get more enjoyment, pleasure, results with less? The key is to eliminate, reduce and cut out all unnecessary activities to focus on the critical few that have the biggest impact. By focusing on these few high-powered activities, your results can improve dramatically, providing a huge return on your time investment. The author makes a convincing case that by leaving something out we can achieve more and provides countless examples in the fields of science, technology and business.

Obviously the first place to start is a search for low-effort, high reward activities. Eliminate all non-value added tasks that do not contribute to the end result. The author suggests we keep questioning ourselves and brainstorming to find a better way of getting what we want. We can do this by asking ourselves some key questions such as ‘What are the things that truly produce results in your work?’ Given your specific skill set, ‘Where could you create the most value?’

Koch also provides a list of high-payoff habits that generate huge returns for the time invested in doing them. The list includes some familiar ones such as exercise, meditation and saving a portion of your earnings. But what makes the list interesting is that it also includes activities that are not so obvious, such as doing a daily unselfish act and focusing on what matters to you.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Find your Happy Place

"A few things that we experience and do, in very little time, are of enormous value. We get a fantastic return on our time when 20 percent of time leads to 80 percent of happiness or achievement—we get a fourfold or 400 percent return on this time."
- Living the 80/20 Way, page 35

Following the 80/20 principle of more is less, Koch invites us to find our happiness islands and increase our time spent on them. He defines these happiness boosters as “the small dollops of time—the special, glorious times—when we’re happiest.”

He asks the reader to reflect on a recent enjoyable and happy experience and find a common denominator. What did these happy moments have in common? Can they be repeated? Once you’ve figured out your happiness islands, then the goal becomes to increase their occurrence and time spent on them.

The author also recommends identifying “activities that have a poor return on happiness for the time spent.” Are we doing something out of a sense of duty? If a task provides no pleasure, can we eliminate it?

Taking this a step further, he suggests we think about our achievement islands. These would be “the small time periods when you are your most productive or creative: when you get more with less, accomplishing the most with little apparent effort in very little time.”

You’ve probably heard of flow or being in the zone which is similar to achievement islands. What do they have in common so as to increase their frequency? These activities can include writing, selling, planning etc.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Live in the present

"Act less, think more. Reflect on what really matters to you. Stop doing anything that isn’t valuable, that doesn’t make you happy. Savor life."
- Living the 80/20 Way, page 41

Managing time in our ever changing world is a no-win situation. We’re always looking to do more with the elusive reward that relaxation is just around the corner, but something else always pops up. Koch believes we should change our beliefs about time management and thinks that “it is because we have so much time that we squander it.”

When we are focused on what truly matters and expending our efforts on the most rewarding activities, we don’t worry about lack of time or whether we’re doing the right thing or not. We’re completely absorbed in what we’re doing and enjoying every moment of it. Koch refers to this as being “more connected to what is going on now and to other people.” If we slowed down and did fewer things, our happiness would increase and our time management obsession would disappear.

Incorporating these 80/20 recommendations takes courage and a little thinking outside the box to do things differently. But don’t let that scare you; as Koch remarks “to take action that will lead to the best life you can make requires some new and different effort.” Find your happy place and start doing more with less.

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John Petrone

ABOUT John Petrone

I was born and raised in Montreal, Canada and moved to Chicagoland at twenty-six. As an auditor, I travelled the world and lived in Europe for six months, applying my Italian and French speaking proficiencies...
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