80/20 Rule

This is something you hear in time management books.   The rule states 80% of your results only takes 20% of your effort.  The remaining 20% of your productivity takes 80% of your effort.  This is kind of generally true, in the way that rumors and thumb rules are true.  The way that this is supposed to be helpful is that if the remaining 20% of the results aren’t that important.

In housework, I apply the 80/20 rule to my advantage.  My lovely wife does not.  What this means is that if when I “clean the kitchen” I get all the dishes in the dishwasher, get everything off the counters, wipe down the counters, and I’m done in 30 minutes and the kitchen is 80% clean.  If my dedicated and hardworking wife cleans the kitchen she pulls out the toaster oven and cleans behind it.  She wipes off the faucet and has been known to take a toothbrush to the cracks.  And please don’t let her get started on the fridge…  2 hrs later the kitchen looks 20% better and she’s angry at the world.

The 80/20 rule cannot be applied across the board.  Sometimes you need to take out a toothbrush to the cracks.  When you paint a room 80% of your time is spent on the trim, but if you skip the trim the room doesn’t look 80% done… it looks half-assed.

When you’re writing 80% of the productivity is in the rough draft.  80% of the work is divided into research and re-writing.  But many things can’t be written at all without the research.  And many writers feel about the rough draft the way I would feel about a room where they didn’t bother to paint up to the trim.

So before you start a task you should ask yourself:

  • how important are the details of this job?
  • who will be judging it?
  • how much time do I have to give it?
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