I'm pretty happy to finish the book "4-Hour Workweek" written by TIMOTHY FERRISS because it shows me the possibility and practical principles to either spend less time finishing a day-to-day job or achieve much more on what you love.
Here I'm going to emphasize two cohesive rules mentioned in the book and show a path to boost your productivity:
- Pareto's Law - 80/20 rule
- Parkinson's Law
Rule One: Pareto's Law
This concept is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto states that roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes. It's also referred to as the 80/20 rule and expresses an uneven relationship between input and output.
This rule can be applied in so many scenarios like "20% of people possess 80% of the wealth in a country", or "80% of revenue comes from 20% of products," etc. Under some conditions, the percentage may be even higher to like 90/10 or 95/5.
When reflecting on our work and life, it's also true that 80% of our most important outcome comes from 20% of our efforts, and 80% of our unhappiness comes from 20% of our surroundings. This gives us an insight that an effective way to lower our pressure and improve happiness is to find out the 80% not-so-important staffs and the 20% source of unhappiness. Then you can try to eliminate, automate, and delegate these annoying things.
Rule Two: Parkinson's Law
This concept appeared first in an essay that Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote for the Economist in 1955. It says that the amount of work expands to the time allotted for its completion. That is said, you spend a week or a day to finish the same work depends on the deadline.
Sound familiar? If you are a student, you must have the experience of finishing homework until the day before returning to school. If you are an employee in a company, project delay may be a common situation now and then. They are all the effect of Parkinson's Law.
This law is also suitable for organizations like big corporates. Companies have this strong tendency to expand in business fields and the number of employees, even the work not increasing or diminishing.
Both of the two rules are useful, but when combining together there will be a huge improvement in productivity.
First, limit your tasks to the important ones to shorten work time (80/20 rule).
Find your source of strength, the work that produces the most important outcome, or the things that help you get your dream. Find your source of happiness, the people that make you laugh, inspire you, or make you a better person. Find your passion; what you do like a game but feels like a job to others. These are 20% of the most important things in your life.
For the 80% unimportant activities and information, ignore them. For some repeated boring activities, try to compose automation like templates or processes to reduce time. For those that are not your obligation, try to delegate them to your team members or colleagues. Thus you save the time wasted by unimportant tasks before.
Then shorten your work-time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson's law).
According to this law, shrinking the time allocated for a task can make it important and faster to finish. Imagine you have a dream but set no time to accomplish it, then with a big chance, you will bring it to your grave. What you could do is set a clear deadline and a reasonably short time slot for anything you want to accomplish.
Combined with the 80/20 rule, you have identified the critical tasks and defined a short and clear deadline. Your productivity is ready to fly off.
But as a reminder, removing bad will not creating good. Instead, it's a vacuum. You need to find and put your own interest or passion in it.
My little tricks
Every morning I figure out the two most important things to do on that day. They should be the tasks you can get the most out of, and during the day, you do them first and start to finish. I also block time slots in the calendar to leave space for my most important routines like workouts and reading because they are crucial to physical and mental health.
I have a to-do list and also a not-to-do list. I don't want to obtain useless information; I don't want to hang out with people filled with negative energy; I don't want to stay in my comfort zone and waiting to die.
I will set some reminders on my phone that pop up during various times, asking, "Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important?" And they help me rethink the priority of activities and focus on the important things.
At work, I made a wiki page with Notion to share all the information my team needs, and that gets rid of the information syncing time between people back and force.
Though tasks have their deadlines, I would like to set a much shorter one, but I would handle it until the real deadline.
Use these two rules to find the most important things in your life and efficiently finish them. May you have a productive day.