Organize Yourself in 2015: Using the Pareto Principle


In the last two posts, I have presented the goal-setting techniques of Brian Tracy in his best-selling book Eat That Frog!    In today’s post, I will explain why his book has such a strange title, because it has to do with the subject of his third chapter on the Pareto principle, and how you can use it to boost your productivity.

Mark Twain once wrote “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”  The reason why Brian Tracy named his book on avoiding procrastination “Eat That Frog” is because, if you think of the most challenging task you have each day as a “frog”, then the best thing for you to do to improve your productivity is to “eat that frog”, meaning, to do that task as early as possible in the day.

How does this fit into the Pareto principle.   This is the principle developed by the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto that says that 80% of the results you need to achieve will come from 20% of the activities you perform.   So if you want to achieve more, identify those activities in the “vital 20%” that will gain you 80% of the benefits you are looking for.

Here’s how you can adapt the goal-setting technique using the Pareto principle.

1.   Let’s say you have taken your yearly goals, split into the various areas of your life as defined through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as specified in the first post on the series I published on 1/1/2015.

2.   Now say you have divided these yearly goals into monthly goals, weekly goals, and day-specific goals (goals that you work towards on a daily basis as a matter of routine should remain in the weekly goal list), as specified in the second post on the series I published on 1/2/2015.

3.  Now say you have identified those activities which you are going to do the next day, and listed them by priority using the letters A, B, and C for activities which must be done on a given day (“A”), those which should be done on a given day if the “A” activities are completed (“B”), and those which can be done on a given day if both the “A” and “B” activities are completed (“C”).

Take a look at the “A” and “B” activities.   Identify the 20% of your activities which, if you perform then, will give you 80% of the results from that day’s activities towards your yearly goals.   These are your “Frogs” and should be identified with a “star”.  If you have a journal and can find a small frog-shaped stamp, then go for it!   But a “star” should suffice to show that these activities are your ultimate challenges for the day.

4.  THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT–put these at the beginning of your day, meaning that they are simultaneously the most urgent!   Or as Brian Tracy would say, “Eat That Frog!”

Why is this important?  Well, I urge you to read Brian Tracy’s book to get the full list of benefits and anecdotes about why this is so.    In a nutshell, it’s because one of the key strategies procrastinators use is to spend their time not on working towards achievement, but creating the illusion of achievement by doing the easy, “C”-level tasks to prop up their ego and let them pretend they are busy.   This is being efficient by doing a lot of activity, but at the price of not being effective by doing activities which give you the least amount of return or “bang for your buck.”

By accomplishing the most challenging thing first thing in the day when you have the most energy, you will be achieving more early on in the day, and as Mark Twain indicates in his quote, you will feel that the rest of the day will go downhill from there!

5.  Prepare yourself well before eating the frog

If you prepare yourself well, with a morning routine that includes, besides the usual hygiene rituals, things that strengthen your body, your mind, and your spirit, such as the following (which I do every morning), you will be ready to take on the world when you get to work:

  • Qi Gong or Stretching (5-10 minutes)
  • Yoga (15 minutes)
  • Meditation (15 minutes)
  • Exercise (10-15 minutes)

My routine takes me about an hour, but I don’t begrudge the time because it gets my ready and accelerates my body and my mind to be able to handle anything that the day can dish out.    These cover the physical body, the subtle body, and the mind (the causal body), and so bring your entire self up to speed.   You will be ready to eat that frog!

Tomorrow’s post will be on one of the most important parts of your week, which is the weekend.   Just like the month January, which we are in now, comes from the Roman god Janus that faces both directions (the past and the future), the weekend should be your time not only when you do your weekly goal for the next week, but you look back on the week you have just completed to review what has worked, and what hasn’t, which will give you a chance to do a miniature “Lessons Learned” which you should use to tweak your organizational system.   A small mid-course correction done on a weekly basis will prove to be much more effective in “sharpening your saw”,the 7th Habit of Steve Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, than a retreat that you do on an occasional basis during the year.

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