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Focus Challenge Day 4: 80/20 Your Life

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2019-Focus-Challenge-2

Welcome to Day 4 of the 5-day Focus Challenge.

If you haven’t yet, make sure to complete Day 3 before attempting today’s challenge. Today’s challenge is all about identifying the ONE thing that will provide the most momentum towards creating the future you’ve always dreamed of and focusing on that.

Let’s get started.

We’re all busy. We’ve all got too much to do, and not enough time to do it in. So how in the world are we supposed to find time to focus on and consistently do the things that will create the future that we’ve always dream of?

It’s not as difficult as you think. But it does take a mindset shift. Once you understand that not all tasks are created equal, you can find the time to take significant action on your goals – even amidst the business of everyday life.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle (or law of the vital few) states that for many events, roughly 80% of the results come from 20% of the efforts. For example:

  • 80% of sales come from 20% of customers
  • 80% of the errors come from 20% of the code
  • 80% of the world’s wealth is owned by 20% of the population

In fact, according to Wikipedia, the Pareto principle was actually named after the Italian economist Vilfred Pareto, who observed that roughly 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. The story has it that he recognized this after noticing that about 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained about 80% of the peas.

The Pareto principle teaches us that roughly 80% of the value is achieved from only 20% of the effort. The same is true when deciding what to work on that will help you create your ideal future. You don’t need 40 extra hours per week in order to create the future you’ve always dreamed of. You just need to work smart by picking the things that will provide you biggest return on your time, attention, energy, and focus investment. So if you can identify the 20% of things you could be doing that provide 80% of the value and focus only on those things, you can maximize your results and create your ideal future faster than you ever thought possible. You just have to make it a priority.

Finding your one thing

In the book Essentialism, Greg McKeown talks about how the word “priority” came into the English language in the 1400s as a singular noun. It literally meant the very first or prior thing. It stayed singular for about the next 500 years or so.

It actually wasn’t until the 1900s that people started pluralizing the word and talking about multiple priorities. Illogically, we reasoned that by changing the word we could bend reality and somehow we would be able to have multiple “first” things.

Even though this makes absolutely no sense, people and companies routinely try to do just that. In the book, Greg talks about how one business leader in a company that talked about “Priority 1, Priority 2, Priority 3, Priority 4, and Priority 5, etc.” This gave the impression that many things were the priority, but in reality, it actually meant that nothing was.

Your goal today is to identify and prioritize the ONE thing you can do tomorrow that will provide the greatest movement towards creating your ideal future. It doesn’t have to be big or important, it just has to be significant. Leverage the Pareto principle and apply the 80/20 rule to creating your ideal future.

80/20 the 80/20

While many people have never even thought about their life in terms of the Pareto principle, where things get interesting is when you apply the 80/20 rule to the 80/20. If you apply the 80/20 rule to the 20% of things that are providing you 80% of value, you end up with only 4% of actions creating 64% of the value!

This is important because it means that no matter how much time you have to devote towards creating your ideal future, you can still make significant progress by choosing the right things to work on.

Exercise

Look back at the five things you identified yesterday which will help you achieve your ideal future. Which one will provide the biggest impact? This is not the same as how big the task is – the smallest task might actually be the one that makes the biggest impact.

Make sure that you select the thing that will provide the greatest return on your time investment if you could only do 1 of them. This is the 80/20 for your ideal future, and what you are going to work on tomorrow during your focus block.

Once you’re done, let us know what your one thing is in the comments below. Then get ready to take action tomorrow!

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75 Comments

Posted by Morgan  | April 14, 2019 at 9:45PM | Reply

Done, hire a salesperson

Posted by Rene  | April 13, 2019 at 10:59AM | Reply

Bad calculation.
it’s not 4%/64%.
It’s 16%/64%. 20% of 80% gives 80% of 80%

Posted by Bethel Nathan  | April 12, 2019 at 8:19PM | Reply

Thank you so much for expressing it this way, as it’s absolutely true. And it gives me permission to let some things go, or to put them to the “Someday/Maybe” file. I’ve identified my one thing and have blocked out time for it starting on Monday!

