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Apply the 80/20 rule to improve your life

It’s 2009 tomorrow – time to get to work on those self-help projects! Here’s the best one I know – apply the Pareto Principle.  The Pareto Principle states that 20% of work produces 80% of the results.  Conversely, 80% of our work is relatively ineffective.  To become more effectiv…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
It’s 2009 tomorrow – time to get to work on those self-help projects! Here’s the best one I know – apply the Pareto Principle.  The Pareto Principle states that 20% of work produces 80% of the results.  Conversely, 80% of our work is relatively ineffective.  To become more effective, we need to periodically look at our lives and ask, “What is the 20% of my work that produces the greatest value in my life and how do I increase that percentage?”
The beginning of a new year is a particularly good time to engage in this exercise.  So as we move into 2009, I’m looking at the big picture of my work life and assessing what needs more my attention.  It’s a given that I need to pray more. As David Yonggi Cho says, “More prayer, more power.”  Another way of looking at this is to ask, “What projects and people do I need to more deliberately pursue?” 
Let me share my situation just to illustrate: As I go through this process, it occurs to me that the two areas where I’m probably most productive are in a) leading leaders and b) starting new things.
To increase my effectiveness, I need to look at who I’m leading and the scope of their leadership. Some questions I ask in this regard:
  • Are they truly leading a large number of  people? Or do they spend more time doing tasks?
  • Are they a leader of leaders or do they struggle to influence and coach others? 
  • Do they really want to grow and do they have a deep understanding of their strengths and weaknesses? 
  • How do they respond when I challenge them?
Part of my problem in trying to spend more time leading leaders is that I hate to say “no” to people.  I’m probably too accessible.  For example, I respond to every one of you who writes me on this blog and most of you who leave a comment.  That may be laudable, but it keeps me burning the candle at both ends. So somehow I need to find others to help me do this if I’m to find more time in my day (there are a number of you who comment regularly on the blogs – I’ve thought about asking some of you to take a more formal role in ministering to our blog community).
The second area where God has gifted me is in starting new things. But here is a good example where one’s greatest strength can be one’s greatest weakness.  That’s because I tend to start too many new things.  Applying the Pareto Principle and perhaps praying more before I launched out into the deep might enable me to focus on those new initiatives that may have the greatest impact.
That’s me.  What about you?  Where do people tell you that you shine the most?  What 20% of activities that you engage in produce most of your results?  Now’s a good time to go through the exercise and re-focus your life, paring away the stuff that perhaps God never asked you to pick up in the first place.  And after you’ve done it with your work life, take a look at your personal life – what are you trying to accomplish there? What critical activities will make the greatest impact?

Changing behavior is rarely easy work – to get really serious about it, I recommend asking a friend to help you in the process and then building a plan together with them. 2009 is going to be a challenging year in many ways, why not enter it at your best? Where is God asking you to focus more? What is he asking you to pare away?

Comments (13)

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    WOW! Seth, Debbie is always telling me that I try to do too much, and it does appear that I am burning the candle at both ends, if there is an end? I take this as a word from the Holy Spirit, and pray about how he will guide me to be more effective. To be honest, I have put my family through a lot trying to be all things to all people. Thanks, for the admonition. St. Mark

  • Perfect timing on this topic, Seth… tomorrow I have set aside a chunk of time to evaluate this in my own life. With many interests and passions, it creates a greater need to prioritize. I’ll keep this in prayer for all of us :-).

  • Needed something like this today to make my reflections balanced. Thanx Seth!! BTW-It’s my birthday today!!

  • Good insights Seth.

    Another one I like is “An unguarded strength is a double weakness”. Our perceived strengths get us in trouble when not measured or monitored.

    We also confuse activities with results and the most Kingdom influential people I know are quietly creating impact and not spending much time promoting it.

    Our culture has screwed up what real impact is.

    Anyway, love you friend.

  • Your words are encouraging and challenging all at once. Thank you for encouraging me to take the time to evaluate these things. Your words remind me not only to evaluate, but that it’s okay for my strengths to be different than your’s… or my pastor’s… or my dad’s, etc. What has God gifted me in, not what do those I look up to value that I want to be gifted in. In addition, my wife and I are evaluating what we value in ministry and life, especially in light of what our church values – and is asking us to value. Finally, I also appreciated Butch’s statement about unguarded strength and real impact. May I continue to live this out.

  • St. Mark and Carol are two people whom I believe would do a great job ministering to the blog community. Their posts are normally as encouraging as the blog itself. IMHO

  • Sorry St. Mark and Carol if that seemed like I was signing you up for something….that wasn’t my intent! Just know your comments are always encouraging, insightful and I enjoy reading them. 🙂

  • St. Mark of the Cross

    Yes Sir! sergeant! 🙂 The last time I signed up for something 1974 US military I ended up being saved in Germany. So, ship ahoy! St. Mark of the Cross 🙂

  • :))) That made me smile! Thanks, Gabe – very kind comment there! Apology unnecessary – just delighted you find my ramblings helpful! Happy new year to you from frosty England :))) xx

  • I dont mind if you dont respond to this comment, in fact I think it would be liberating for you NOT too. Lets see if you can break this pattern of behaviour and resist the temptation to respond!

  • PRAISE GOD Seth! You did it! I thank God for you ignoring me and I hope you will grow in your new found freedom!!! 🙂

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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