Vital vs. Trivial: Becoming More Effective

I get obsessed with 80/20 thinking. You’re probably familiar with the Pareto 80/20 theory that was named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1896. It’s the doctrine of the vital few vs. the trivial many. The theory was based on his research that 80% of the effects came from 20% of the causes. Simple thinking that has been proven time and time again in organizations. An examination of where your sales are being generated will likely reveal that 80% of sales are coming from 20% of the same customers.

In the arena of time management the application of 80/20 thinking can direct us to be more effective. Here are a few basic bullet points that reveal the workings of the doctrine of the vital few and the trivial many from the book 80/20 Principle by Richard Koch:

  • There are only a few things that ever produce important results.
  • Most efforts do not realize their intended results.
  • What you see is generally not what you get: there are subterranean forces at work.
  • It is usually too complicated and too wearisome to work out what is happening. It’s also unnecessary. All you need to know is whether something is working or not and change the mix until it is; then keep the mix constant until it stops working.
  • Most good events happened because of a small minority of highly productive forces; most bad things happen because of a small minority of highly destructive forces.
  • The majority of activities, en masse and individually are actually a waste of time. They will not contribute materially to the desired results.

I love the idea here, but it’s easy to lose sight and get focused on the trivial many. We high achievers give ourselves credit for accomplishing so much. But we’re not always getting the right stuff done. We need to continually keep this in mind. I’ve built an 80/20 segment into my morning routine checklist. Yes, it may sound crazy, but it helps me remember the doctrine of the vital few and the trivial many in all areas of my life—my business, my clients’ businesses, my health and fitness, my family life, and my happiness. Intentionally focusing on the vital few keeps me from wasting time and effort on the trivial many which easily diverts my attention.

Need help determining what’s vital to your business? Contact me.