Timothy Ferriss is the MAN. Just finished The 4-Hour Workweek for the second time. Yes, it’s so good that I read it twice. Tim is a proponent of what he calls Lifestyle Design, which in a nutshell means:
Defining the life you want to have
Eliminating the excess
Automating your moneymaking operations
Liberating yourself from geographic barriers; having the freedom to travel as you please
There are loads of good ideas in this book, and in this post I’ll focus on what Tim says about eliminating the excess by doing two things: following the 80/20 rule and obeying Parkinson’s Law.
The 80/20 Rule
This rule is also known as Pareto’s Law, as it was researched and coined by Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian sociologist. He noticed that often in life, be it economics, plant production, or human interactions, that 20% of the inputs made 80% of the results. For example, he observed that 20% of his bean plants produced 80% of the beans.
Pareto’s Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. Alternative ways to phrase this, depending on the context, include:
80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time.
80% of the company profits come from 20% of the products and customers.
80% of all stock market gains are realized by 20% of the investors and 20% of an individual portfolio.
So, what does this have to do with you and me? Tim gives us some questions to apply the principle to ourselves:
1. Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
2. Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?
Here’s the idea: cut the 20% that cause the most problems and focus on the 20% that give the most benefit.
Tim says, referring to work:
Since we have 8 hours to fill, we fill 8 hours. If we had 15, we would fill 15. If we had an emergency and need to suddenly leave work in 2 hours but have pending deadlines, we miraculously complete those assignments in 2 hours.
What Tim is saying here is that we fill out the time we are given to accomplish a task. Parkinson’s law states just that: a task swells in “importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.” In fact, the longer we give ourselves for a task, the more time we have to stress over it and make it a bigger deal in our minds. This, in turn, takes a toll on performance. Tim sums it up like this:
The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.
So, to increase productivity, a mix of the two laws is in order. Focus on the fewest tasks that produce the greatest results and set short, clear deadlines to accomplish them. This stuff really works, I’ve been implementing it the past week and have been much more productive.