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  • Focus Challenge Day 4: 80/20 Your Life


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.


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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  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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!

  16. 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!!

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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)!

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

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

  24. 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

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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!

  28. 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.)

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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!

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

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