I attended a wedding at the weekend. It was delightful. Lovely people, amazing setting, an original London bus and free sandwiches (who doesn’t love free sarnies?!)
After much alcohol and frivolities, the night was drawing to a close. As I stood slightly swaying and staring at the latest gin and tonic I’d ordered, something very odd came over me. I decided I’d had enough! In a moment of what I believe to be exceptional maturity I put the glass down and went home.
At the time I questioned whether I had made the correct choice but as I made the 3.5 hour drive home the next day I realised it was the right call.
Rewind 3 months and I was packing my bag for our upcoming move to the Canary Islands. As a result of flying with RyanAir (an unfriendly version of Southwest Airlines for the American’s reading this) I had opted to take hand luggage only.
Considering I was packing for a 2 month stint, limiting myself to 10kg’s may seem ludicrous.
As I ditched clothes left, right and centre however, I was confident I wouldn’t regret it.
What made me so confident and what on earth does it have to do with curtailing a boozing session?
I shall tell you.
In the 19th Century an interesting chap called Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. This study of unequal distribution became known as the 80/20 Principle and has broadened over time to encompass many elements of our lives and businesses.
The idea is that in a lot of events, around 80% of the effects will derive from 20% of the causes. These 20% are often described as the ‘vital few’ and the 80% as the ‘trivial many’. Just to be clear, the split is rarely exactly 80 and 20 but it is hardly ever linear.
How does this relate to packing and drinking?
Well, from experiences far too numerous to list I have realised that 20% of the drinks I have at the end of a session will contribute to 80% of my hangover (usually because they’re the most lethal) AND provide 20% of the enjoyment.
Meanwhile, upon reflection I realised that of the 4 pairs of trousers I own, I wear one of them around 75% of the time. That’s a very strong skew. Add in the fact we were moving to a hot country and the idea of taking more than one pair of trousers quickly seemed pointless.
The value of these analyses may seem trivial but I assure you they’re not.
By accepting that not every input has an equal output we can start being very purposeful about how we spend our time, money and energy.
Some 80/20 Examples
Let’s look at a few other areas of your life or business and see how the 80/20 principle may apply:
Clients: Which ‘vital few’ clients provide the majority of your revenue? Knowing this how may you alter the time or effort you allocate to them?
Friends: Which 20% of your friends provide 80% of the joy? Might you put more effort cultivating some relationships than others?
Sales: What minority of sales techniques gets you the majority of your clients? Are all your sales efforts equal in their effectiveness?
Staff: Which 20% of your employees add 80% of the value? I am absolutely sure that some will over deliver and some will underdeliver.
Flow States: Which 20% of your experiences contribute to the overwhelming amount of your energy and happiness? Why not focus on the FEW activities you really love?
These are just some examples to get you thinking. The point is, the quicker we accept that not all the time, energy and money we expend provides the same level of value, the quicker we can start being very careful how we allocate them.
The next time you find yourself fretting over something, conduct a quick 80/20 analysis and establish whether the trouble or stress is worth it. Identify the vital few things in your life or business that punch above their weight and ditch everything else!
Now excuse me, I am off to buy some t-shirts, I’ve run out.