Friday, 19 July 2019

The 80/20 rule: Achieving more with less

It is astonishing: we tend to use just 20% of our possessions 80% of the time. We habitually wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. And 80% of our phone and text communications typically are with just 20% of the contacts saved on our phones.

Since this is a blog about minimalism, I feel an article about the 80/20 rule has long been overdue. The 80/20 rule is widely used by minimalists in their decluttering approaches. Many minimalists choose to give away the things that don’t matter (about 80% of what we own), while making space for those that are important (roughly 20%).

The 80/20 rule, or Pareto principle, is named after Italian economist and sociologist Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), who discovered that 20% of the pea plants in his garden produced 80% of the healthy peas. Following on from this, he noted that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population.

The 80/20 rule can be extended to many areas of life and in business. While, of course, those percentages do not always apply exactly, it is true that most things in life and business are not evenly distributed. And a minority often generates a majority!

The 80/20 rule can help us adjust our priorities, declutter our everyday schedules, and stay sane

In what ways might the 80/20 rule be helpful to translators and freelancers in how they go about their work lives and manage their businesses? How could we leverage this principle to our advantage? Here’s some food for thought:

Easy prioritisation of tasks

- If indeed 20% of the tasks we carry out account for 80% of the results, can we pin down what these tasks are? PRIORITISING those tasks accordingly would most likely benefit us in most surprising ways.

- If 80% of results come from just 20% of actions, should we not then expend more energy on, dedicate more attention to, and aim to OPTIMISE these actions?

- If 80% of the value of a work project is achieved with the first 20% of the effort put in, should we not then plan our workdays in such a way that this happens at a time when we know we WORK BEST?

Better customer relationships

- Who are the 20% of customers that, according to the Pareto principle, provide 80% of our revenue? In what ways can we STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS with them? But note also: is it safe to rely on such a ratio of our income, or should we better collaborate more with other customers as well?

- How much time do we spend on HANDLING CRITICISM? If 80% of complaints (especially unjustified complaints) tend to be raised by 20% of our customers, is it actually worth continuing to work for those customers?

- According to the Pareto principle, 80% of a business’s TURNOVER typically is achieved by 20% of its products or activities. I am aware that we sometimes feel we occasionally need a break from the areas we usually translate in. But against this background, perhaps translating too many texts outside our subject areas isn’t advisable.

- Marketing is time-consuming, and thinking about where to start in a campaign is daunting. Here’s an interesting thought, though: 20% of the marketing messages you come up with can produce 80% of the results. What’s more, 20% of the overall marketing effort often brings about 80% of the SUCCESS OF A MARKETING CAMPAIGN.

Eliminate, automate or delegate?

- Which activities can we ELIMINATE or AUTOMATE? Are there activities that don’t move us towards our goals? For instance, it might not be worth spending so much time on updating online profiles if perhaps in our current circumstances we don’t actually need them to be successful in business.

- And are there any tasks that we can DELEGATE? For example, wouldn’t it be better to entrust accounting tasks with an accountant and focus on translations instead? Find a cleaner? Pay for a meal occasionally (or regularly), rather than waste time in the kitchen, when work is piling up on the desk?

- 80% of software users apparently use just 20% of their software’s features. So could we undertake further training to also learn about other features of our software? Learning to use more than the usual 20% of features could make us more EFFICIENT.

Is it really necessary that all business tasks are completed to perfection?

A word on perfection

- No doubt we should strive for PERFECTION in producing our translations, but is it really necessary that other business tasks are also completed to perfection? Should we seek perfection in writing blog posts? Maintain a regular Twitter posting pattern? Zealously reply to every single message that reaches us?

- And lastly, how about deciding for yourself that your order book is full once it’s filled with orders up to 80%? A buffer or some EXTRA TIME that can be handled flexibly can feel like pure luxury.

The 80/20 rule can help us adjust our priorities, declutter our everyday schedules, and stay sane. By taking stock of the time percentages that our work activities take up, we can implement steps to free up space in our schedules and move ever closer to business success!