Why the 80/20 rule is not enough

In the business world, the 80/20 rule is quite well known. You may also know this as the Pareto principle, which is the idea that 80 percent of what you do is of very low value. And 20 percent of what you do is the percentage that really makes a difference in the growth trajectory of your business. I would even go a step further and say that actually, it’s more like 20 percent of that 20 percent that really makes a difference, but as a business owner, you can’t stop there.

Value your time

Everything you do during the day has value. You have D-level tasks that make no difference to the bottom line and are the lowest value items on your list. Then you have level C, which are good tasks, but not the best use of your time, and then you have A and B, which make the biggest difference to your bottom line. Understanding where all your tasks fall on the A, B, C and D scale is the first step to becoming more productive and growing your business. You should immediately remove D-level items from your plate and assign them to someone on your team. Next, you should try to delegate your tasks to level C and B. And that’s where the majority of business leaders usually stop with this exercise. They focus on A and some B level tasks and think their work is done.

6 Months From Now

But doing the exercise once is not a good plan. Because over time, not only do you start to see more levels of C and D creep back into your daily to-do list, but as you grow as a leader, more and more things will have to be moved down. An item that was once a B-level job can become a stable C or D every year later. As you focus more on the things that matter most, your priorities and how you manage your time should also change. So for the best benefit, you want to look at your to-do list every few months and prioritize accordingly.

The One Exception

There is an exception to this rule. There are some things you love to do and it’s okay to keep them on your list. But tell it like it is — fun. I love working with our graphic designer when it comes to large scale design projects for my brand. I could outsource it to someone else, for sure. But I enjoy it. So I make time for that — and then spend the rest of my time on A-level work. It’s okay to do things you love, after all it’s what keeps you coming back day after day. And hopefully, over time, a lot of your A-level work is stuff you enjoy. So it’s good to find a balance.

The 80/20 rule alone is not enough to get you and your business where you want to be. But if you’re strategic and update your to-do list frequently, you’ll start to see real results over time. Good luck!

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com writers are their own and not those of Inc.com.

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