How To Be More Effective At Work

Everyone complains about being too busy as we rush from one activity to the next with little time to stop and reflect. But there is a simple way to find extra time in each day.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle argues that twenty per cent of what we do produces eighty per cent of our output. Or to put it another way, eighty per cent of what we do produces only twenty per cent of our output. Whichever way you look at it we spend a lot of time achieving very little and a little time achieving a lot. It may be difficult to accept but there is ample evidence as some people are tremendously productive and others are not.

In the workplace, it is suggested that eighty per cent of a company’s sales come from twenty per cent of customers and eighty per cent of bad debts come from twenty per cent of debtors. In more mundane examples, we spend eighty per cent of our time wearing just twenty per cent of our clothes or in the home twenty per cent of a household carpet will account for eighty per cent of traffic. The theory stems from a study of income that found a minority of people account for the majority of the wealth in any country. It is also used in quality assurance to show that eighty per cent of complaints came from twenty per cent of faults. The realisation means that by focussing on twenty per cent of faults the vast majority of complaints are addressed. Regardless of specific percentages the theory holds true, not least because a minority of people have always owned the majority of assets. And it continues to be the case despite endless efforts by government to redistribute wealth in more equitable ways.

Inequality of effort

There is a tendency to think all our efforts are equally effective and rewarded. In reality, there is an imbalance between what we do and the results we get. And it is only by understanding such differences and changing how we manage our time that we become less busy and more productive inside and outside the workplace. By accepting that much of our time is spent poorly we can produce better results. Such an approach may seem counter intuitive but anyone interested in the discipline of time management will agree on its value. In essence, the best way to be effective is not to work harder but to work smarter; the ideal of course is to strike a balance between working hard and working smart. But the application of the theory makes work more rewarding, companyies more profitable and life more enjoyable.

So, when life gets busy remember we always have a choice because most of what we do can be reduced or removed to deliver better results.