Posted by Diane Thompson  | April 12, 2019 at 8:13PM | Reply

Done. This was a helpful reminder that my most important thing is to put God first in my day and follow His lead in being open to helping others. Everything else will follow and He will help to get the essential things done.

Posted by Dan  | April 12, 2019 at 7:11PM | Reply

This has been a very valuable process for me at this time. I am 64 and have just been reorganized out of a 30 year career… meaning that I am at a crossroads as to what’s next for me. I am considering everything from another full time employment position to retiring to my musical passion or to something in between or some hybrid of several different opportunities. The important thing is to make sure that whatever I choose is what’s best for me at this stage of life and in alignment with my values. Thank you for this very timely process of self discovery.

Posted by Ingrid  | April 12, 2019 at 5:41PM | Reply

Done! Hard at first – I want to prioritise everything… Good eye-opener!

Posted by Ian  | April 12, 2019 at 5:01PM | Reply

Writing this a day late, but I found this to be a really helpful exercise. I stopped and thought about it, and realized that I was wasting all this time at work on a project with little upside and such a significant time commitment that it was keeping me from doing the interesting and important work I had to do. My one thing is stepping back and looking at the big picture on a regular basis. This 80/20 analysis helped me realize that it was time to let this project go so I can focus on what is most impactful and most meaningful to me. I can’t tell you how relieved I felt today at work after letting this go and re-centering my focus. Thank you!

Posted by Abhishek Thakur  | April 12, 2019 at 3:59PM | Reply

Done. I got the idea what I have to do & I had applied that thing today.

Posted by a  | April 12, 2019 at 3:53PM | Reply

i like this realization, doing at least 20% for 80% value. i’ve been struggling to make my singular priority writing — writing for myself, for clarity, for clear-headedness, for expression, for creativity, for truth. writing just one focused hour a day will contribute the biggest impact to my ideal future. thank you, AE.

Posted by Raymond Perez  | April 12, 2019 at 3:43PM | Reply

Biggest ting is the put time to prioritize my next day

Posted by Alice  | April 12, 2019 at 1:36PM | Reply

I love the idea of thinking time, but I am very bad about implementing it! My one thing is to be more consistent with scheduling and doing thinking time.

Posted by Danielle W  | April 12, 2019 at 1:12PM | Reply

It’s hard to pick one thing. My one thing is to just to start creating my first digital product for my business.

Posted by Jeremy Brown  | April 12, 2019 at 12:40PM | Reply

Done – this was the toughest exercise so far.

Posted by Boukjan  | April 12, 2019 at 8:44AM | Reply

I really appreciated this exercise. It made me realise that blocking time for important actions would help out most. I’ plan to do that every Monday att 9 am. First thing at work.

Posted by Steve Hall  | April 12, 2019 at 8:22AM | Reply

I kept reading and re-reading the list below (which I have re-organised since doing the previous the day 3 task) and applying the 80/20 rule I kept coming back to the blindingly obvious thing that I had not considered up until now… that in order to do all of the others I need to have an abundance of energy. So my 1 thing is to focus on routines and habits that generate energy!

1. Focus – pomodoros, productivity journal, following daily plans and time blocking
2. Generate Energy – healthy routines, exercise, diet and sleep, minimalism, get outside, drink more water
3. Keep in alignment with my vision – regularly reviewing and updating vision plus planning and reviewing daily, weekly, monthly
4. Improve and Automate – research and implement automations. Plan books that I want to read and courses I want to take. Ensure that I take notes and pull out actions from each.

Posted by Mark  | April 11, 2019 at 11:59PM | Reply

Done. was tough to pick just one thing.

Posted by Matthew Taylor  | April 11, 2019 at 11:32PM | Reply

Get alone with God daily and connect in prayer and the Word until I’m moved to live specifically purposeful that day. Should be a no brainer but it’s hard to keep in the forefront.

