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Using the 80-20 rule with GTD

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  • Using the 80-20 rule with GTD

    Hi folks-

    I'd like to get your opinion on this subject: do you think the 80-20 rule can be used with the GTD system and philosophy? If so, how?

    I ask because my initial thoughts are, GTD focuses on getting everything handled, or at least captured. Whereas the 80-20 rule would say, 20% of your actions/projects will bring you 80% of your results.

    So even if we get everything captured in our system, how do we sort through those long lists of projects and actions to find the most important ones? Or would you even say that sometimes neglecting that other 80% can be a bad idea?

    take care,

  • #2
    80-20 rule

    Like many people, I have seen that old chestnut, the 80-20 rule in lots of places. It was a BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) for me when David Allen pointed out that you often HAVE TO DO things that are unexciting, unimportant to you, unpleasant, et cetera. You may be able to delegate, defer, or renegotiate the terms, but action still needs to happen. A big part of day-to-day life is like that.

    On the other hand, you may look at some of your activiities and decide that some of your agreed-to activities don't fit in well with your objectives, stuff at what David calls the 20,000+ foot level. Then you can decide to disengage in an appropriate way, as necessary or desirable.

    The 80-20 rule is approximately true in many applications, but you can't live your life by it. For example, in a church, synagogue, mosque, et cetera, you might find 80% of the money comes from 20% of the people, but you don't ask the other 80% to resign. And 80% of the volunteer work is done by 20% of the people, and it's not the same 20%!


    • #3
      I find that having that complete list of everything makes it easier to apply the 80-20 rule. Things that don't win that test may hang around in Someday/Maybe or simply be deleted -- they don't make it onto my Projects or Tasks list (at least, not if I can help it.)

      This requires that the 80-20 rule can be applied at the point of commitment. There are many things others want me to do, and honestly, many things I am interested in doing that I'm not going to do because I'm a finite resource. I must choose the figurative "20%" of all potential activities that will bring me the most results.

      Once I agree to take on a project, I pride myself in completing that project well. But, I'm slow to take on new projects -- they must be weighed against what I already have. If the new project can't compete, I try not to commit. It's not always easy -- but having a clear list of all commitments sure makes it easier to feel confident in doing so (and even to show others why.)


      • #4
        Ahhh, the Pareto Principle

        IF 80 percent of your business (wealth, satisfaction, success, ________) comes from 20 percent of your customers (associates, friends, family members, _________) it would make sense we'd take more and more advantage of that 20 percent!

        Here's another way of looking at numbers:

        GTD could be the link to the "missing 20 percent." What's that?

        Well, some time ago, a client said this methodology would help them regain the 20 percent. (That is, few of us consciously taking on 30 or even 50 percent more than we *think* we can do. But, we will overcommit by 10 percent.)

        Try this scenario:

        Maybe you're given a task that you know you can do over the next couple of days in a couple hours. BUT, TODAY is already so full that you're going to be working an extra hour or so on that proposal (report, presentation, etc.) due next Tuesday. Well, the extra hours (let's call them 4 extra) add up to 10 percent of your work week...

        So, if GTD could get you from 10% behind, to 10% ahead, then, you'd have an EXTRA four hours per week! Hmmm... what would YOU do?

        Our coaching clients claim that the regained time the Workflow Process gives them equals to scores of hours per year. You can see some comments at: