Entrepreneurship For Novices – What Pareto And Parkinson Can Teach You (Don’t Skip This Lesson!)

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Reading a book called ‘The ONE Thing’ by Gary Keller was what gave me the idea for writing this blog post about the two laws of Pareto and Parkinson.

As a future entrepreneur, it’s crucial that you apply both these laws or rather the principles behind them in your professional life in order to become successful and achieve your short- and long-term goals.

Pareto

If I remember correctly, the first time I ever stumbled upon Pareto’s Law was reading Tim Ferriss’s first and famous book The 4-Hour Workweek many, many years ago.

Pareto’s Law, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, basically says that in our world we very often find that 20 percent of the causes for a given circumstance account for 80 percent of the effects that we see, whereas the remaining 80 percent of causes only make up for 20 percent of the effects.

I’ll give you two simple examples:

  • Years back, Microsoft stated that by fixing the top 20 percent of the most reported bugs in their code, they could eliminate 80 percent of all related errors.
  • In eCommerce stores we very often find that the top 20 percent of all products listed generate 80 percent of the revenue, while at the same time the remaining 80 percent of products bring in a merely 20 percent of the revenue.

Pareto’s Law is also often referred to as the ‘80/20 Rule‘, and I’m sure you can see why, but reading the 4HWW it wasn’t the only important phenomenon that I learned about thanks to Mr. Ferriss…

Parkinson

May I introduce you to Parkinson’s Law?

British historian Cyril Northcote Parkinson discovered what is now called ‘Parkinson’s Law’, which in regards to time states that the amount of time that you have to perform any given task is equal to the amount of time it will take you to complete it.

In other words, the more time you have to meet a given deadline, the more time you will also need.

Why? Because we as human beings tend to fill the time that’s available for the completion of a task with other subordinate tasks, simply because we can.

deadline

The more time you have to do a task, the more time you will also need.

One example would be if you had six months to complete your bachelor thesis opposed to six weeks.

If you had six months, I promise you, most of us would spend at least one or two weeks doing nothing but planning everything to the smallest detail. Then another two weeks would go by just for researching literature.

Step number three is, of course, the most important one, as you now have to find a bright-red ring binder that is exactly 4.21 inches thick to file all your notes. (Have you ever tried finding one? I promise you, this is not an easy task!)

Okay – all joking aside, I’m sure you get the idea.

The One Thing You Should Do Today

Now, why is knowing about the laws of Pareto and Parkinson so important for every successful entrepreneur and those who dream about being one?

One word: Prioritization. Or rather skipping prioritization, in case you are doing it wrong.

If you only take away one lesson from this post, make sure it’s this:

Too much time at our hands means that we are likely to skip prioritizing the important tasks on our to-do list – those 20 percent of the tasks that account for 80 percent of the results that we are after – and instead we might focus on what we enjoy doing the most, which doesn’t necessarily bring us any closer to reaching our goals. Or even worse, we spend all of our valuable time planning and procrastinating not taking any action at all.

If you, too, are guilty of this, I want to provide you with a different approach on how you can tackle all the tasks on your to-do list not only for today, but the coming weeks/months, and even the coming year or the next five years to ultimately make more out of your time.

Step 1: Write Down All Tasks

Let’s say you want to prioritize your to-do list for the following week.

The first step is to take a large sheet of paper and divide it into three different columns. Column one is our Tasks-column. Copy or write down all tasks for this week that you think are important for achieving your short-term business goals.

to do list

Making a list to prioritize your tasks is essential.

Step 2: Prioritize

Now it’s time to prioritize. First, ask yourself which 20 percent of the tasks on your sheet will probably account for 80 percent of the results that you want to get? Sure, this is not an exact science and it’s possible that you will make a mistake or two, but that’s fine for now.

Then rate all tasks from 1 to 10 – ten being a task absolutely essential that has to get done asap, and one meaning that it’s likely that you can ignore it and not notice a difference. Put the numbers in the second column.

Step 3: Prioritize Even Further

Depending on the size of your list, how busy you are, and each individual task, you will need to prioritize even further. So I want you to ask yourself the following question: If you had to choose one thing and one thing only on this list to accomplish today, what would it be?

In other words, what is the most important task of all? This is what you need to go after first and before you do anything else. Mark this task in the third column.

Once your working day has started this one task has to be your top priority.

Of course, if there is enough time left to tackle the second most important task AFTER you have completed the first one, great! Go ahead and do so.

Step 4: Update Your List

After a while, there won’t be anything left on your list that belongs to the type-A tasks group that account for 80 percent of the results you want to get. This is when it’s time to update your list.

Updating your list is a critical step, so make sure not to skip over it. Of course, you could also start going after the remaining to-dos that are less important, but only if there aren’t any new type-A tasks that need to be added.

And that’s it. That’s all you have to do to make more out of your time and get one step closer to becoming a successful entrepreneur!

Have you heard about the 80/20 Rule or Parkinson’s law before, and how do you implement them in your life? Please let us know in the comments below.