Posted by Todd  | April 11, 2019 at 11:26PM | Reply

I’ve spent entirely too much time doing things I believe need to be done before I pursue my passion. It’s more than just procrastination. I’ve allowed myself to get caught up in the minutia of life. Not any more. I’m going to spend my focus block moving my business idea from concept to reality. I’m going to devote 20% of my time to building my dream. Thanks for the wake up call.

Posted by Amy  | April 11, 2019 at 10:57PM | Reply

My one thing is going to be calendar blocking time on my calendar each week to make absolutely sure that I allow myself uninterrupted time to focus on the 5 values I identified in yesterday’s exercise. Time for exercise, family, leisure, learning, and rest.

Posted by Kathy  | April 11, 2019 at 9:58PM | Reply

I got caught by the 2 priority trap. Financial freedom is a high value, but if I don’t put God first, it won’t achieve the results I want. Might even be a destructive force for me. This wasn’t the direction I expected this to go, but WOW! Talk about clarifying and shifting into congruence!

Posted by Lelia  | April 11, 2019 at 9:48PM | Reply

I have 2 big impact items tomorrow. (1) Be an ideal employee and (2) Spend time with my parents who are coming into town tomorrow. Everything else falls in the “wouldn’t it be nice” category. This helps!

Posted by Claudine  | April 11, 2019 at 8:55PM | Reply

Turning up to write every day! It nourishes me and helps me set the course for the next few days or weeks.

Posted by Kerri  | April 11, 2019 at 8:28PM | Reply

Financial stability

Posted by Joe  | April 11, 2019 at 7:54PM | Reply

Done.
Optimize health and independence.

Posted by Andy  | April 11, 2019 at 7:50PM | Reply

Done. 1 thing – disciplined food choices.

Posted by Matt Leviner  | April 11, 2019 at 7:41PM | Reply

Done. Focusing on automating some of the things I do repeatedly.

Posted by djk  | April 11, 2019 at 7:34PM | Reply

Exercise regularly.

Posted by Rob  | April 11, 2019 at 7:05PM | Reply

Looking back at the five things I identified yesterday a small daily task will provide the biggest impact: start journaling. ”Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future” (Ryder Caroll). Tomorrow first listen to TPS154 (http://www.asianefficiency.com/podcast/154-journaling/) and then write daily for 5 to 10 minutes.

Posted by Adam Hill  | April 11, 2019 at 6:27PM | Reply

Done! Select a surrogacy agency.

Posted by Ann  | April 11, 2019 at 6:13PM | Reply

Done. The eye opener is to work on just one main priority at a time I think. Got my action plan set-up…

Posted by Gloria Thomas  | April 11, 2019 at 5:50PM | Reply

My one thing could easily be developing morning and evening rituals. If I could start and end my days right (and on time), my entire world would change!

This is my commitment!

Posted by Gizem  | April 11, 2019 at 5:05PM | Reply

Done! My one thing is getting healthier at this point. Exercise and eating right (and the right amount) are going to be the most important things I need to be doing thoughtfully and with focus.

Thanks again!!

Posted by Eric  | April 11, 2019 at 4:28PM | Reply

Done – write write write write! :)

Posted by Ben  | April 11, 2019 at 4:15PM | Reply

Done – focus on my health and carve out time for exercise.

Posted by Kay R  | April 11, 2019 at 3:53PM | Reply

Done. I am spending the most time on research which provides 80% of my gains, but I should be spending less time on homework to accommodate more time for research.

Posted by Christine  | April 11, 2019 at 3:44PM | Reply

Done. To plan a vacation with my husband!

Posted by Mascha  | April 11, 2019 at 3:28PM | Reply

My one thing is creating my first online course. It won’t have to be perfect with all kinds of great videos, but I want to start on a first version of a course, and just test it.

