Procrastination and working on low value activities will leave you thinking and dreaming about how to achieve your goals for the rest of your life.
In a world obsessed with doing as many things as possible in the shortest time, everyone is left feeling overwhelmed and stressed out. With too many tasks to take care of and things that need to be done there never seems to be a time where we feel “caught up” with our to-do list. We are never relaxed but rather we are always thinking and anticipating future tasks or issues we’ll have to deal with. What makes us feel worse is a persistent feeling of never improving our situation and of never getting to where we want to go regardless of how many things we get done.
In 1895, Italian economist and philosopher, Vilfredo Pareto made a clear distinction in society. He stated that people naturally divide in:
- The Vital Few: which are the top 20% of people in terms of money and power.
- The Trivial Many: the bottom 80% of people. Or pretty much the remaining population after the richest and most powerful people.
This strong differentiation in people is what gave the origin to the Pareto Principle, which is today known as the 80/20 rule. The rule can be applied to anything in life, and it states that 20% of your activities will account for 80% of your results.
Applying this principle in our busy schedules and endless to-do list, simply means that if you have a list of 10 things to do, 2 of them will be worth more and will give far more results than the other 8 put together.
The most important question you could ever ask yourself before working on any task is:
Is this task in the top 20% of my to-do activities or in the bottom 80% ?
Being able to distinguish the number of tasks from the importance of tasks is crucial to overcome procrastination and achieve peak performance.
The reason why most people never seem to get where they want to go is because they busy themselves with the least important 80% of tasks (the trivial many) and instead procrastinate on the most important and valuable 20% of tasks (the vital few). The human mind has a natural urge to get small things done first, as they seem to be the easiest and fastest to do. However they bring no high value results and they multiply continuously thus never letting you get “caught up”.
Having great time management skills is a key determinant of success in life as it allows you to choose between the important and unimportant.
One of the rules I have set for myself and recommend you do too is:
Always do first things first, and second things not at all
To really be productive you have to make your priorities straight and realize that there is never really enough time to do everything you want to do. Instead there is always enough time, if you plan your schedule right, to do everything you have to do to get to where you want to go. In order to make sure everything you do is in alignment with your priorities, you have to constantly think about the potential consequences of your decisions, choices and behaviors. This means refusing short term pleasure and instant gratification in favor of greater rewards in the future.
To improve your time management skills and get the most out of your time you have to make sure that what you are doing at any moment is consistent with the long-term future you desire. Realize that long term thinking improves and often determines short term decision making. Be clear about your future intentions and the beneficial behaviors you want to include in your life. Focus your emotions on the motive, the reason why you want to have such intentions. The greater the positive impact the behavior can have on your life, the more motivated you will feel to start working on it right away and stay true to your intentions.
There are 3 questions you should always ask yourself to reach and maintain peak performance:
- What are my most important activities? The ones that will bring me the greatest value.
- What is the most valuable use of my time right this second?
- What can I, and only I, do that will make a real difference?
Providing the right answer to these questions will have an enormous impact on your behavior and your choices. When you ask yourself these questions every day, multiplied for months, then years, you will be bound to achieve your most desired goals.