The 80/20 Rule – How to Prioritize for your Tomorrows

How do you prioritize for your tomorrows?

Did you know that during a typical work day, you accomplish the most important 80% of your work during just 20% of your day? That means the other 6.5 hours of your workday accounts for 20% of your work.

Today I tried to evaluate what the “most important” part of my day is. I initially thought, “Helping customers and answering their questions!” But then I realized that definitely makes up 50% of my day – on busy days a lot more!

So is answering customer questions directly the most important aspect?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Define the most important aspects of your job

Part of my job involves writing self help docs, doing social media, and talking with the development team about priorities and features our customers would like to see, yet that part of my workweek is well below the 50% of my work. However, not doing these aspects of my job would set us up for problems in the long run.

If Brock or I receive a customer question 3 times, we automatically create a self-help document for it. Why? So that we’re that much quicker to answer it in the future. Chatting with the dev team each day is the time to really delve into what’s important for all our tomorrows. We bring up the immediate fires we need to put out, and then focus on how to make sure those never occur again. (Just ask Jeremiah – he’s adamant about not putting out the same fire twice.) These aspect of my job are the most important even though they take the least amount of time. Why? Because these aspects insure that customers are happier in the long run, not just today.

That short amount of time that you devote to doing the “important things” likely affects much of your job, multiple customers, or long-term outcomes and success. Writing up a bid or sending out invoices probably doesn’t take you 40 hours each week. If you’re a smaller backflow testing shop, you might not even spend 8 hours doing these things; they’re the things that will have a large effect on the tomorrows. Getting paid and getting new work is how businesses survive and thrive.

But what about the rest?

That other 20% of your work still needs to get done. It’s just likelier that it affects one aspect of your job, or one customer, or the current “NOW” issues.

Perhaps you spend a great deal of time creating routes for your testers, or go out and test backflow preventers yourself. And there’s no way your business would survive without you doing those things. They’re the things you have to get done. From most perspectives, they are the foundation of your business. But how do you prioritize “important” things balanced with the everyday tasks? The fire you’re fighting now can easily distract you from the bigger picture that could help your business next year.

It’s time to prioritize to make the most of your tomorrows

How do you make sure that what you’re doing consists of both the 20% and 80%? People prioritize things in different ways – what works for me might not work for you. Is a paper list something that will remind you of those important things, or is that just another piece of paper that will get pushed into a pile? Does cutting out a chunk of your morning make sense to get those things tied up before you set out for backflow testing? It’s not likely that you are doing the most important things late at night when you’re tired. If you are, consider changing that.

What has to happen, versus what should happen

It can be so easy to get side-tracked by what has to happen and to lose sight of what should happen to make the most of your business or your workday. Time is valuable – make sure to frequently evaluate where you’re spending your time and how you can make the most of it.

Assess your goals

Another easy way to identify your priorities is to access your goals. Is your goal to have a 3 day weekend every week? Don’t leave that important stuff until Thursday afternoon. Think larger and more long-term, as well. If your goal is to increase sales by 25% this year, you need to analyze how you’ll do that. It will not happen by you just doing what has to get done today. As your business grows, your priorities will change – at least, they should. What is most important to success now may differ in a year. And think even bigger! Planning to retire in 10 years? What can you do now so that you could move that date up by a couple years?

Prioritization of your workload needs to happen for you to be able to complete 100% of your job, not just a portion. Don’t just grease the squeaky wheel. What you do today, will affect you in the long-run.

The 80/20 Rule – How to Prioritize for your Tomorrows

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