Posted by Dojo Katie  | April 11, 2019 at 2:52PM | Reply

If I can run some analyses in my next focus block, it’ll be the “one thing” that snowballs so many other things that need to be done. It’s like a stop in the flow of tasks! Good activity again

Posted by Joe  | April 11, 2019 at 2:40PM | Reply

Done. Read more.

Posted by Carmen  | April 11, 2019 at 2:29PM | Reply

My one thing has changed recently (I just got tenure), so what I am doing now is trying to go back to the one big thing that I had to abandon in the last few months: actually taking time to myself, by scheduling it.

I think what makes the greatest difference is having an exercise routine, so I am going back to that, making it a priority, even over work .

Exercise is good for me personally and professionally (I am so much more productive when I have exercised, it really helps my focus)!

Posted by Noah  | April 11, 2019 at 2:27PM | Reply

My health and wellness have taken a backseat over the last 12-18 months, so I’m making it a priority! I’ve created several reoccurring reminders to sign up for a twice weekly swimming class that takes place ten weeks out of every term with a 1-3 week hiatus between when new terms start. In addition, I’ve blocked time and scheduled twice per week runs with a local trail running group that I found through some exploration of the Strava running app. A simple addition to my flexible calendar to make me a priority instead of Netflix or any of the time wasting apps/games that are no longer on my phone.

Posted by Giacomo  | April 11, 2019 at 2:14PM | Reply

Today was harder than before because I had do choose between two maybe equally opposing priority towards my goals: one was take more mindful action during my work hours to progress in my career or find additional income, the other one was leaving behind more of the time i spend on leisure (tv series, leisure readings, social networks, etc etc) I’m struggling because to me it’s seem like my sweet spot after a full day, a way to recharge and rest. I was difficult to choose which one could impact more to reach my goals. I finally decided to act on the second: i will shift leisure time to “learning” time (for example following more useful podcast and readings as AE stuff 😉) while taking at least one action a day on my work time.

Posted by Umair  | April 11, 2019 at 2:01PM | Reply

Identified my one thing !

Posted by Tor  | April 11, 2019 at 2:01PM | Reply

Getting healthier

Posted by Tony  | April 11, 2019 at 1:59PM | Reply

Done. This was a harder challenge than I expected, but wow, what a difference being ‘focused’ will make tomorrow!

Posted by Aneev  | April 11, 2019 at 1:49PM | Reply

Done. My one thing is to write for at least an hour every day.

Posted by Michael Brown  | April 11, 2019 at 1:19PM | Reply

Hitting my daily word count of 2500 for writing.

Posted by Rachelle  | April 11, 2019 at 1:02PM | Reply

My one thing is having a face to face conversation with each child once a day.

Posted by Josh Matthews  | April 11, 2019 at 12:20PM | Reply

My one thing is setting up the systems that generate leads with automatic follow ups. I’ve been putting it off, but not anymore.

Posted by Christian davis  | April 11, 2019 at 11:43AM | Reply

For be and my usa dropshipping business. Calling and getting suppliers that enforce minimum advertised pricing would be my best thing to focus on. I used to think it was optimizing my ads

Posted by Lee Z  | April 11, 2019 at 11:28AM | Reply

Completed the activity. Action is establishing a plan to investigate where to live abroad for next phase in life.

Posted by Jayne  | April 11, 2019 at 11:23AM | Reply

It might sound weird here’s mine:

I’m going to start my mornings slowly, and mindfully. This slow, but steady and present way of starting the morning can affect how I go about the rest of the day! Definitely 80/20!

Posted by Keith Weng  | April 11, 2019 at 11:00AM | Reply

Easy choice today to support my family’s finances.

Posted by Marian Phillips  | April 11, 2019 at 10:53AM | Reply

Done, letting go of a few craft shows I feel obligated to but don’t net much money or new customers in favor of other shows and more online sales.

Posted by Sanjay  | April 11, 2019 at 10:51AM | Reply

Done. This step is best thought of as the “Michelangelo” chipping off the excess stone to expose the underlying beautiful sculpture buried under! I have decided to resign from couple of posts that have not been fulfilling lately after this step! Thanks, AE!

Posted by Deirdre  | April 11, 2019 at 10:33AM | Reply

finished. I struggle with the desire to set one priority for personal and one for work…

Posted by Jean-Luc  | April 11, 2019 at 10:27AM | Reply

Done: tomorrow I’ll rewrite my résumé!

Posted by Elaine  | April 11, 2019 at 10:07AM | Reply

This is hard today. Because it isn’t clear whether I should search for a new job, or try to transform my current job. A while back I had decided to rest for a bit — I have made a lot of positive changes in the last few years. I had job-searched last fall/winter. My industry is rather seasonal, and job-searching has been on hold. So I think the thing that will be most productive is to work on transforming my current job some more (I’ve already done quite a bit on this.)

Posted by Peter  | April 11, 2019 at 9:49AM | Reply

Done, I guess much comes down to the science of “connect the dots”.

Posted by Joe Mastriano, CPA  | April 11, 2019 at 9:45AM | Reply

My one big thing each day to do is to call my bigger clients who are giving there money away to the IRS, thinking they know better. I help people with IRS problems and know more than anyone else I know, yet I keep it to myself and focus on stress reducers like T.V. when if I worked on my email list I will feel elated from helping people. Your 5 day course is helping me really focus again.

Posted by Stacey Morris  | April 11, 2019 at 9:43AM | Reply

Got it! Reading this put me in the right frame of mind to figure out what was needed.

Posted by Julie  | April 11, 2019 at 9:41AM | Reply

My one thing will be reflecting at the end of each day to see how much of my list I truly executed, and why or why not. Then I’ll make sure the next day’s list is written, focused and relevant.

Posted by Joe  | April 11, 2019 at 9:20AM | Reply

Done. The one thing right now is to study for my final exam.

Posted by Markus  | April 11, 2019 at 9:10AM | Reply

done. I will look into my GTD setup since I fell of the wagon somehow.

Posted by Katie  | April 11, 2019 at 9:01AM | Reply

Like some other commenters, my big one is to keep learning. I want a career in foreign affairs and international security, which means I need to keep learning and developing skills and being up to date on the latest. I think the challenge will be to decide what is most essential!

Posted by Dennis  | April 11, 2019 at 8:56AM | Reply

My one thing is to keep on learning – every day. My job keeps me hopping with staying current, so that needs to be my focus.

Posted by MDK  | April 11, 2019 at 8:42AM | Reply

Done…focus on getting the work from home project completed…that frees up time for the goals

Posted by Michael Porter  | April 11, 2019 at 8:38AM | Reply

My one thing is to keep learning skills for my new position as a DevOps Engineer. Learning now will help shape the next few years and beyond.

Posted by Erica  | April 11, 2019 at 8:37AM | Reply

Done. Plan a visit to see family. Connecting to family, and my nieces, helps retain perspective of a world outside of work and a difficult time in my own space.

Posted by Sharon  | April 11, 2019 at 8:31AM | Reply

I tend to have too much going on. I’d have to say that a huge amount of those things really do pertain to my goal but it can be difficult to prioritize each of those actions. The rest of this week will be an attempt to take the most time sensitive and push to complete that project.

Posted by Aneesh Ghosh  | April 11, 2019 at 8:28AM | Reply

Completed, been already following the principle and glad to know I’m on the right track. This is a very valuable mental middle. A good reference is the book “One Thing” by Gary Papasan.

Posted by MDK  | April 11, 2019 at 8:25AM | Reply

Done. Focus on working from home…creates significantly more time to do the key things.

Posted by Brian Webb  | April 11, 2019 at 8:21AM | Reply

Done. Good use of time to reflect.

Posted by KC  | April 11, 2019 at 8:09AM | Reply

DONE! Identified my one thing.

Posted by Tomasz  | April 11, 2019 at 7:58AM | Reply

Done! Definitely for me it’s all about developing bias for action.

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